What is web hosting? (And how to choose a provider)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you create a website, you might encounter the term web hosting. Web hosting is an essential part of running a website. Understanding what web hosting involves and how it works can help you make informed decisions about which hosting service you choose for your website. In this article, we answer, 'What is web hosting?' explore the types of available web hosting and discuss the benefits of managed hosting.

Related: 29 website features to impress your audience

What is web hosting?

If you're creating a website, you may wonder, 'What is web hosting?' Web hosting is the business or activity of providing a place to store a website's data and enabling users to access it via the internet. A website's data includes its code, stylesheets, images, videos and any other files that make it up. Computers called servers host, or store, websites. It's possible to store a website on your own computer, but most website owners store their sites on servers provided by web-hosting companies.

Related: Web designer vs web developer: understanding the difference

Types of web hosting

There are several options for hosting a website, and commercial web-hosting providers offer different types of hosting services. The most common types of web hosting are:

Local hosting

Local hosting is forgoing a hosting provider and using your own Windows PC or Linux as a server. Most site owners find this challenging because of the technical knowledge in setting up the site and the limitations of using a home internet connection. Local hosting often results in a slow connection, which may require you to leave your computer on continuously so your website functions correctly.

Shared hosting

Shared website hosting is when your website shares a server with other websites. Shared hosting is an affordable option for small businesses or personal websites that require a small amount of storage space or bandwidth. Sharing your website server with other websites may cause performance issues such as slow loading times, and you may have limited control over the server's configuration.

Dedicated hosting

Dedicated website hosting is when your website is the only website hosted on a physical server. This means your website benefits from all the server's resources, and you have complete control over server configuration. Dedicated hosting provides high-quality performance for websites that require a lot of storage space or experience high traffic levels. It can also offer more secure protection of website data than the previous two options.

Dedicated hosting is either managed or unmanaged. It's generally reserved for medium-to-large business sites and is more expensive than other hosting options.

Related: Small business marketing: effective strategies and plans

VPS hosting

When you use virtual private server (VPS) hosting, your site is on a shared server with dedicated resources, such as RAM and bandwidth. This type of hosting is more flexible than shared hosting and cheaper than dedicated hosting. VPS hosting is a good option for personal and small-to-medium business websites that need more resources than shared hosting can provide but don't need the full power of a dedicated server.

Cloud hosting

Cloud hosting uses a network of multiple servers to provide resources and data to websites. Cloud hosting has the advantage of being able to scale resources up or down as you require, which makes it a good option for websites that experience spikes in traffic. Cloud hosting can also be more reliable than other types of hosting. Having multiple servers means that if one server goes down, others can take its place.

Cloud hosting can either be public or private. When you use public cloud hosting, your website shares resources with other websites on the same server. With private cloud hosting, your website has its own dedicated server or servers.

Related: How to build an e-commerce website (and the benefits)

The benefits of managed hosting

Managed dedicated hosting means the hosting company manages and maintains the server for you. Unmanaged hosting allows website owners with the time or knowledge to manage their own servers. The advantages of managed hosting include:

  • Requires little technical expertise: With managed hosting, the hosting company takes care of the server setup and maintenance, allowing you to experience all the benefits of having a well-configured server despite having limited technical expertise.

  • Automatic security updates: Managed hosting providers instal security updates upon release, which helps keep your site secure.

  • Optimum performance: Managed hosting providers optimise the server configuration for your website to ensure it operates optimally.

  • Disaster recovery: If something goes wrong with your server, managed hosting providers work to reinstate your site as quickly as possible.

  • You have time to focus on your work: Because the hosting company manages the server, you can focus on your current business tasks.

Related: What is data security and why is it important? (With types)

How to store your website with a hosting provider

Web hosting providers offer a variety of hosting services for a monthly or yearly fee. Storing your website with a hosting provider usually involves the following steps:

1. Compare hosting providers and plans

Hosting providers offer different plans to cater to different budgets and website needs. When choosing a hosting provider, consider aspects such as cost, storage space, uptime, support and any other features relevant to your website's performance. Choose a plan that best suits your website's technical needs and your budget.

2. Get a domain name

A domain name is the address of your website on the internet. It's what people type into their browser to visit your site. Many hosting providers offer a free domain name with their hosting plans. If yours doesn't, you can purchase one from a domain name registrar and then point it to your hosting account.

3. Upload your website's files

Most hosting providers have a user-friendly control panel that makes it easy to upload your website's files. Follow your hosting provider's instructions on how to upload your files. Once the website's files are on the server, users can visit your site by typing its domain name into their browser.

Related: A quick guide on how to edit a website in 4 easy steps

Things to consider when choosing a web-hosting service

Factors to consider when choosing a web-hosting provider include:

Storage capacity

Storage capacity is important for hosting a website because it determines how much space you have to store your website's files. A personal website might only need a few megabytes of storage, but a business website or image-rich site might need much more. If you expect your website to grow, be sure to choose a hosting plan that provides enough room for growth.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the amount of data it's possible to transfer to and from your website in a given time. Generally, the more traffic a website gets, the more bandwidth it needs. When a website's bandwidth is too low, its users are likely to experience slow loading times and site crashes.

Security measures

Security is an important consideration for websites, but it can be paramount for sites that handle sensitive data such as health or financial information. Choose a hosting provider that offers robust security features such as firewalls, malware scanning and data encryption. Regular backups are also important to prevent data loss.

Related: An overview guide of tech trends in the upcoming decade

Uptime

Uptime is the amount of time a hosting server is working optimally. This is an important factor to consider because when servers are down, a website isn't accessible. Most hosting providers guarantee a certain amount of uptime, which they denote with a percentage. For example, 99.9% uptime means that servers are running 99.9% of the time.

Support

When errors occur or your website malfunctions, it's important to have someone you can rely on for help. Most providers offer some customer support, but the level of this support can vary greatly across hosting plans. If you are operating a business website, you might want a plan that includes 24/7 access to a dedicated support team.

Cost

The cost of web hosting can vary greatly. The storage space, bandwidth, security features and support available to you often determine the cost. Research available hosting options and compare different plans and providers to find the best deal for your requirements.

Related:

  • What is web scraping? An explanation of uses and techniques


Explore more articles