Web hosting is a reserved space on a server computer that stores and serves files related to websites (ie, HTML CSS, images, etc.) to browsers via the Internet. Web hosting is often connected to a human readable domain name.
Web hosting can be compared to a piece of land, but on the Internet. It’s connected to a specific address and can only be used if something is built on it.
Website hosting, like physical land can include an infrastructure that will make your project more efficient and/or cheaper. There are many tradeoffs.
This is the quick version. Website hosting is more than that.
Web Hosting explained
Web hosting stores and serves website files to anyone who asks via the Internet.
Every file that you see on the Internet is a result of files sent by servers. Web hosting is the server or section on a server that hosts the files that make up a website.
Technically, web hosting can be provided by any computer that is configured as a server and connected via the Internet (e.g. your home computer).
In practice, however, web hosting is almost always a space on a pre-configured server with a high-capacity connection.
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is done by connecting to a domain name and putting files on a server.
Software is often installed on web hosting to simplify management. This software is called a “stack”. LAMP is the most popular “stack”, which refers to
- Linux is the operating system for the server. Although Windows is used by some web hosts, it is much less common.
- Apache – This software sorts and filters files requests. NGINX is sometimes used by some hosts, although it is less widely supported than website software.
- MySQL – The default database the server uses for websites that use databases. Other types of databases are allowed by some hosts.
- PHP is a programming language that is used by many web software programs. Usually, the host supports other languages.
These settings can be compared between hosting companies and are only available to non-developers. Hosting companies usually install server / hosting management software such as cPanel to allow non-developers to manage files and change settings.
This is InMotion hosting’s cPanel. This is what you see when you log in to your account.
How does web hosting, domains, email, and web software work together?
Hosting stores your files. Domains make it easy to find your files.
Website software, such as WordPress, makes it easy to create, manage, and modify many website files.
Email software can also be installed on your web host. It will handle and sort your email requests (and receive them) on your server. Many companies send spam emails from their domain settings (e.g. Google Suite For Business, Outlook).
Here’s an example from real life.
A few seconds (or minutes) ago, you clicked on something that made your browser send a request to my web hosting for all the files located at https://larryludwig.com/what-is-web-hosting/
This request was processed and routed via my domain name/DNS settings to a Virtual Private Server located at InMotion hosting’s Los Angeles datacenter. My website’s files are stored on a dedicated section of this server that has the resources to store and serve them. InMotion’s servers are “pointed” to my domain as shown in the screenshot.
It was pre-installed Apache software that looked at it and replied “yes, this request has been verified…go to this address for all your needs”.
There were a bunch of files that live in that location, created and managed by WordPress. They were then executed. They pulled data from mySQL, created the files they needed, and then handed them to the server for distribution.
These files were downloaded and loaded by your browser in the correct order to display what you see now.
I may log in to my WordPress server later today and make this edit.
This might sound complicated. It is. However, your dishwasher, car, or house might sound more complicated if each step were explained.
Most things, such as your dishwasher or car, are pre-configured so that they work every time. It is important to remember that this process is not magical and each website on the Internet has to go through the same.
How much does it cost to host a website?
Hosting a website largely depends on how many resources you need. Not only do you need memory and storage space but also bandwidth, software, security, reputation of the company, etc. Here’s an example of the company hosting this website.
Most websites will run fine with shared hosting. Shared Hosting A hosting company leases accounts on a server to manage resources. Depending on the features and plans selected, shared hosting can cost between $5 and $20 per month.
See a variety of shared plans in my guide to web hosts.
It can be difficult to price out the pricing range beyond shared hosting. A VPS Hosting plan is where hosting companies divide up server resources so you have known resources. VPS pricing is usually $25-$150 per month, depending on the features and plans selected, as well as discounts.
See my Guide to VPS Hosts for a better understanding of the different VPS plans.
This explanation does not cover the top end, which includes managed hosting, dedicated hosting, managed WordPress hosting, reseller and specialized WordPress WordPress hosting. Cloud hosting. Cloud hosting is the place where you pay to use one of the major cloud networks such as Amazon, Google, or Microsoft. It can be very affordable or extremely expensive. This is because VPS hosting comes with a bundle pricing model and cloud is straight a-la carte.
Take a look at the Reseller hosting options and WordPress hosting plans.
You can also host multiple websites with shared hosting accounts. When comparing hosting costs, make sure you look at your total cost.
Is it possible to get free web hosting?
Yes, but there will be conditions so you will have to pay.
You can either pay for advertising (Wix free plans, WordPress.com free plans), or poor service and hard limits (blogger, Google Sites), or with complexity (Google Cloud).
Some companies claim to offer free web hosting…but, I’d be extremely cautious. You are the product if you don’t pay for it.
What makes a good web host?
Good web hosts are able to match your goals and budget. They deliver what they promise. They deliver what they promise.
People value cost more than quality. They will accept poor customer service or performance if they are getting a good deal. People want exceptional service regardless of the circumstances. Some people prefer a company that is independent while others want a large name-brand.
Hosting companies are not all equal. However, your goals and expectations will determine which ones are the best.
Here is a guide for choosing the best shared web hosting to suit your needs. It also includes similar guides to WordPress, VPS hosting.
How do I purchase web hosting?
Choose a hosting company that suits your needs, choose your plan, and then buy! Many established hosting companies excel at “onboarding”, i.e., moving new customers to active customers.
You can visit my guide to the best shared hosting companies and take the quiz. To “connect” your hosting account, you will need a domain name. You can then install web software, such as WordPress. I created a complete setup guide.
Popular web hosts
|Review||My Rating||Uptime||Uptime Guarantee||Money Guarantee||Migration is free||Website|
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Is it possible to transfer web hosting?
Yes! Absolutely. Self-hosting is a better option than using a web designer.
It is important to ensure that both the company and plan you have chosen share the same “tech stack”, i.e. Linux. Hosting companies often do the transfer for you for a fee . However, I have a guide that is somewhat outdated but still applies.
You now have a good understanding of web hosting. Make sure you put it to use. Learn how to find the best hosting company or optimize your account.
- What Is VPS Hosting? How Does VPS Hosting Work?
- What’s Shared Hosting?
- What’s WordPress Hosting?
- What’s Cloud Hosting?
- What’s Reseller Hosting?
- WordPress Hosting vs. WordPress Hosting
- Web Hosting vs. Domain Registration
- The Best WordPress Hosting
- The Best Web Hosting Services
- LAMP Stack Explained
- The Best Blog Hosting
- 16+ The Pros and Cons of Hosting Your Own Website or Blog
- Best Reseller Hosting
- 11+ Best Managed WordPress Host