What is a web host

If you are building your very first website, you might be a little lost understanding what web hosting is or how it works.  In this article we will discuss some facts about web hosting and what to look for in a good web host.

What is a web host? A web host is someone who maintains your files so people who are searching the web can view them. Web host offer many other options besides just hosting to things like security, backups and even design options. You should shop around when you are looking for a good web host.

We will save you some time for looking for your next web host by providing you with some facts of things you can look for. Our goal is to help save you some time without you having to read any more information besides what is in this article. So if you are ready to find the perfect web host then continue reading on.

Disclaimer: We do earn affiliate sales for recommending these host but that is not the reason we recommend them. They are only recommended because of the reasons below.

What is web hosting and how does it work?

how does web hosting work

Web hosting companies are a dime a dozen and there are huge amounts of information about these web hosting companies. Learning what you need to look for will help you find the perfect web host for your project rather than listening to what other people recommend, you will make your own decision.

When you research the first piece of advice, I can give you is to pick a web host is in your region. There are a certain amount of hosting companies specific to the country you are in. These closer web hosting companies will often give you a much better product than using something from across the world.

Web host are companies which house your files by storing them on servers which then serve them to visitors are on search engines that link to your URL or domain name. All companies offer different levels of service and speed so I recommend you make a list of the things you need from a company.

Types of web hosting

Color-Scheme

When you are look through web hosting companies, you will notice that they offer many options for hosting your website. Each of these have their advantages and drawbacks so we will go over a list of them so you can understand what they are and when you might need them.

Shared

This is also one of the cheapest ways to host a website without a lot of cost involved. Shared hosting as you might image means that you share web space with other websites on your server.

Shared hosting draws the most criticism of any hosting company because you have no control who your neighbor is. If, for instance, you had someone sucking up all the bandwidth your website could suffer performance wise while that neighbor is spiking traffic. Now many web hosting companies have things in place to stop this but it is still a possibility for shared hosting.

You will also have security issues with shared hosting. If one website on that server gets infected with a virus, it can spread the virus across the server and if you are one of the unlucky neighbors your website could also become vulnerable. 

On the plus side, a shared hosting package is one of the cheapest ways to work with websites, sometimes you will pay only a few dollars a year (for a cheap host – not recommended). You will also start learning how to use things like Cpanel and working with a web host which can be beneficial if you move to your own hosting solution.

Overall, shared hosting is one of the best for low traffic, low cost websites you want to put out on the web. I would consider it when I am just starting out rather than paying for something that will give you more power but you don’t have the traffic to use the power.

Note sometimes shared hosting companies will offer WordPress hosting, this is nothing more than a reskinned shared package. We wrote a post on how much web space do I need for WordPress, you’ll enjoy it if you are building a website like that.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is a step up from shared where instead of your website being on a server with many websites, it’s the only one. This can increase your performance since you don’t have to share resources with other websites. 

Having a dedicate host also means that you are less likely to suffer from a hacked website due to someone not keeps up maintenance with theirs. This can be terrible for a business or ecommerce website that if it goes down, you lose money.

The biggest drawback to Dedicated hosting is the fact that the price increases that you will have to pay for being the only website on that server. While this isn’t a problem for bigger companies it can be a problem for smaller companies which do not have the budget to pay for a dedicated server.

You will also need to consider your technical background as you will need to maintain your server. This will include things such as performing administrative tasks, technical issues and security. Overall, I would not recommend dedicated hosting for someone who is brand new to hosting or does not have a technical background.

Managed

Managed hosting works similar to dedicated because you pay for a private server. However, unlike dedicated where you are in charge of the server maintenance, managed allows another company to help you with problems. This can be great for someone who wants the power but might not have the technical background.

The downside to managed hosting is it’s another bill on top of the fact that you are already paying hosting fees so now you would have managed fees which will be too expensive for many brand new websites that do not have budgets yet.

Cloud

Cloud hosting is the next hosting we will discuss.  Cloud hosting has grown in popularity because of the lower cost and that more people are offering it. Cloud hosting is a hosting which uses multiple servers to manage the load of your website. Unlike dedicated where you have just one server, with cloud you can have many.

The main advantages of cloud hosting is a better use of resources, more scalability and greater security because of redundancy. If one server fails with your website on it typically you are down, with cloud hosting if one server fails, you have more to back it up so the site stays up more times than not.

The downsides of cloud hosting is increased price as user demand grows, lack of internet access can leave data out of reach, vendor lock in, thirty party management of your data and much more are a few.

VPS

The last hosting we will talk about is VPS. VPS stands for virtual private server. VPS hosting are virtualized which allow you to access a website similar to that of the cloud but the difference being that you are on a single server by yourself much like dedicated.

Advantages of VPS include things like stability, performance and dedicated resources. These type of things make it perfect for smaller to medium websites that are looking for enhanced resources but don’t want to pay the prices of dedicated or cloud.

The downside to VPS hosting is is more expensive than shared hosting, configuring a server requires a technical background, you will not have full control over the server that your website is hosted, and poor management of the servers from the hosting companies which might overfill them.

What’s the difference between a domain name and web host

difference between a domain name and web host

A domain name is a name you purchase from a domain provider which gives you a URL that someone can access anywhere in the world as long as they have that address. That address points to an IP address which connects to your web host where the files are located, the person then sees whatever files are on that site once the URL goes through.

To have a website, it will require you to purchase both a domain name and web host. These need not come from the company but some people will buy them from the same company since companies offer incentives for having your hosting and domain name registered through them.

I would recommend that you purchase these pieces separately and do not worry about the one year free that they give you. You can find domain name provides all over the web, I have a few that I really enjoy and I have listed them below.

What do I recommend?

Unlike other people on the web who will recommend different things I will give you my recommendations for different levels of hosting. If you are someone just starting out you will require much less than someone who has a dedicated website with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month.

Also, these recommendations are what I recommend for my clients so I have nice little charts associated with them to give you a basic overview of how I feel about them. Decide on your own with your own research what will work for you. One size does not fit all and you will find that hosting has many opinions with very few facts.

New websites or websites with low traffic

Most shared hosting sites are cheap which means you won’t have a ton of traffic coming from any one source. Shared hosting is also very good to hosting up to 100,000 visitors and even 300,000 visitors a month which is a large number that most small websites will never reach. 

I recommend two services for hosting in this category. 

Bluehost

Bluehost

Bluehost is not a web service that gets much love when you ask people around the web. They have some horror stories which might scare you off but the fact is, Bluehost is stable. Their service is decent, I would not call it the greatest but for someone with limited technical background they are great.

If you have a website where you don’t get a lot of traffic, I consider Bluehost is being the best for your buck for starting out. It’s offers a well-rounded support with decent speeds that aren’t too slow.

A2

a2

A2 is another host which I believe has gotten a bad reputation over the years. They are another company that offers faster web hosting speeds than what Bluehost offers at their basic levels. They also offer a free SSL which is nice but very similar to Bluehost.

If speed is your priority, I would consider A2 but I wouldn’t consider them for long-term websites. Move off of A2 as soon as you grow or have the money to move to a better provider. Still not terrible, decent you just can’t grow with them like you can other web hosts.

Medium websites with lots of traffic

In this category we have another two web hosting companies which you will hear nothing but good things about when you search the web. Both companies typically rank at the top of the pack when you are trying to find a solid host that offers great support.

SiteGround

SiteGround without a doubt is one of the best all around hosts for running a website with a decent amount of traffic. SiteGround also has some of the best support all around with their hosting that can’t be beat. Package this together and you have a solid host for running your website.

One word of warning, while SiteGround makes high marks in almost every category they are a lot more expensive after the first year (similar to many hosts) so don’t be shocked. This is a common tactic of hosting companies to bring you in with a lost leader but then charge you double or triple the second go around. Still the performance and support are two things that keep people coming back.

WP Engine

WP Engine is another great web hosting company that gets thrown around a lot in the hosting questions. WP Engine is a web host that only focuses on WordPress, many of the others above do other types of hosting, not WP Engine. They are managed WordPress hosting and like SiteGround they don’t shy away from charging what they are worth. 

I would argue that if you have a website with low traffic, WP Engine is not the right solution for you since their bargain package comes in at $25/per month which is high. But the difference being the quality of their support and quality of their servers which are made to handle WordPress.

Huge websites or websites with high traffic

This is a harder area to recommend people for hosting. Many hosts have no problem offering packages which scale with your website and allow you hundreds of thousands of visits a month. For me, I have never had a client was at the level of Walmart or Amazon so I am unsure what I would recommend to someone goes that route. 

You best bet would be to reach out to other high traffic website owners and get feedback from people who have experienced some of these hosts and see which may be right for your solution. In good faith I can not recommend one hosting company over the other because I have little experiencing dealing with it.

I will tell you that if you have a higher traffic website expect to pay a much higher price. Websites that get millions of users are like needing something like cloud hosting to help with the large spikes in traffic that they may get from time to time. Those spikes will have higher prices when it happens and lower prices when traffic stabilizes.

Of course, cloud hosting wouldn’t be the only option, it’s just one option I would look at for a higher traffic website.

Related Questions

Why are you recommending these web hosts over others? When you get into the habit of browsing Facebook groups you notice that about every day on almost every group this question comes up “What host should I pick?” and there are always snarky comments and disagreements. But the one thing you will notice, is the good hosts pop up time and time again and no one complains about them besides a select few.

Everyone is recommending different things, how do I know what’s true? You don’t. I’ve seen people swear up and down that GoDaddy is amazing and I just don’t agree with that. I’ve seen people say Bluehost is the devil but yet business person A has been with them for 10 years and no issues. Everyone will have a different level of tech savvy and everyone will run into problems, patience is the key and if that host doesn’t work anymore then you have plenty of options.

Conclusion

I hope you have enjoyed this in-depth look at what is a web host. I wanted to really dive in and not only answer the question but give you a full rundown on what the host is and what they are like. You need not take my recommendation as I believe everyone should come to their own opinions.

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more about web hosting and web design, please check out our website for more content.

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Patrick McCoy
Patrick is a web designer with over 20 years experience in websites and design. He spends most of his days writing content and enjoys tinkering with anything web or design related. When he isn't work he is often watching a good movie.

3 Comments

  1. […] I recommend Bluehost if you are just starting out and need a web host that can handle your files. Bluehost is one of the better hosting companies for brand new people. We have an article here called what is a web host if you want some guidance. […]

  2. […] Shared hosting is the cheapest, for a faster website go with cloud or vps hosting. If you want to know more about hosting read our article on picking a web host. […]

  3. […] Most companies will roll hosting into a package that you either pay per month or a onetime fee. Keep in mind that hosting will always cost more on the second year, every hosting will give you a discount for the first year. if you are looking for ideas of hosting your website check out our article what is a web host. […]

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