Internet Basics: What Is Web Hosting?

What is web hosting? Imagine you have a very large poster, and you pay somebody so that you may use their billboard that sits on the side of a highway. If the poster was your website, then the billboard would be the host. The person selling the service would be the hosting company, and the actual billboard would be a server. The traffic on the highway is like the traffic on the internet.

Confused Yet? What Is Web Hosting?

The internet is powered by a bunch of servers all around the world. Servers are like large computers. They hold information and send and receive information. Putting your website on a server that is connected to the internet is the same as putting a bunch of files on the server and allowing other servers to read the files.

The files on a server may be read by a web browser like Microsoft Edge. When you build a website, you are actually creating files that can be read by a web browser. It is possible to put files on a server (a host) that are not read by other servers. Create a website and the website’s programming determines what other servers can read and what web browsers can read.

For example, you can upload five pictures to a server, and you can add just one of those images to your website. In that case, five images are sitting on the server, but only one of them can be seen by people using the internet (aka, people using web browsers).

How to Host a Website?

In short, you need to put your files on a server, and you need to create a website so that your files can be seen and understood. The most common way to do this is to use a content management system. This is a program that builds a website for you. Most people use WordPress. This is a program that you install on a server (on your host), and then you use a drag-and-drop interface to build your website yourself.

Most people do not own their own servers and do not have the right technology to allow them to host their own website. Most people have to use a hosting service.

What Is Website Hosting?

When websites offer web hosting services, they usually mean that they will allow you to put your website on their servers. There are different types of hosting, and the most common is shared hosting. This is where your website is placed on the same server as many other websites.

It’s the most common type of hosting because it is the cheapest. The most expensive website hosting is where you have a whole server to yourself, but in many cases, this is overkill because there are few websites that need the power of a full server to themselves.

A web host will offer to put your website on their server, and they will often offer different services. For example, some will already have a content management system all set up, such as WordPress or MyYola, and you will be able to access it right away without having to install it. Web hosts will also offer other services such as tech help, more webserver space, and so forth.

Bandwidth and Server Space

What is a host trying to say when they offer server space and bandwidth? The server space is how much content you can upload to the server. For example, you may have many videos that you wish to show on your website, in which case you will need a little more server space to hold all your pictures. You will need a little more space compared to a person who only has text on his or her website. The more space you use, the more the website hosting cost goes up. Webspace/server space is often offered in GB (gigabytes).

Bandwidth is a little trickier to explain. Recall the poster and billboard example from earlier. Remember the road that passes by the billboard that allows people to see what is on the billboard? The cars are the traffic and the road is the bandwidth. If there is more bandwidth on offer by the host, then it is almost like widening the road so that more cars can travel down it.

If your host offers just a small amount of bandwidth, then you may experience problems. For example, if many people visit, then some people may be unable to access your website, or it may go very slowly. You may not be able to show your videos to every visitor, and your website may go down (offline) if your bandwidth runs too low.

How to Host Your Own Website

You will need a server, a lot of technical knowledge, a good connection, and lots of expensive technology and software. You cannot successfully host a website on a regular household PC. Hosting your own website with your own server is one of the most expensive ways to host a website and is sometimes unreliable. However, it is the most secure way to host your website because you control everything that happens to the server. Intense security is probably the only good reason to host your own website with your own server.

There are some companies that will allow you to rent their servers. This means the server is still in their data center, but only your website is allowed on it. You are not allowed to visit the server or turn it off, but you are able to add whatever software you like, and it is up to you to ensure the server is kept working and kept safe from online threats.

Summing Up – Getting Your Website Where People Can See It

What is web hosting? It is all about making your website accessible to people on the internet. It is about putting your files on the internet and it’s about setting up your files and your website so that it may be read by web browsers such as Firefox, Edge and so on.

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Adam Hansen

Adam is a part time journalist, entrepreneur, investor and father.