Having a website is no longer exclusively available to corporations or developers and IT experts. In fact, hosting a website is now easier than ever. Even total beginners can have their own virtual presence readily available by keeping a few basics in mind.
With that being said, it’s still important to stay informed. Knowing the different kinds of website hosting and what software you can use to make and run your website is a start. Keep in mind that your needs and what we explain here are subjective and won’t cover every use case.
Table of Contents
Knowing the Differences Between ‘Web Hosting’ and a ‘Data Center’
A web hosting service provides a host (a server) on which you host your website – usually, this service is provided by a web hosting provider. On the other hand, a data center is the facility where the servers are located. Data centers are physical buildings that are home to servers and all systems required to run the servers, such as power supplies (redundant as well as backup), data connections, security devices, and climate controls that will keep all equipment working at optimal efficiency. Web hosting providers have servers that are inside data centers, or in the case of some larger hosting companies, they own the entire data center itself.
Understanding the Different Types of Web Hosting Services
There are four main types of web hosting services: VPS hosting, shared hosting, cloud hosting, and dedicated servers. All of these serve as the backend of your website or blog. Each option is unique with its storage, management, and customization options, speed, reliability, and technical knowledge required.
Virtual Private servers are servers that utilize their own resources which are split virtually from a physical server that acts as the host. Each of the virtual machines that are hosted on such a server is essentially its own virtual ‘server’, with each running its own operating system and the software that runs your website. Technically speaking, multiple virtual servers are all stored and running on a single, much larger, physical server so that you only use what you need and don’t pay for unnecessary access, but still, you have full control over what you host on your server. It would be like running a small business in a mall. You only need one store, but within that store, you have the capacity to change the layout, design, and everything else as you see fit.
Since VPS hosting is isolated with each having its own allocated space, resources, and operating system, your hosting can’t be affected by any other VPS on the same server. One of the best things about VPS hosting is its balance of performance and affordability. A VPS is a well-rounded choice when it comes to hosting. The perfect balance of customizability, features, performance, and affordability.
One crucial aspect to be aware of which typically goes unmentioned by many hosting companies is the existence of VPS resource overselling. It’s vital to go with a hosting provider that never oversells its hardware, guaranteeing that your server remains fast and stable.
Shared hosting is a user account on a hosting provider’s server that lets you upload and run your website online. With this hosting type, you are not isolated from other users’ website traffic load, which could range from a handful to over a thousand other websites. The more websites that you are sharing a server with, the more unstable your website’s performance will be. Rather than a shopping mall store, it’s more akin to a market where you have a stall just like everyone else and share one giant open space. As you can imagine, this limits what you can do drastically and each website can and does impact all of the others.
The upside is the cost. This is the cheapest, entry-level option. It’s never the best and often the worst value overall, but it will be the cheapest option available and often all you’ll need for a test site or a personal hobby site to learn on. Typically all you would get is a user account, a place to upload your files, and a database. More often than not, due to the low price points, shared hosting is oversold and has arbitrary limitations such as the number of websites you can host or the number of visitors you can have per month.
The cost for shared hosting is low, but those drawbacks can be a dealbreaker for users who want to do more alongside hosting a basic website, such as email, document sharing, and especially any additional open-source software.
Cloud VPS Hosting
Cloud hosting is a newer type of hosting service and is typically a good option for users who want to effectively manage highly fluctuating traffic volumes on their websites. With cloud hosting, a group of servers – called the ‘cloud’ – work hand-in-hand to perform the task of resource scaling to seamlessly serve the website and as many visitors as needed at this point in time. The downside with this hosting type is usually the storage performance, which can be quite limited due to its scalable nature, as well as the higher cost. It’s ideal for websites that have irregular traffic spikes such as concerts and event sites, SaaS sites and online apps that experience a surge of traffic and downloads during key launch periods, and any site that has content that may go viral.
If you don’t have wildly varying website traffic and are okay with stable prepaid pricing, we recommend sticking with a regular VPS as it is much cheaper and easier to work with compared to a scalable solution.
This type of service is typically the most expensive and used by the biggest websites and corporations. You benefit from maximum control over your own server and superior performance over all the other options because you get the entire server all to yourself. This allows for lots of visitors at a time and overall higher traffic compared to the other options.
Dedicated servers give you the most flexibility, allowing for different kinds of software to run at the same time. You could have multiple websites, a file server, a voice/video meeting & collaboration software, file collaboration software, an email server, version control software, and more, all running simultaneously. This lets you run and manage your entire business from one place, all while owning and having full control of your sensitive data.
Proprietary Website Builders
You’ve probably heard of PaaS (platform as a service) providers such as Squarespace, Shopify, or Wix before. They market their product as cheap hosting offering an easy out-of-the-box solution to make things as simple as possible. The downside that is never mentioned however is that any of those is a one-way ticket to a ride you can never get off of. Once your site is built on that particular platform, you are stuck using it forever, short of abandoning your website and SEO. If you ever want to move away for any reason, you will have to recreate your entire website from scratch.
The other big caveat is the dishonest system of the multitude of paid add-ons, which lock useful features behind individual monthly subscriptions that add up very quickly. While these platforms look affordable and try to entice you with signup deals, the monthly fees grow incredibly quickly. In combination with that, you cannot easily move away this is even more worrying because at any point in time, these costs can increase or terms of service can change for the worst and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, but continue to pay whatever the price they demand. This effectively makes your business website a hostage. This can also include access to your sensitive data, which in some cases might not even technically be yours anymore.
We highly recommend that you stay away from such hosting and builder combinations. They may make getting started very easy, but moving away is next to impossible. Even shared hosting is a preferable alternative compared to these platforms. With shared hosting, you can change providers on the fly if the service becomes unbearably bad or far too expensive.
Choosing and Registering a Domain Name
The domain name is essentially the name of your website or business. It’s a string of characters that will give your virtual space on the internet a unique identity. We recommend using simple words for higher placement in search results, such as the cases of Google.com or Yahoo.com. Also, you will have to make sure that you register a domain name with a reputable domain registrar. It’s recommended to use a registrar that is authorized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Your domain name is important to the identity of your site, so choose wisely.
Protecting the Privacy of Your Domain Record
You might want to have a lot of people remember and visit your website, but this can also lead to unwanted guests prying for your personal info. Using domain privacy protection will help you keep your personal info away from identity thieves, stalkers, hackers, and spammers from using your domain record for illegal activities. You can see if privacy protection is available by talking to your web host about privacy options.
Choosing the Right Web Host
Doing a little bit of extra research when choosing the right host for your website can help you decide on which hosting provider will meet your requirements. Aside from checking out articles and forums on the Internet, reading reviews from satisfied customers is also a good way to seek out reputable hosting providers.
If you’re building a business website and are new to website development or don’t have a big dedicated IT team, you should definitely consider going with a fully managed provider. This means that full handholding support is included by default. Look for a 100% uptime guarantee with a money-back guarantee at a bare minimum, and read customer reviews to find the fastest servers at the lowest price point. A hosting provider that has a strong reputation and isn’t afraid to put their money where their mouth is such as the Saints of Hosting™ is always a good idea.
Choosing the Right Web Server
If you chose a hosting solution where you are in charge of your own software, you’ll need to decide on a web server that will actually serve the files that live on your server. The most popular choices are Apache and Nginx. We have written a great guide on Apache vs. Nginx and which is better, so we recommend you check that out before making a decision.
Hosting a Website: Choosing Website Software
Once you’ve got your hosting and website server software sorted, you’ll want to turn your attention to a user-friendly and nice-looking design. For that, we suggest you stick with an out-of-the-box CMS (Content Management System). This type of software is used on a large portion of all websites on the Internet. This is thanks to their ease of use and easy feature expandability. We recommend trying out installing WordPress or installing Drupal on your server and seeing how that works for you.
There are clearly a lot of decisions to make when wanting to run your own website on the Internet. Despite that, the barrier of entry has never been lower. We put a lot of care and thought into explaining each option as clearly as possible without getting too technical. If you don’t know how to continue from here, you can sign up and try one of our Managed Linux VPS plans for just $1 and get in touch with our dedicated support team that’ll provide you with advice and hand-holding support all the way through. We can suggest and even install a website stack for you, leaving only the content creation with your team. We’ll also do all of the maintenance, backups, and security for you, so you only need to worry about what you add to your website.
We hope you like this guide on hosting a website and the steps needed to do so. If you found it helpful and want to spread the word, please consider sharing this post on social media. If you have any suggestions, or if you just want to show appreciation, please leave a comment down below.