So you have decided that starting a website sounds like the right thing for you. If you are starting from scratch, you will have to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of web hosting before you can launch your first site. Let’s take a look at all the basics of web hosting so you can begin to understand the world you are about to enter.
The first thing you will need before you can create and host your first site is a domain name. You have heard these before. A domain name is simply characters that are used to describe an IP address on a network. The network, in this case, is the Internet. Computers communicate using a series of numbers that identify themselves on the Internet known as the IP Address. A domain name is simply a more normal sounding representation of this IP address.
Domain names can be anything you want them to be. In most domain names, you have the prefix that is the name that you want for your site and then a suffix. These come in a wide variety of flavors with the most familiar being .com, .net and .org.
Once you register your first domain name, it is time to find a place to host your first site. This is your web hosting. Basically, web hosting is the computer that is attached to the Internet where you will place the files for your website. Your domain name, once all the setup is complete, will then refer anyone who connects using their browser to the computer where your files are stored.
Types of Web Hosting
Before you can begin serving out your website files to the public, you need to invest in web hosting. If you have ever shopped for web hosting you already know there are a lot of different options out there. This can make it difficult for a beginner to choose what is best for them. Let’s take a moment to look at a few of the most common options.
- Free Hosting The most basic of all hosting options, often you can find free hosting at different sites online and your Internet provider may even give you a little space to host a website as part of your package. Free hosting is great if you are just starting to get your feet wet in the web world but are quite limiting. They often lack many of the scripting features that more advanced sites have access to and the space and bandwidth are usually on the low end of the scale.
- Shared Hosting The first full web hosting you will most likely sign up for, shared hosting gives you access to the full scripting libraries required by more advanced web software packages and gives you some control over what you can and can’t do with your little corner of the Internet. However, you still have far fewer options compared to VPS and dedicated server options that are available and you will be sharing a server with many different sites. Shared hosting is the best way to get started but is often slower than the other more expensive options. But, when you are just getting used to the world of websites and website hosting, it is by far the easiest to use.
- Virtual Private Servers A step up from shared hosting, virtual private servers gives you much more control over your hosting. In this model, you still share a physical server with other people, but there are far fewer people on the server and you have complete control over your part of the server. The virtual private server acts just like a dedicated server only you aren’t alone server.
- Dedicated Servers The most expensive type of hosting out there, a dedicated server means that you have one entire physical server or computer all to yourself. This setup gives you the most freedom and the best speeds of all the hosting packages, but it does require a little more experience managing a server in order to use it effectively.
Tips for Your First Site
When starting your very first site, it is important not to buy more than you need. Start out slow and purchase shared hosting in the beginning. Remember, you can always increase your hosting needs as your site grows relatively easily, so why pay more for resources you just don’t need when you are starting out. When you register your first domain, try to go for a .com domain if you are business, but don’t feel like you have to buy .com to be successful. Today there are many businesses and personal blogs out there that use something other than the big three.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is bandwidth? Bandwidth is the amount of traffic or visitors you can get in a given amount of time. Whenever someone visits your site, they download the content to the web browsers on their computers. The amount that is downloaded is the bandwidth.
What about storage? Different hosting packages will give you different amounts of storage. This storage is how large your entire website can be on the server that it resides.
Why do some plans say unlimited websites? On your hosting plan you can actually host more than one website. Plans that include unlimited websites mean that you can have as many websites on your plan as you want assuming you donít go over any storage or bandwidth limitations put in place by your hosting providing.
What about email? Many hosting providers will also provide you with email for your domain. This means that you could create an address such as [email protected] Depending on your plan, you could have only a few email addresses or as many as you want.
Should I start small? One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a new web hosting customer is overbuying your hosting plan. When you first get started the traffic on your site will be low, so why pay the extra money for more resources that you won’t use? Start small and grow it as your website grows so you don’t spend too much on hosting in the very beginning.
Need More Advice?
Our sister site, WhoIsHostingThis, is the definitive guide to web hosting. Start at their buyers guide to the best web hosting.