Websites 101: Understanding web hosting
When you buy a domain name you buy more than just a website address. Most people buy an all-in-one package that includes a domain name, email and web hosting.
A package deal gives you almost instant access to the new email addresses and other resources that come with your domain name, and is by far the simplest way to go – especially if you’re not very technically minded.
What exactly are you buying?
Effectively, when you purchase a web-hosting package you’re buying your web site a place to live – but you’re not buying the website itself. It’s a bit like buying a block of land; there’s a place for your house but it still needs to be built.
To be more specific, you’re paying for the use of a computer to run your website from that’s permanently connected to the web. This enables you to avoid all the hassles that go with having your own server. Furthermore, the web-hosting computers use fast links to the web, which aren’t affected by upload and download limits like the ones in your home office, and have other benefits as well. The cost of your web hosting service will depend on the resources you want to use.
Want more articles like this? Check out the business websites section.
Choosing the right provider
The virtual block of land that hosts your website can be anywhere in the world. But just like real estate in the offline world, location can be an important aspect of choosing what to buy.
"It’s a bit like buying a block of land; there’s a place for your house but it still needs to be built."
Prices can vary quite considerably, and my recommendation is that you buy somewhere convenient and with a level of support that’s applicable to your needs.
Some offshore providers do offer very cheap web hosting packages, but that may leave with you with awkward support hours (delays due to time zone differences, for example), and responses in a language you don’t understand.
My personal preference is to use an Australian web host that offers good support. Ideally, they should explain all your options in plain English, helping you to make educated decisions.
Don’t forget that in the same way that the style of house you want to build affects a land purchase, what you want your web site to do affects your web hosting needs. Consequently, it’s often a good idea to consult your web designer before purchasing your web-hosting package.
This is the second article in a series aimed at helping those new to the online world get a good understanding of how things hang together on the web. The previous article discusses domain names, and the next in the series will suggest some simple ways to get started with DIY websites.
Got questions about web hosting? Please post them below.