What Is Web Hosting? – Forbes Advisor – Forbes

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Updated: Feb 1, 2022, 12:00pm
Whether it’s a personal blog, small business or a large corporation, all websites have one thing in common—web hosting. While there are differences in types of web hosting, in general, web hosting is the process of securing space on a server to house the content of your website. This space can be rented or owned.
Web hosting can be confusing, especially if you don’t have a technology background, but don’t fret. We’ve got you covered with everything you need to know to get—and keep—your website up and running.
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Think of web hosting as the process of finding your website a home. The contents of your website—the domain name, HTML code, images, text, etc.—all need a place to live. Web hosting provides a place for this content to live on a server.
In short, a server is a computer that connects users to your website. In other words, the server is like a large condo building or office building and web hosting is the process of renting office space or buying a condo in that building.
Before you can find a home for your website via web hosting, you first need a domain name. While related, web hosting and domain hosting are very different services. Web hosting is the process of connecting your website to a server, whereas domain hosting is the process of securing a domain name or web address for your website.
Following our earlier analogy, if web hosting is akin to renting space in a building then domain hosting is like putting a nameplate outside your door with your name and address. The domain is what people use to navigate to your address on the Internet.
Many service providers provide both domain hosting and web hosting, which can provide one-stop shop convenience, but depending on your needs, you may want to consider separating the services. Regardless, before you can even consider web hosting, you first need a domain name via a domain registrar.
There are several different types of web hosting available. While there may be a tendency to favor the cheapest option, depending on your needs, this can lead to problems down the road. For this reason, it’s important to look not just at cost, but customer service, security, speed and customization options as well.
Shared hosting is most popular with small businesses and websites that don’t need a lot of customization or expect a lot of traffic. Shared hosting provides space for several websites—dozens, hundreds or thousands—on one server.
Because the costs are relatively low, it is an economical option, but there could be service disruptions or slower connection speeds because several clients/websites are all accessing the same server’s resources, including disk space, RAM and central processing unit (CPU) power.
A step up from shared hosting is VPS hosting. Similar to shared hosting, various websites are all housed on the same server, but each website’s files and content are housed in their own dedicated space on the server. You will pay a little more than with shared hosting, but you also have your own section of the server isolated from other clients on the server. For this reason, VPS hosting is more secure. Additionally, VPS hosting is scalable to your needs and you’ll be able to modify the server and install any software that you need.
VPS hosting can be managed or unmanaged. If you choose managed VPS hosting, the host will provide all maintenance and services necessary to keep the website and server up and running. You’ll pay a little more for managed VPS hosting, but you won’t be responsible for maintenance.
Conversely, using unmanaged VPS hosting will mean you are responsible for configuring and maintaining the server yourself, monitoring security threats, installing software upgrades and backing up your data. Unmanaged VPS hosting is a good option for website developers, businesses with a dedicated IT department and individuals with a technology background.
Because WordPress is such a popular content management system, many web hosting providers offer WordPress-specific hosting. In addition to web hosting, these providers also offer services such as technical support and software updates specific to WordPress. It offers advantages like scalability, speed and security, but it comes at a price with a cost of about $2 to $30 per month. Additionally, there are less customization options since it is limited to WordPress features.
Cloud hosting houses your website on multiple servers for maximum performance and connection speeds. It is more expensive than shared hosting, but it will minimize any connection or speed issues because it can handle traffic surges with ease. Cloud hosting also offers scalability, backups and disaster recovery. These additional services come with a price, however, and the pricing models of cloud hosting providers can be confusing, depending on customization of the plan.
Dedicated web hosting is when a website has sole use of the entire server. Because you have your own dedicated server, you minimize security and connection issues. But it comes at a price.
The costs may be justified, however, in a few situations. For instance, if you expect your website traffic to increase significantly, service disruptions and slow connection speeds could be detrimental to your business. In this case, the cost of a dedicated server would be worth it because it will provide uninterrupted service and quick connection speeds. A dedicated server will also provide additional security, which will be helpful if you are dealing with personal information like credit card information.

Type of Web Hosting Pros Cons Appropriate For
Shared Hosting Economical Increased potential for service disruption and slower connection speeds Small websites Personal blogs Startup websites
VPS Hosting Additional security and customization, while still being relatively economical More expensive than shared hosting Medium-sized businesses Professional blogs
WordPress Managed Hosting Security and speed Ease of use More expensive than shared hosting Lack of customization Medium-sized businesses Professional blogs
Cloud Hosting Minimizes service disruptions Maintains quick connection speeds Can be confusing to set up High-traffic websites
Dedicated Hosting Minimizes service disruptions Maintains quick connection speeds Offers additional security Most expensive High-traffic websites Websites that maintain personally identifiable information

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Featured Partners
1
Hostinger
Price
$9.99 / Month
Uptime
99.9%
Customer Support
24/7 Support Team
1
Hostinger
On Hostinger.com’s Website
2
Nexcess
Price
Starting at $9.50 per month
Uptime
99.99%
Customer Support
24/7 Support Team
2
Nexcess
On Nexcess.net’s Secure Website
There are several web hosting providers to choose from—so much so, in fact, that sorting through them all can be a bit overwhelming. Here, we share a few of our favorites to get you started.
Other popular web hosting providers include InMotion, HostPapa, GreenGeeks, GoDaddy and ScalaHosting. You can find more information on each of these providers in our guide to the best web hosting services.
Pricing varies significantly between various types of web hosting services. Even within each type, there can be price differences between service providers depending on the level of customer service and the length of service plan chosen. In general, prices range as follows:
While it is possible to host your website yourself, it can be a difficult process. You’ll first need WWW server software on your computer so that your computer acts as your website’s server. You will also need to use an internet service provider that supports self-hosting with increased bandwidth, and your computer must be online at all times. Any reboots will result in a discontinuation of service.
Your website will also load slowly since home computers are not intended to act as website servers. For these reasons, it is not recommended that you host your website, but that you instead use a web hosting provider.
You should first establish your monthly budget and priorities. Once you’ve narrowed down your price range and the nonnegotiables for your website, such as connection speed and customization, you can better decide which type of web hosting meets your needs.
No, web hosting and domain hosting are two separate services. Before you choose a web hosting provider, you’ll first need to secure a domain name. Some web hosting providers also offer domain hosting, but they are two separate processes and services.
Christine is a non-practicing attorney, freelance writer, and author. She has written legal and marketing content and communications for a wide range of law firms for more than 15 years. She has also written extensively on parenting and current events for the website Scary Mommy. She earned her J.D. and B.A. from University of Wisconsin–Madison, and she lives in the Chicago area with her family.
Cassie is an assistant assigning editor, collaborating with teams around the world while living in the beautiful hills of Kentucky. She is passionate about economic development and is on the board of two non-profit organizations seeking to revitalize her former railroad town. Prior to joining the team at Forbes Advisor, Cassie was a Content Operations Manager and Copywriting Manager at Fit Small Business.

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