Web hosting is a web service that allows individuals and businesses to get their websites on the internet. Website owners sign up with web hosting providers to get access to all the digital space and resources needed to store, manage, and present their content to visitors all around the world.
This means that it’s incredibly helpful to have a clear understanding of web hosting if you’re planning to build and run a website.
This article answers the question “what is web hosting, and how does it work?” We’ll look at how it differs from web servers, the uses of web hosting, the different types of hosting, and how their different strengths make certain types better for personal websites and businesses. Finally, we’ll help you understand the difference between hosting and domains, and how much you can expect to pay for hosting as a service. Let’s jump in!
Table of Contents
- How does web hosting work?
- Types of web hosting
- Shared hosting
- VPS hosting
- Cloud hosting
- Reseller hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- What is WordPress hosting?
- Managed Hosting vs. Unmanaged Hosting
- What is the best web hosting for personal sites?
- What is the best web hosting for small businesses?
- What is the difference between domain names and web hosting?
- How much does website hosting cost?
What Is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the fundamental technology that allows a website to be accessible on the internet. It’s the digital foundation every website owner needs to establish their presence online and is a service offered by numerous web hosting providers from all around the world.
The easiest way to understand web hosting is to imagine you’re renting space in the digital realm to store your website’s files, images, and databases. Web hosting companies provide this infrastructure in the form of specialized web servers, usually in return for a monthly or annual subscription fee. These web servers are an important but distinct ingredient of web hosting and should not be confused with web hosting itself.
What is a web server?
The term “web server” can be defined as the hardware and software that uses HTTP (or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol) to respond to client requests over the internet.
Web servers are essentially specialized computers that store the data and files of different businesses and websites, along with web server software. These physical computers connect to each other to form the world wide web (WWW) and allow for the physical exchange of data among all connected devices.
On the software end, web servers are responsible for processing the data stored in the server, understanding URLs, understanding HTTP requests, and responding to them by sending the relevant data to users’ IP addresses.
Web servers vs. Web hosting
The terms “web servers” and “web hosting” have different but closely related meanings. Web servers are the software and hardware that physically connect to the internet network to exchange data and transfer files.
On the other hand, web hosting refers to the act of storing and maintaining website content on a web server. Web hosting is usually a service provided by a third party company that manages the servers. Consumers engage them in return for website file storage and maintenance.
Web servers are the “storage units” where website data resides. Web hosting is the “service” that ensures this data is stored, maintained, and made accessible to online users.
How Does Web Hosting Work?
Web hosting works by providing the resources and technology that help website owners both store and manage the files necessary for their site. After you’ve crafted your website with all its essential elements, like text, images, and design components, you’ll need to store these files in a centralized location where they can be accessed: a web host’s server.
When someone types your website’s address into their browser, it sends a signal to this server, which then fetches and displays the appropriate files so that the visitor can see your website.
These web hosting servers are typically housed in state-of-the-art facilities known as data centers. These data centers are tailored to meet the high demands of web hosting and usually come equipped with features like redundant power supplies, climate control, and rapid internet connections to ensure uninterrupted service. Your web hosting provider is responsible for keeping these servers up and running so that your site stays online for visitors.
The type of web hosting you choose will determine how these server resources are allocated for you. For example, shared web hosting involves sharing a server with other users, whilst non-shared web hosting such as dedicated server hosting will secure a server for your exclusive use.
Web hosting providers also serve a wider function beyond just storing your website files. They also play an important role in making sure your website stays secure and performs optimally. Web hosting helps you to more easily manage the technicalities of hosting a website by providing a simplified control panel and tech support.
The flexibility and range of web hosting means that it can be used for a wide variety of online projects.
Types Of Web Hosting
There are 6 main types of web hosting, including shared, VPS, cloud, reseller, dedicated, and WordPress hosting. These web hosting variations are tailored to meet different needs and levels of technical expertise.
As websites grow, their hosting needs can change. A small blog might start with shared hosting but, as traffic increases, might need to move to VPS or cloud hosting. Cloud hosting, in particular, offers scalability, allowing websites to easily adjust resources based on traffic spikes or growth.
Some website owners might need extensive customization, requiring hosting types that allow greater control over the server environment such as dedicated or VPS hosting. Choosing the right type hinges on understanding one’s site’s current and future demands. We’ll be discussing the core types of web hosting and their benefits below.
Shared hosting is a type of web hosting that divides single web servers into many different, often hundreds, of slices. Each slice can be sold to a single user but can be capable of hosting more than one website.
The biggest benefit of shared hosting is its affordability. It’s the cheapest form of web hosting and can cost under $2.00/mo since you are sharing your resources with other websites. This makes shared hosting an excellent choice for anyone launching their first website, or for smaller websites that don’t expect high visitor volumes. Check our shortlist on the best shared web hosting for our recommendations.
VPS hosting, short for Virtual Private Server hosting, divides a server into multiple virtual partitions.Like Shared Hosting, multiple VPS accounts occupy a single server. However, each VPS plan is assigned a dedicated amount of resources (memory, storage and CPU power) and sits in an isolated space.
This is a more powerful alternative to shared hosting since your site won’t be affected by the resource usage of other accounts on the server. These characteristics of VPS mean they offer users much better performance potential and security, but without costing as much as a dedicated hosting account. VPS hosting is also a good choice for developers or more advanced users who require root access. Check our shortlist on the best VPS web hosts for our recommendations.
Cloud hosting is a popular form of web hosting that draws resources from multiple servers that are connected together as one unified entity known as the ‘cloud’. The biggest names in the cloud hosting industry include the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), EC2, and Azure, which offer enterprise-level solutions. There are also many web hosts that now offer affordable and simple cloud alternatives that are ideal for small to medium businesses and eCommerce sites. Several of these web hosts are built on Google Cloud infrastructure and give site owners access to a wide network of data centers around the world.
Cloud based website hosting offers superior reliability over shared hosting. If an equipment fault occurs in cloud hosting, operations can temporarily shift to alternative servers to keep your site online. It’s also highly scalable, meaning you can grow your website without worrying about upper limits. You can add virtually infinite resources to your cloud hosting plan as necessary and scale your resources up and down with ease. Check our shortlist on the best cloud hosting services for our recommendations.
Reseller hosting is a service that lets individuals or companies buy web hosting in bulk and then sell it to others. These resellers can use the infrastructure provided by large and established hosting companies instead of setting up and needing to maintain their own servers. They essentially act as a middleman, dividing and reallocating server space to their clients.
The main benefit of reseller hosting is the potential for profit for entrepreneurs, web designers, or agencies. Resellers can set their own prices, package features, and offer hosting under their brand name. Reseller hosting plans eliminates the need for extensive technical knowledge about server management or maintenance and is perfect for anyone who wants to enter the web hosting industry without needing to make a huge upfront investment. Check our shortlist on the best reseller hosting for our recommendations.
Dedicated hosting is a type of web hosting where a user gets an entire server for their website. This means that no other websites share the server or its resources. Everything from the server’s storage to its processing power is solely dedicated to a single user or website.
The major benefits of dedicated hosting include unparalleled performance and security. Since the resources aren’t shared, you get to enjoy all the resources of the server, including higher speeds, more storage space, and bandwidth. It’s ideal for larger organizations that require a lot of server power to themselves, or those who need advanced custom configurations and special software. Check our shortlist on the best dedicated hosting providers for our recommendations.
What is WordPress hosting?
WordPress hosting is a hosting type that is optimized specifically for the content management system (CMS) WordPress. These are often built on the same infrastructure as shared hosting. However, what sets WordPress hosting apart is its tailored environment. This kind of hosting typically provides features like one-click WordPress installations, automatic updates for the WordPress software, and specific caching mechanisms to boost site performance. In addition, security measures are often configured to protect your site against common WordPress-related vulnerabilities.
The biggest benefit of WordPress hosting is how it brings out the best of WordPress sites. The optimized environment helps to unlock faster load times, which can improve both user experience and search engine rankings. Moreover, WordPress hosts offer specialized support teams that are particularly knowledgeable about WordPress.
WordPress hosting comes in both managed and unmanaged forms. The biggest benefits of managed WordPress hosting is that it eliminates many technical challenges for users such as always ensuring the latest WordPress security patches are installed to keep your site safe. Check our shortlist on the best WordPress hosting for our recommendations.
Managed hosting vs. Unmanaged hosting
Managed hosting refers to a service where the web host’s support team handles technical aspects of a website. This is a popular choice for CMSs like WordPress or hosting types such as cloud hosting. Customers of managed hosting will benefit from automatic updates, backups, security, and expert support.
In contrast, unmanaged hosting refers to basic server resources where the user will need to make sure they manually keep their site updated, backed-up and secure.
Managed hosting has the advantage of simplifying tasks for the website owner and offering a much more convenient and time-saving solution to hosting a website. Unmanaged hosting tends to be cheaper and more flexible. Choosing between these 2 types of hosting depends on a user’s technical skills, time, and budget.
What Is The Best Web Hosting For Personal Sites?
The best web hosting for personal sites is shared hosting because it is affordable but adequately covers the needs of a personal site. Shared hosting involves sharing a server with other websites and ensures each user only pays a fraction of the overall server upkeep.
Personal websites, such as portfolios and blogs, are generally smaller in scope and content. Their primary purpose is often to share information, stories, or showcase work, and many shared hosting plans offer ample features and performance for these needs, whilst keeping costs low.
Personal websites also tend to have lower traffic volumes which means they demand fewer resources and less bandwidth. Shared hosting also often comes with user-friendly control panels, one-click installers, and adequate security measures, making it easy for individuals without technical knowledge to manage and secure their site. Lastly, personal websites don’t usually engage in complex transactions, which further reduces the need for higher-end hosting solutions. Check out our guide to the best personal website hosting.
What Is The Best Web Hosting For Small Businesses?
The best web hosting for small businesses is premium grade shared hosting because it strikes a balance between performance, features, and cost. Such plans, like Hostinger’s Business Shared Host plans, cater well to the needs of small businesses by offering fast server speeds, a free domain, security features such as SSL certificates and dedicated customer support. The low cost of shared hosting also helps keep business overheads low and ensures you’re not paying for anything you don’t need.
However, for eCommerce sites, it is recommended to use a cloud hosting plan. This is because eCommerce sites will require more resources to handle product pages, transactions, and possible spikes in traffic during sale seasons. A cloud hosting plan will provide better reliability and scalability to make sure your online store stays up and functioning.
See our best small business web hosting for recommendations.
What Is The Difference Between Domain Names And Web Hosting?
Domain names are the web addresses that people use to find your website on the internet. An example of a domain name would be “bitcatcha.com”. When a user types your domain name into the URL bar of their browser, your domain name is resolved into an IP address by the DNS server. This IP address will direct them to the physical location of the web server. Your own domain is unique to you and needs to be registered with a Domain Registrar.
In contrast, web hosting provides the technology to store and retrieve your website’s files. An example of web hosting would be Hostinger. Your website needs web hosting in order to be viewable online, either publicly or privately.
This means that both domain names and web hosting are necessary to make your website live and accessible online. Without domain names, it will be impossible for people to find your website. Without web hosting, you won’t have a place for your files to live. For more details on how they compare, check our article on domain vs. hosting.
Many web hosts also offer domain name registrar services and may even offer free domain registration as part of their hosting plans.
How Much Does Website Hosting Cost?
Web hosting typically costs between $1 to $150 a month. The actual price depends on the type of hosting you choose as well as the features the brand offers. Shared hosting is the cheapest option, whilst VPS, dedicated, cloud hosting will cost you more.
Important features that should not be left out include fast SSD servers, excellent customer support, SSL certificates, robust security features, back-ups, an intuitive control panel and adequate bandwidth and storage for your site needs. Some web hosts will also include a free domain registration within their fee.
For a breakdown of the costs of each type, check out our full guide on how much does website hosting cost.
This article has explained what web hosting is, how it works, the forms it takes, and what it’s used for. Web hosting is often confused with terms such as web servers and domain names, which are closely related but distinct concepts.
Web hosting ultimately comes in many different forms, including shared, VPS, cloud, reseller and WordPress, and in managed and unmanaged variations. This variety provides any personal user or business owner a huge range of options to choose from, and the chance to find the web hosting type that perfectly suits their individual needs.