Hosting simply means somewhere on the internet to ‘store’ your website or web application so that it’s accessible by others. For example, you can easily make a web page or even a complete website on your own computer, but if you want others to be able to access it, it’ll need to be stored somewhere that isn’t on your computer – this is basically where hosting comes in.
When you buy ‘hosting’ you end up with a bit of space on a ‘web-server’ somewhere on the internet where you can upload your website. During the setup of this, you’ll also link this ‘server’ with a website address or domain name. Even if you’ve not heard of the phrase ‘domain name’ before – you’ve certainly used one. A domain name is another word for the website address (e.g. google.com).
How does hosting work?
When someone types in your website address (aka. domain name) the computer very quickly tries to see if a website exists at that address. It does this by translating the address (eg, mywebsite.com) into an IP address (much like a telephone number) and it dials that number and finds it on a server. If a website is found it begins to send the website to the visitors computer in lots of pieces (called packets) which are very quickly assembled on the screen and shown to the visitor. This is why websites sometimes appear to load in a few steps (text, then images etc.) because your computer is ‘piecing’ the website together. The image below shows (albeit in a simplified way) how this all works –
The image above shows the visitor to the website on the left of the screen, who has typed in the address of the website into their ‘browser’. The browser then searches the internet for the website and sends it back to the visitor to be displayed on their screen.
Why do we need hosting?
If we want a website, it will need to be hosted somewhere so that visitors can access it easily. We’ll also need a ‘domain name’ so that people can easily find our website by typing the address in to the browser. WordPress is a really good example of this. We can easily download the WordPress ‘software’ from WordPress.org, but if we want to turn it into a usable website that people can access, we’ll need to host is somewhere.
How do I find a web host?
Unfortunately, the process of finding a good web host is slightly easier said than done. There are a lot of factors involved, some of which we’ve got complete control over, some of which we don’t.
I’ve listed these in what I think are priority order for someone who is hosting a website for their business –
- Speed This is slightly linked with ‘location of the host‘ which is a joint ‘number 1‘ point for me. If my business is located in the UK, and most of my customers are in the UK – I should host in the UK. Similarly, if my customers were all in Canada – I’d be hosting there. This sounds simple, and slightly obvious, but the server where the website is hosted is physically located somewhere in the world. More often than not, this happens to be in the USA, as they’ve got electricity and space in abundance, so hosting in America is easy and cheaper.It’s often cheaper to host your website in the USA, but there are a few problems with this. Generally, your website will be slower as when someone tries to visit it from the UK, it has to physically travel all that way to get to you. This takes time. On a similar note – what happens when something goes wrong and you need support? That brings us onto our second point –
- Support I sometimes need a helping hand when things go wrong. Even in this ‘connected’ age, I still like to speak to someone to talk things out. This means when something goes wrong with my website – I want support from someone quickly and usually on the phone. Some people don’t like talking on the phone, so that’s no a big deal for them, but either way, if the support is abroad – it’s probably going to take longer. This is another reason why I only use UK hosting providers – who offer good support.
This is a tricky one. Of course we want someone who is reliable as if there are problems with the hosting, my website may ‘go-down’ lots and be inaccessible. Unfortunately, this is a little harder to ‘pre-empt’. Good hosts will often boast about ‘uptime’ which is the amount of time websites are accessible for, and this should be around 99% of the time or higher. Most will offer assurance that your website uptime will be around 99.8 or 99.9% – which is really good. Even the best hosts have downtime occasionally, but the way in which they deal with the downtime is of paramount importance. Krystal Hosting, for example, offer excellent uptime, as well as a link to the ‘Krystal Status’ blog, where you can read about downtime and website problems. This means they keep customers up to date about issues which are current – and let you know how they are being fixed. Lots of hosts offer this – and it’s good.
Cost is a difficult one. Although we don’t want to pay silly money for our hosting – your mum was right – you get what you pay for. Generally however, around £10 (GBP) per month would be absolutely fine for most websites. Even £5 per month will get you a decent hosting package with Krystal or Tsohost. If you’ve got a very busy website with lots of visitors, you may need to pay more, and they will be able to advise you on the best option.
As a rule though – hosting for $1.99 will not be good. Ever.
Now that we’ve hopefully cleared some things up, why not take a look at our ‘top rated hosts’, there are links in the menu and down the right of the page. Alternatively, please feel free to contact us should you have any questions – we’d love to hear from you.