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What is website hosting and do you really need it?

August 2, 2022 Gabriel Hosting

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!

523 N Higgins Ave, Missoula
Chandra Brown a month ago
The decision to invest in a new, professionally-constructed website was not a casual one for my small company. The Gecko team was supportive and enthusiastic from our first interaction and throughout the duration of the project. They demonstrated the value of working with talented, committed designers to create a functional, beautiful new online home for our work. I am grateful, and recommend Gecko without reservation.
Robyn Windham 3 months ago
Gecko recently launched a new website for my organization (Headwaters Foundation) and they knocked it out of the park! They were receptive to our wants and needs and very responsive throughout the process. We enjoyed working with their team; they really have begun to feel like my 'communications coworkers down the hall.' I am looking forward to working with them on more projects.
D'Shane Barnett 4 months ago
Gecko was selected through a competitive process to assist Missoula Public Health in our modernization and brand redesign campaign. Their staff have been immensely helpful. They've helped guide our process toward results that are stellar. We presented our updated branding to our board and they loved it--comments were "two thumbs way up", "this is exactly what we needed", and "love it!" We will definitely look forward to working with them in the future.
ITdept MRFD 4 months ago
Gecko Designs quickly identified and efficiently fixed a problem we were having with our website AND pointed out some other items that needed attention. Very professional and congenial. I highly recommend them.
Markki Johnston a year ago
We worked with Gecko Designs to completely revamp our website for Northern Rockies Orthopaedics. It took us over 2 years to get everything how we wanted it and all ideas for our physicians incorporated. Grace and the team at Gecko were so accommodating and patient with us. Highly recommend using them for all web design needs!