web hosting is one of the first hurdles that a newbie faces when trying to setup a website. The choices and range of hosting packages available are daunting, but like so many things in the web development sphere, sometimes the problem is more immediate; for novices, setting up their first site, they need to understand first what the hell web hosting actually means!
Here at TMO, in our web monkey section, we don’t believe there’s any such thing as a stupid question, particularly when we’re dealing with terms and the accessibility to technology, so we’ve put together a clear explanation of what web hosting actually means. We hope it’s useful for you.
You’ve an idea for a website. You’ll get it coded up, probably into a series of html pages. These pages, to be online, will need to be placed on a server. A server is, in its most basic form, a computer that is constantly listening for incoming requests from the internet. When it receives a request for a page, it sends it back. So, your website, when it’s ready, will go up on a server, so that when someone browses to your url (the website address, like www.google.com), your server (which will be linked to that address, using DNS) will send back the page requested.
You’ve understood what a server is, and you know your site needs one. Can’t you just setup your desktop as a server? The short answer to that is yes, you can, but you’re opening yourself up to a load of technical issues if you do. Servers are complicated beasts to run. They need to be on 24/7, and they need to be optimised for performance; security is a major concern, as an unprotected server can wreak havoc online. So, in short – if you’re not a linux enthusiast, the likelihood is that running a server will be time-consuming and difficult for you, taking you away from more productive tasks like making great content for your site.
Web hosting is a service run by specialist providers who offer the technologies and services needed for your website or webpage to be viewed on the Internet. They setup and run servers that are accessible 24/7, and offer packages like shared hosting, Virtual Private Servers, and Dedicated Servers.
In a broad sense you can describe Wix and Squarespace as web hosts, but the major difference between them and a full web hosting service is that when you place your site with them you must use their platform to design and develop the site. There are advantages to this for some novices, but in our view it means they should be described as a web platform rather than a web hosting service. A web hosting service should be able to host your website independently of what software you’ve used to develop it.