Just like your computer files are stored on your hard drive or back up disk, your website information needs to be stored somewhere. This storage service is provided by a website host. A website host rents out space on their computer servers to webmasters like you who need to store (or “host”) their files and make their website available 24 hours, 7 days a week. To go back to the real estate analogy, your domain name is your shingle, your website is your shop where you display your goods and services, and your hosting service is the landlord who rents you the store space to house all of your data.
Besides server space, a good web hosting service will also offer other web services, such as domain name purchase, email accounts, online file storage for your personal files, and more. Some popular web hosting services include Blue Host, Host Monster, Dreamhost, and GoDaddy, but there are many others. In France, try 1and1, or explore the ones listed here. One of the simplest solutions is to set up your site with WordPress, like we did. We’ll talk more about this in future posts.
Is it possible to be your own landlord and save on the rent by hosting your own site? Sure–if you’re willing to learn all about computer servers, programming, and DNS and are willing to install back-up computers in case yours dies. In short, maintaining your server–just like maintaining your own property–requires knowledge and an investment of time, and yes, even money. Second computers and back-up disks don’t come cheap!
I bet the idea of paying for hosting suddenly seems more appealing, right?
Free vs. Paid Hosting
Some services offer free hosting in exchange for placing ads on your site. Although this might sound tempting, be cautious of free web hosting and free websites. They frequently come with ads that you can’t control for goods or services you might not approve of. Further, if those ads are in the form of flashing banners, annoying popups, or videos or sounds that play automatically, they could drive your customers away. For the relatively low price of paid hosting, your website will gain exponentially in professionalism and polish.
Disk Space and Bandwith
When shopping for a web host, the two things you need to consider are disk space and bandwith.
Disk space (or storage space) is the amount of space a web hosting company is prepared to rent to you. Think of this as the square footage of your shop. Basic websites don’t need very much space at all. Start with your host’s standard package until you have a better picture of your needs. You can always upgrade to a more expensive plan if you run out of space.
Bandwith is the average rate at which your data is transferred. In other words, it’s a measure of the flow of traffic per month to your website. If you have lots of visitors or huge files such as videos that visitors can download, you will use more bandwith than if you have fewer visitors and only small text files. If your website is relatively small, has only text files, and doesn’t yet have a lot of visitors, you really won’t be using much bandwidth at all. If you think the traffic to your site could be significant, you may want to choose a plan with more bandwith. Again, you can start low and upgrade if need be.
Hosting Large Files (Videos)
You can opt to host large files, such as videos, on your website. Or you can host them on a web hosting platform, such as YouTube, and embed them in your website.
Hosting videos on your own site makes sense if you want to charge people to view them or want to otherwise control who can view them when. Just remember that larger files may require more bandwith.
Otherwise, if your videos are meant to be open to the public, the simpler solution is to upload them to a free service such as YouTube, and then simply copy and paste the embed code in your website. We’ll cover how to do this in a future post. Right now, all you need to know is that unless you’re hosting videos on your own site–that is, actually uploading them and storing them on your web host’s servers–you can start with your web host’s basic hosting package.
Recap: The 6 Points to Keep in Mind When Looking for a Web Host
- Web Hosting Is Required - You can’t run a website without hosting your files somewhere. If you want your own storefront on the Internet, you will need to pay the yearly rent.
- Free Means Ads - Free web hosting providers make their money by selling ad space on your website to third parties. These ads can make your site look cheap and unprofessional.
- Think Basic - Hosting doesn’t need to be expensive. Unless you are hosting your own videos, photographs, or other large files, you don’t need much space. (Remember, you can always upload your videos to YouTube or your photos to Flickr and then embed them on your website.)
- 24/7 Support - You want your website to be available 24/7, so you want the support team to also be available 24/7. Make sure you check this before you choose your host.
- Money Back Guarantee - Many hosts offer a 30-day money back guarantee. If you want to try a service but aren’t sure if they’re a good fit, a guarantee might be a good selling point.
- Check Reviews - Do your research before you commit to a host by checking what other people are saying. Reviews are easy to find on the web. Two good places to look are b2evolution and webhostinggeeks.
Let us know if you have any remaining questions about domain names or web hosting. Next week, we move on to blogs.