Web hosting, what is it, and why am I paying for it.

Everyone who runs a website will have web hosting. But it’s not uncommon to wonder what it is, or why it’s essential. After all, it’s an expense, and you’d like to know what you’re paying for.

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Toby Osborne - Web Developer

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Toby Osborne

Hi, I’m Toby, a web developer with over eight years experience. My professional goal is to educate businesses in the use of technology to streamline their workflow.

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We’ve all heard of web hosting and how it’s vital to running a website. But often the explanation gets confusing. You switch off until the nerd explaining it finishes talking and then follow up with “Okay, so we need it then?”.

This guide will outline what web hosting is and what it does without the jargon that usually comes with it.

What is web hosting?

Web hosting is a service that lets you publish your site to the internet.

Think of it like uploading an image to Facebook, that image is now on their hosting and is accessible online.

Hosting a website is the same thing, you upload the files, and then people can see it online. Which explains why it’s so important. Without it the site isn’t anywhere your customers can access it.

You might as well not have a website at all, without web hosting.

What are you paying for?

When you pay for web hosting, you’re renting a computer called a web server. So, the money goes towards maintenance, support, software and keeping the lights on.

Why do prices vary so much?

With prices ranging from £1 all the way up to £1,000+, it can be confusing. Generally, prices reflect the type of web hosting and how powerful the server is.

There are three main types of web hosting that providers offer.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is the cheapest, and will be the ones that you’ll see on the big named providers.

As the name suggests, shared web hosting is a web server that houses more than one website. It can range between 1-1000 sites per server.

The benefits are:

  • It’s cheap (from £1pm)

The negatives are:

  • Security is at risk by other peoples websites.
  • Speed is dependant on other peoples websites.
  • Reliability is dependent on other peoples websites.

We’ve heard a few horror stories where websites on shared hosting get hacked, which resulted in every site on the server becoming compromised.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting or a VPS is the middle ground. Like shared hosting, they house a lot of websites. But, they are separate from each other.

The benefits are:

  • Affordable price (starting from £5pm)
  • Not harmed by other peoples websites
  • Usually a lot quicker than shared hosting
  • Much more secure than shared hosting
  • Control over the software/server settings

The negatives are:

  • You could be responsible for maintenance (unless you buy managed cloud hosting)

We always recommend VPS hosting for small to medium sized eCommerce sites. (up to 100,000 visitors a day).

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is a web server all to yourself. Prices vary but usually start at around £100pm.

The benefits are:

  • You are in complete control

The negatives are:

  • The Price
  • You could be responsible for maintenance
  • No one to blame if something goes wrong

What’s the difference between a computer and a web server?

There isn’t a difference. A web server is nothing but a computer with specialised software installed. You can even turn your computer into one, but I don’t recommend it.

  • Your internet connection is slow compared to data centres
  • The computer will need to be on 24/7
  • Your home network would be more open to attack
  • It’s not worth the effort
  • Misconfiguring it could be disastrous

To sum up, web hosting is a service that houses your website. It works using a web server, which are powerful computers.

There are three main types of web servers, with cloud (VPS) being the best choice in most cases.

You’re paying for the web server, maintenance and backups. The more you spend, the more powerful the server will likely be. But that’s not always the case.

Need a little help?

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