Web hosting is a service that allows organizations and individuals to post a website or webpage on the Internet. A web hosting provider is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed on the World Wide Web. Websites are hosted (or stored) on specially configured computers called (web) servers.
When Internet users want to view your website, all they need to do is type your web address (aka URL) into their web browser. Their computer will then connect to your server and your website will be delivered to them through the browser.
Most web hosting companies require that you own a domain name in order to host with them. If you do not have a domain name yet and are confused where to start, these two articles will show you how to get started: Choosing The Right Domain Name and How To Register A Domain Name.
There are four different types of hosting that you’ll see on the web:
- Shared Hosting is the most common type of web hosting offered online and is what the majority of website owners use. It is very cheap because you are sharing the server’s resources (memory, disk space, CPU, etc.) with other users. Think of it like an apartment complex – all residents live in the same building and share all the amenities (swimming pool, parking lot, laundry facility, etc.) with everyone. Since the cost of the server is shared by all users, web hosting providers can offer very affordable prices for this type of service.
- With Reseller Hosting, the account owner rents out portions of the disk space, bandwidth, CPU, etc. that he has to other end users. Therefore, the account owner is like a hosting service provider to those end users. This type of web hosting is suited for entrepreneurs who are starting their own web hosting business because it is a relatively low-risk investment with limited startup cost. However, keep in mind that owners of such services may not have the same level of technical support that other customers receive from shared, VPS, or dedicated hosting services.
- VPS Hosting is for web owners who need to run customized scripts or programs on a tight budget. Technically, VPS users still share the server with other users but they are given separate computer functions. In other words, your files and hosted website(s) are not affected by other users on the server and each VPS user is guaranteed a specific amount of server resources. For example, 2x CPU cores and 1GB RAM are allocated for you to use at all times and will not be shared with others. For this reason, VPS hosting provides more security and performance but is about three to five times more expensive than shared or reseller hosting.
- Dedicated Hosting is the type of hosting used by major businesses or high-traffic websites. Think of it like owning a house – you don’t have to share anything with your neighbors and the same concept applies with dedicated servers in that you are allowed to use and have access to all available resources on the machine. Since you have the web server and all of its resources all to yourself, there is no limit on what operating systems, scripts, programs, etc. you can install on it or on your website. Since dedicated hosting is so powerful, it costs way more than any other type of web hosting. Typical plans cost over a hundred dollars per month and that’s just for an entry-level server!
If you’re just starting out, go with shared hosting first and then switch to VPS or maybe even dedicated hosting as your site increases in traffic. I use GeekStorage for all my web hosting needs for a number of reasons:
- 24/7 customer support – my support tickets usually get answered within 10-15 minutes even during major holidays. I sent a ticket last Christmas about rebooting my server and 10 minutes later, I received a reply and my issue was resolved. I seriously was not expecting a 10-minute reply on Christmas day! Looking at my ticket history (I’ve sent 17 over the course of one and a half years), ALL replies are custom messages written by a real person and not a single one was automated pointing me to read the FAQ or online knowledgebase
- Price – as of the time of this writing (March 2014), their most popular plan—the ‘Pro‘ plan—costs only $6.99 per month thanks to a 30% recurring discount
- Server specs – GeekStorage‘s servers are all powered by LiteSpeed and solid-state drives (SSDs). LiteSpeed is 533% faster than Apache 2.4 with keep-alive connections and 167% faster with no keep-alive connections (see test configurations and results here)! SSDs are superior than regular HDDs but don’t take my word for it. Instead, I’ll let this and this article do the talking for me. To my knowledge and as of today (March 2014), no other hosting company other than GeekStorage offers LiteSpeed and SSD for under $7 per month
- Reliability and uptime – in one and a half years that I’ve been a GeekStorage customer, I’ve yet to see my server go down. Their website boasts “99.9% Uptime SLA” but it’s been 100% uptime for me since day one
- Unlimited features – no matter which plan you choose, you’ll get unlimited domains, unlimited MySQL and PostgreSQL databases, unlimited email addresses, unlimited FTP accounts and a whole lot more! To see all the features, go here
To place an order, go to GeekStorage, click ‘Web Hosting’ at the top, and take note of any special offers:
Next, select your server location (US or EU), choose which plan you want (I recommend the ‘Pro’ plan), pick a payment term (I recommend the monthly plan), and then click ‘Get started now':
Under ‘Choose Your Domain Name’, click the radio button for ‘Use My Existing Domain’ and enter the domain that you purchased from the previous tutorial including the extension (.com, .net, .org, etc.):
Fill out the customer and payment information sections and if you have a coupon, enter it under ‘Coupon Code':
Finally, check the box next to ‘I agree to the Terms of Service’ and click ‘Complete Order’.
If you’ve been following this tutorial series you’ll notice that we purchased a domain from one company (GoDaddy) and then a hosting account from another (GeekStorage). This is intended and the recommended practice. This way, you’ll have total control of your website. One “shady” practice used by hosting companies is to offer free domain registration when you sign up with a hosting account with them. Don’t fall into this trap! I know, the word “FREE” sounds great but if you read the fine print, they keep their (business) name on the domain contact info. What this means is they will hold you hostage should you try to move your website to another hosting provider. But if you’ve registered your domain with another company, you don’t have to do anything except update your DNS settings to point to your new host.
So now that you know what web hosting is and the different types of hosting available, go ahead and purchase your desired web hosting plan. In the next tutorial I’ll show you how to set everything up so that your domain points to your web host. This means Internet users will be able to visit your site by typing your URL into their browser. Great stuff!