Website Hosting? What is it and why do you need it?
Yet another frustrating discussion about websites. Everyone keeps telling you a "self-hosted" website is the way to go. What does that even mean though? You aren't the only one with these questions. It can be confusing at first, but we want to break it down for you.
We are going to cover what web hosting is, in English terms for you. What to look for with your hosting service, and what website platform we recommend using for your website.
Hopefully, by the end of this post, you will have a better understanding of website hosting and you can pick a hosting provider with confidence.
So what is website hosting?
Let's start at the beginning. The internet is basically a bunch of servers all connected and communicating with each other. A server is a physical "hard drive" or "data storage unit" if you will. Information is saved on these "hard drives" and they are communicating with other "hard drives".
Now imagine this for me. Think of your website as a house. A house needs a piece of land or property to sit on, otherwise, it would just be floating. Your web hosting and the server it's set up on is like the property your house sits on. Your website needs to live on something, otherwise, it would just be floating in space. Make sense?
Now I'll throw another term at you, Domain. Going back to the house example. Your domain is like your address. It's where your "house" or "website" is located. For instance, the domain for this website is ExpeditionWebStudio.com. That is the Web Address (see what they did there!) you type in to find our website.
So essentially, your hosting is where your website physically lives, and your domain is the address for where your website is located.
Are all hosting providers the same?
Absolutely not. Now that you have an idea of what web hosting is, you need to understand that not every hosting provider is the same. Most of the most popular web host, are actually the ones you need to avoid.
We aren't going to say any names here for hosting providers you should avoid, but we will tell you what you need to look for in a hosting provider. Let's just say, if you have heard of them a lot, they are probably to be avoided. The reason for this is because they overload their servers. The more websites they have on one server the slower your website will be, which will seriously affect your SEO. Also, the more websites that are on one server, the more likely your website could be hacked. Websites need to be maintained and updated on a regular basis in order to keep them secure. If someone else on that server isn't keeping their website secure, your website could be at risk. Rule of thumb, if the hosting is really cheap, run away.
So what should you look for in a hosting provider?
When we were researching a hosting provider for Expedition Web Studio, and it's clients, we had strict criteria. This is the criteria we had when selecting our hosting provider:
This is really important. If something were to happen to your website, you would want to know you have a backup of your site to revert to. One of our designers had this happen to him recently. Thankfully his site was backed up the night before, so it was an easy fix to have his site up and running again.
Bandwith and Disk Space
These affect the number of pages and how much information you have on your site, and the number of visitors it can handle.
Disk space is all about storage and data on your website. The more pages and the more information you have the more disk space you need. As a rule of thumb, a small to medium-sized business typically doesn't need more than 5GB of disk space.
Bandwith is how many visitors your website can handle at the same time. Unlimited Bandwith is what you want to look for here.
As of summer 2018, Google is going to require SSL certificates for websites in order for them to be considered safe. Some hosting providers will have a free SSL Certificate that should fit a basic websites needs. If you have an e-commerce website, then you may have to purchase a heftier SSL certificate for a yearly fee. It's always a bonus when your hosting provider will install it for you!
Ability to have Sub-Domains
This is important for the expansion of your business. You never know when you will need a subdomain. We use subdomains when we build a clients website before they have their hosting set up. We also use subdomains as a demo for our semi-custom websites. We've used them for our training videos and marketing purposes as well.
What Content Management System Should I Use?
There are a lot of different opinions on this topic. In our professional opinion, WordPress is the way to go. WordPress is very user-friendly, there are thousands of great themes out there, and there are thousands of different "Plugins" that will add functionality to your website. We build all of our websites with WordPress and all of our clients have loved it.
Now that you understand the basics of web hosting and what to look for, you can make an informed decision when choosing your hosting provider. We offer our own hosting service, but we also recommend GreenGeeks as a great alternative.