What Exactly is Website Hosting and How Does it Work?

For most of us, the internet is one of those things that we use but don’t really understand how it works.

It’s like gravity or health insurance.

Even if someone has a website, we’ve found they often don’t understand the different parts required in making said website appear on monitors and smartphones across the world.  Personally, we think if you’re going to have a website, especially if it’s for your business, you should have some concept of how it manages to exist.

So today, we’re going to dive into a specific piece of the internet puzzle:

Web hosting.

But it’s in, like, the clouds, right?

giphy (1)Despite what marketing teams and software companies try to tell you, the internet is not in the clouds.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Much of the internet is buried underground, spread throughout cable and wire and data centers.

Even across oceans.

The internet is not magically beaming from the UK over to the US.  It’s not transmitted by satellite here or there either.  There are hard-lines running across the ocean floors around the whole globe.

internet ocean

You may be reading this on a device connected via Wi-Fi, but that Wi-Fi signal is ultimately coming from a router that’s hardwired into the internet.

So where is my website then?

Websites are hosted on a server.  Technically speaking, a server is just a computer connected to the internet.  You could host a website from your own computer, if you really wanted to.

However, the majority of websites are hosted on specialized servers.  Without getting too technical, these servers are typically connected more directly through the internet, they have backup systems in place in case part of it shuts down, they’re designed to handle large amounts of traffic, and they’re configured to block attacks, information leaks, etc.

Not to say things can’t still go wrong with servers and websites…. (learn more about that here), but they typically work much better than a personal computer sitting in your house.

Does my website have to hosted?

Yes.  Everything has to be somewhere.  Things don’t just float around on the internet.  All of the stuff that you’re seeing and using and reading and watching on the internet is coming from a physical location somewhere in the world.

What kind of hosting do I need?

This depends largely on what type of website you have, how big it is, what your needs are, and more.  If you’re using a web platform like Shopify or Squarespace, then your website is automatically hosted with that company.

On the other hand, sites built on WordPress or Magento are self-hosted, meaning you need to find server space to put them on.  Think of it as renting a piece of property on the internet.

The prices and capabilities of servers and host providers can vary dramatically.  As we mentioned before, it depends on what you need.  It’s worth noting you may see webhosting packages that are really cheap, but you should know these are generally very limited.

For example, cheaper hosting packages often limit the number of people who can view your website.  So let’s say your limit is 25 devices that can simultaneously be viewing your website.  If a 26th person comes along and tries to go to it, the site won’t load for them.  If a lot of people try to go to your website all at once, the site as a whole could crash.

In other words, when it comes to hosting, you often get what you pay for.

This is complicated and confusing.

giphy

It definitely can be overwhelming to try and figure out, especially when you just want to put a website out onto the internet and not have to worry about it.  That’s why we bundle hosting in with our websites that we build.

All of our websites are built using WordPress (the most popular website platform there is) and hosted on servers specifically designed for WordPress websites.  If your website experiences issues, we offer support.  If your website goes down, we go the extra mile to get it back up and running.

In other words, we take care of the whole hosting situation so our clients can just worry about running their businesses.

We should mention quick that there’s also domain hosting and email hosting.

While we’re on the subject, we feel we should mention the fact that domain hosting and email hosting are not the same as website hosting.  Your domain (that’s www.yourwebsite.com) is actually a separate entity from your actual website, and thus, also needs to be hosted somewhere.  You can learn more about domains by clicking here.

Email hosting is something that some webhosts do bundle in with their website hosting.  However, we’ve found that the safest and most reliable solution is to use an external email provider like Google’s Business Apps or Microsoft’s Outlook servers.

And that’s pretty much it.

If you have any questions or thoughts about website hosting, we’d love to hear them.  Just share in the comments below.  It’s super easy.  And if you’d like to get a fast, affordable website that comes with hosting included, visit our contact page here.

Cheers.

Written by Timothy Snyder
on January 28, 2016