When it comes to figuring out what to do and where to go for web hosting, it can be confusing at times!
Put simply – either host your website yourself, or pay a 3rd party service provider to do the hosting for you.
Web Hosting Option A: Self-Hosted
Hosting yourself is most certainly possible, but not the first choice for most everyday website owners. On a small scale, self-hosting requires that you either buy your own dedicated hosting server (a big ‘box’ like piece of computer kit), or modify an existing computer (laptop or PC), which you have; to become a dedicated server.
You store all the files required to serve up your website to users, onto this device, install some server software, and then maintain a constant and uninterrupted connection to the Internet.
Limitations of Self-Hosting your website
The limitations with self-hosting are obvious for the everyday website owner (whether an individual or small business). You have to either invest in a dedicated piece of computer kit (could be costly), or modify your existing device. The level of service this will provide to your users will all be heavily dependent upon and limited by the power of this machine. That means the speed at which your website loads, number of users who can visit your site at once etc. After that, your Internet connection must be strong (high-speed broadband), consistent and uninterrupted.
If you host a small blog site from your PC for example – then that PC needs to:
a) Remain powered up and on 24/7 (energy bill cost here!), and
b) Be always connected and available on the internet – if your WiFi cuts out, your website goes down, simple as that.
The biggest examples of successful self-hosting are the mega “.com” businesses – the likes of Facebook.com and Amazon.com. These companies are so huge and have such vast resources that they can afford to build and maintain their own server farms. There are stats elsewhere on the Internet, but for the likes of Amazon.com – their annual energy consumption rate just for website hosting is comparable to that of a large US city!
Web Hosting Option B: Using a trusted and reliable Hosting Provider
Using a web host provider is the common, cost economical and time-efficient way for the rest of us.
Web hosting providers (e.g. JustHost, GoDaddy), are large organisations who have invested millions into infrastructure and computing equipment. They have built large dedicated server farms just for hosting websites. These facilities have vast computing power, large amounts of in-built failsafe’s, redundancy, and their own dedicated high-speed Internet connections.
Web hosting in today’s online world has become much like the utilities sector. In the same way you can shop around for a new Water, Gas or Electricity provider, you can now look up packages and prices from a large number of hosting providers.
Web hosting packages will typically be priced based on a few key factors:
- The amount of server space you need (large files = large MB storage requirements),
- The amount of traffic you expect (lots of concurrent visitors requires a larger computing power to serve them all), and
- Other factors such as level of customer service and an array of add-ons.
Once you’ve picked a provider and purchased a hosting package, you can then upload your website files to their servers. After doing some admin and basic configuration to organise your file structure and link up your domain name, you can quickly be online.
The level of complexity in setup and configuration is often proportional to the complexity of your website. Basic websites and small blogs such as WordPress sites can be up and running in no time with little to basic technical knowledge. Indeed a lot of hosting providers now provider ‘1-click-install’ options for WordPress and other popular site builders. However, the more extensive and complex websites may well require the help of your in-house IT team if you’re a small-medium sized business. Alternatively, a 1:1 consultation with the customer helpline of your chosen hosting service provider might be a good first step on the right track.