Previously on Web Wednesdays, we covered ‘all you need to know about domains’. This week, we will look at the other side of things…hosting. Just like domains, understanding everything about website hosting can be very overwhelming, especially for those with little experience or for those who are setting up their first website. Our aim is to explain web hosting in a way that is easy to understand and jargon-free. Hopefully, this explanation, paired with the previous article about domains, will give you all the information required to successfully set up hosting for your website.
Website Hosting: What’s It All About?
The first step to being able to host a website is to understand what exactly web hosting is. Simply put, web hosting is the ‘space’ where your website resides. A web hosting service provider is a business that provides all the necessary services and networking infrastructure for you to put your website onto the internet for people to view. When using the services of a web hosting service provider it allows you to store the files that make up your website on their special computers called servers. When a user types your domain name into their web browser, it connects their computer to the web files stored on the server.
There are also other services that are included within a web hosting service such as email hosting. You may have seen our business email which is firstname.lastname@example.org, we were able to create this as part of our hosting package. With the hosting service we use for our customer’s websites, we are able to offer up to five email addresses for free and further email addresses at a small cost.
Factors To Consider
Not all hosting solutions are equal, as you can probably guess from the fluctuation in prices! But is it just a case of pay more and get better?
When you look for a web hosting provider, one of the first things you may come across is the choice of hosting ‘platform’. Usually categories as Windows, Linux and sometimes ‘Wordpress’, your choice is mostly dependant on what programming language your website is coded in. Typically, a Linux platform will suffice and is generally the most common choice across the net. WordPress hosting slightly different, in that it is a modified Linux platform that is configured and optimised to give the best results for hosting a WordPress site. If you are unsure, ask your web developer or ask for advice from a hosting provider.
You may also come across the term ‘managed hosting’. This may mean the hosting provider is using their own dedicated hosting hardware/server as opposed to a shared server. Shared servers are a cluster of many other customers websites on one, so you are essentially sharing the space with others. This is usually the cheapest option but you won’t have access to many server configuration options if needed, and you may be more restricted in terms of available space and bandwidth. Speaking of which…
How Much Does Web Hosting Cost
When paying for a website hosting plan, what you are actually paying for is usually based on the physical disk space on the server as well as the bandwidth (volume of connections/visits to the site) for the server. This is why when looking around for a hosting provider, you may see hosting advertised in terms of disk space and bandwidth. As alluded to before, the type of server also affects price so it’s difficult to say just how much hosting will cost. Base your decision on your requirements, or if possible, past data. You might need more resources with an ecommerce store than a flat PHP website for instance, but your mileage may vary.
How To Access Your Hosting Space
When you have settled on your hosting provider and purchased a package, you may be wondering how to access and host your website. You will likely be provided login credentials to access the control panel of your hosting. From here, you can set up FTP (File Transfer Protocol). FTP acts as the login credentials to connect to the server and upload your website files. You will be provided with a host, username and password. The host is the address of the server you are connecting to, and the username and password are the authentications used to ensure you have the privileges to connect. If you have a web developer building your website, you will need to provide these details to them. There are various factors that dictate how long it will take to upload a website, such as how many files there are, the sizes of files being uploaded, your internet connection and server speed.
Secure & Safe
SSL certificates are available on most hosting platforms. These certificates enable encryption on your server and are indicated by the green padlock in your browser. Some hosts provide these free of charge while others require a monthly or yearly charge to renew. It’s good to ensure there are no hidden fees down the line.
It’s also worth finding out if backups are available as part of the service. In the unfortunate event of your website getting hacked or going down, restoring a backup is a quick and easy way to roll back to a previously functional version of your site and get back up and running as soon as possible. How often backups are taken will depend on your server, but typically there should be weekly backups available as a minimum. Again, there may be a charge for this feature so it’s something to consider in your choice.
If you’d like advice on anything we’ve discussed or you need help with your existing hosting, then please give us a call on 01455 367 100.