Terms like “host” or “hosting provider” can seem foreign if you’re new to website development. You might have a vague idea of what hosting is but you don’t know the nitty-gritty of what’s involved. Fortunately, the term host or hosting is easy to grasp with a few explanations.
Hosting refers to a service that stores your website and makes it available for Internet users. More often, this service is known simply as a host or hosting provider. This host operates a set of machines (servers or hosts) where website files are stored. These machines are specially built to run constantly without shutting down.
Generally, most websites are intended for public viewership, meaning that any Internet user can view them. The special machines that run constantly enable these websites to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week all year round.
There are two main options for hosting your website: you can have a self-hosted website or you can use a hosting provider.
Self Hosting – A self-hosted website means that you buy a web server and manage it yourself. It means that you need to have permanent Internet connection along with some technical administration skills to manage the server, include web server configuration, firewall installation and management, patch management, and more.
In addition, you need to make sure that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) allows permanent Internet connection. Most ISPs have policies that limit usage, so in order to host your website, you need to find an ISP that allows unlimited permanent connection.
The benefit of self-hosting is that it gives you total control of your website and you can easily manage your website’s security. However, it is very taxing in terms of time and skills, and so you may not get enough time for the website itself.
Using A Hosting Provider – Most people who own websites do not do self-hosting. It’s usually less stressful and makes more financial sense to let a third-party (hosting provider) do the hosting for you. For a small monthly or annual fee, a hosting provider will store and manage your website while you focus on the design and content side of the website.
The benefit of using a third-party company to host your website is that it lets you focus your energies on delivering content and other aspects of your website. And since a hosting provider’s specialty is managing web servers, it’s much easier for them to manage the technical aspects of the host.
Ideally, a good hosting provider should have the following services:
- Should provide multiple email address accounts (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and more).
- Constant access via FTP for easy website updates.
- Constant access via an online control panel.
- Database support via MySQL or MS SQL.
- 24/7 user support.
In case you need specialized server software such as PHP or ColdFusion, check with a hosting provider whether they have support for it.
In all, you can choose between self-hosting and a hosting provider. In most cases, a hosting provider is much better unless you have specific security needs, among other things.