When you create a Word document on your computer, you save it on your computer. Sometimes that Word document has pictures in it and those pictures are also saved on your computer. The files are “hosted” on your computer.
A website is nothing more than a collection of files (code, images, videos, PDFs, etc) and a database. The files and database that make up your website need to be accessible to the entire world every minute of every day. That’s where web servers come in.
Web servers are computers that are stored at secure data centers and have reliable super-fast internet connections. Your website “lives” on one of these web servers.
“Hosting” is the process of renting space on a web server where you can place your website’s files and database.
The cost of hosting can range from a few dollars a month (see our article on the downsides of overselling) to thousands of dollars each month depending upon the quality of the hosting provider and the amount of resources your website requires.
A small personal website that expects very little traffic might thrive on an inexpensive hosting plan but an eCommerce or lead-generation website that needs lots of traffic in order to be successful will need a hosting plan that provides enough resources for the website to perform optimally without slowing down. Nobody likes a slow website!
Let’s say you let people use your computer to run a bunch of applications. John is using Excel, Sarah is using Word and Tom is using PowerPoint. They are all using them at the same time on your computer. Your computer might be powerful enough so that all 3 users have a good experience but when you add a 4th, 5th and 6th user who all need to run applications at the same time, you might find that your computer has slowed down so much that none of your 6 users are happy. That’s what you get with a very inexpensive hosting provider. It’s called overselling.
A good hosting provider will have strict limits on the number of websites they allow on each server for this very reason. If a website on a server starts getting hammered with lots of traffic, the hosting provider should immediately take steps to ensure that the other websites on the server are not slowing down. Sometimes this means that the high traffic website needs to move from a shared server to a dedicated server.
A dedicated web server is an entire computer dedicated to one client or website. The dedicated web server will be used exclusively for a specific website and won’t ever be affected by the strains other websites may place on their servers. Dedicated servers are the most expensive way to host a website but if your website is getting enough traffic to justify the need, it’s probably a good problem to have!
Think about a high traffic website like YouTube. YouTube has millions of visitors each day AND it has millions of videos that it needs to store. A single dedicated server isn’t powerful enough to provide users with a good experience so YouTube has it’s own data centers where buildings full of servers work together to host YouTube content. Pretty expensive!
Website hosting considerations and factors
Hosts like to throw all kinds of freebie upsells at you – things like a free website builder, free email accounts, unlimited disk space, unlimited bandwidth, free domain name, free advertising credits, etc. Usually these are all things you could get on your own for free and have little-to-no value.
Here are the hosting features that actually matter:
Nightly automatic backups of your files and database
It’s super important that your website files and database(s) are backed up every single night. This should happen automatically and not be something you need to configure yourself. If you accidentally delete something, get hacked or something else goes wrong, you need to know that you can quickly and easily revert your website to a yesterday’s version. Furthermore, you should have access to 30-days of backups so if you notice a problem that happened 29 days ago, you can revert to last month’s version of your website.
SSL certificate for your website
See the little padlock icon next to our website address at the top of your web browser? That icon indicates that the connection between our web server and your web browser is encrypted. If you fill out a contact form, comment on a blog post or enter a credit card number so you can purchase something, the data you are sending to the web server is sent in an encrypted format. It’s absolutely critical for eCommerce transactions but years ago Google changed the internet when they began requiring that ALL websites, regardless of eCommerce functionality use secure https:// connections. Your web host should provide you with an industry standard SSL certificate so that your website will have the padlock icon and use a https:// connection.
Good, fast technical support
Don’t underestimate the value of good support when you need it. When you pay a couple bucks a month for hosting, don’t expect much quality from the support team. Websites can be technical, tricky beasts and paying a bit more for a hosting plan that includes good support is well worth it!
Gecko Designs hosts websites!
We sure do! We love hosting websites because it allows us to provide our clients with a high quality hosting solution and a single point of contact for website issues. Our web servers are built from the group-up specifically for high performance WordPress website hosting. Backups happen automatically each and every night and are kept for a minimum of 30-days. Additionally, hosting includes a SSL certificate and you get our 24-7-365 phone and email in-house tech support!