It’s one thing to pick a web host out of a list of “best” providers and fork over some cash and another to actually understand what web hosting involves and how a company can stand out from another as far as service rendered, quality of service, and extras.
Not all web hosting companies are created equal and you’ll find that some budget hosting providers give you the bare minimum expected from a hosting service: you now have a website accessible on the internet. As grand as that may be, if your website is slow as can be or only accessible intermittently, that company isn’t doing you much good. So, it’s important to understand what web hosting actually means and what separates a good web host from a bad one.
Let’s get down to it:
Before You Start
If you plan on having a website, before you even need the services of a web host, you’re going to need a domain name. The domain is what users type into the address bar of their browsers to access your website. For reference sake, google.com is a domain name. To have your own domain, you need to register it with what is referred to as a domain registrar. It’s functionally the online identity of your website, so picking one that is easy to remember, catchy, and relevant to your content is vital in the long term success of your site.
What Is Web Hosting?
A web hosting service allows an individual to post web pages onto the internet for everyone with an internet connection to see. Before you bother getting a web host, you’ll need a domain first. While some web hosts also function as domain name vendors, they are two distinct services. Once you have a domain, you find a suitable web hosting company to host files (displayed as web pages) on the internet for everyone with an internet connection to have access to. You will choose a hosting package from the host company that will tell you how many resources will be allocated to hosting your website. For now, you should be fine with one of the entry-level packages offered by a host. It’s better to upgrade over time than it is to spend more than necessary on a new website.
The files that contain all of the information that makes up your website are stored on a server. When you or anyone else wishes to access your website, their browser communicates with the server and then the server will deliver your website to them.
What Else Does A Web Host Do?
Delivering your website to those who want to access it is just the bare minimum a web host can do. There are other aspects worth considering when it comes to finding a suitable hosting company:
How quickly your hosting company can deliver your website to people who wish to access it has a huge impact on whether or not people will spend time on your website. MangoMatter’s research suggests that a one second delay in loading your website will cause page views to decrease by a factor of 11%. Today’s internet is saturated with websites that concern themselves with nearly any and every topic, if your website isn’t as fast as it can possibly be most internet users know they can just go back to their Google results and pick a new website. Making sure your web host can deliver lighting-fast load speeds allows you to focus solely on your website itself as far as increasing performance is concerned.
As a webmaster, there may be things you need to ask from your web host like more PHP space for loading scripts, the right versions of things like MySQL or similar programs, or for some things to get moved around on the web host’s end of things to keep things flowing smoothly. This means that you’ll have to get in contact with your web host’s support team and ask them to make the changes you request. If their support team is bad, you risk either not getting exactly what you’d like out of your website or even worse, you risk their support team not even getting back to you at all. How much support your hosting company is willing to give you is a huge indicator of how good of a host they are.
The big players like GoDaddy and Bluehost have 24/7 support that can help you deal with issues the second they arise.
What Kinds Of Web Hosting Are Available?
As the internet has evolved, so have how web hosts decide to service the sites found within. In the interests of saving their money and resources as well as giving you the best deal, there are a few different types of hosting:
In a shared hosting plan, your website’s data is placed on a server that hosts anywhere from a few more to dozens of other websites. A server is a piece of hardware bound by limitations from the CPU and how much RAM it has, and all of the websites on this server use the same resources. It is the entry-level bare minimum type of hosting and is great for beginners. The pitfalls of shared hosting is that you can’t ask for changes to the server since it would affect all other clients being hosted on that server as well. Also, your website might end up slowing down if you get a spike in traffic unexpectedly, and if another website on that server gets an unexpected spike you could suffer as well.
Virtual Private Server
A virtual private server or VPS is an upgrade on shared hosting. In a VPS, all of the websites are shared on a single server but each individual website is on its own “virtual server” within that server. These allow you to have root access to your server to make changes specific to your site and your site alone. However, the other pitfalls of shared servers are still there. I will add that there are typically less sites hosted on a single server if they are going to chop up the server VPS style, but you still don’t have your own dedicated piece of hardware just for you.
Under dedicated server hosting, a single server is allocated directly to you and all of your website’s data. A dedicated server is best for large websites that have a lot of data going back and forth and need to have enough extra bandwidth for their existing user base as well as for traffic spikes. It is only recommended to seek a dedicated server if you need root access to upload new software & make tweaks frequently as well as enough performance power to handle thousands of visitors.
Understand Your Web Hosting Needs May Change Over Time
A basic, no-frills plan might be all you need when just getting started. I mean, after all, a new website has very little data to store and has minimal strain put on it by the number of users accessing it. Over time though, these bare bones plans might not cut it anymore, so it’s important to understand just what services you are being offered from your web host.
Note how much bandwidth you are being provided with as well as any limits with how much data your host is willing to quickly store & serve for you. If you notice your site is slowing down now that it has become much larger & popular, it might be time for an upgrade. Any large site is hosted on its own dedicated server that deals only with the data for that one particular site. Upgrading ahead of the curve can also save you from realizing too late that your site doesn’t have enough resources at its disposal which can save you from losing visitors.
Watch Out For Unnecessary Add-On Services
While this might seem to be contradictory to the previous point, it’s actually very necessary to make sure the package you’re buying fits your needs as closely as possible without any extras you aren’t going to use. The package is going to be more expensive and you aren’t going to get any extra benefits from them. Carefully consider the needs of your website when choosing how big of a web hosting package you’re going to purchase, lest you be throwing money down the drain that would be better invested in other aspects of your site. I’m not against upgrading a little earlier if you are following trends, but don’t upgrade unnecessarily.
Make sure to do as much research as possible when choosing a host. Even the best website can be crippled long-term if the hosting company chosen is difficult to work with and provides a subpar service. A web host is the middleman between you and the people who wish to access your website, so don’t just pick anyone for the job. Be sure to carefully vet all of your choices for what services they are going to give you, how much they are going to charge for these services, and what kind of support they’re going to be able to provide should anything go wrong or you need to amend the terms of your service agreement.