What is website hosting?

By Matt Lipman     October 12, 2017

Hosting is a service that uses servers to store website files and contents, allowing visitors to download that material and view the website in a browser.

In order for this all to work, a domain name must be connected to the host’s servers. Your host should tell you the information you need in order to point Nameservers to the hosting company. After this step is completed,  when you type the domain address into a browser, the host can serve up the website files over the internet.

Do I need to pay for hosting for my website?

The simple answer is yes.

You could technically host your website from your very own computer, people would download files from your hard drive instead of servers. But there are many issues with this setup. When you turn off your computer or lose internet service, no one could access your website. Your computer might also struggle with handling 5-10 users at the same time, never mind 100. Most importantly, would you want to give access to your computer to everyone on the entire internet?

How much does hosting typically cost?

$5, $10, or $15 per month should suffice for most small business websites. Hosting costs are affordable because hosting companies will put multiple websites on the same server. The cheapest hosting option, known as shared hosting, might come with a few speed hiccups at times because other websites might hog the server resources. This might be caused by content hosted on the server going viral, too may websites hosted on the same server, or a ‘host’ of other reasons. If your host doesn’t address a server that is constantly sluggish, you should look for a new hosting company.

The other types of hosting can get a little more pricey. VPS hosting, while still shared with other websites, reserves a specific amount of processing resources for your website.  In costs, you are looking about double the price of what shared hosting costs. There is also dedicated server hosting which essentially gets you your own server. Dedicated servers are expensive and typically costs a three-figure monthly number.

Should I buy my domain name from my hosting company?

No. The only substantial reason to buy a domain name from a hosting company is to save money. The hosting company might offer a package deal on buying hosting and your domain name for a full year. That savings is perhaps equivalent to about $10 or $15.

I’ve heard horror stories where hosting companies would hold a website hostage or shut it down, leveraging the domain and hosting in order to address an outstanding issue. In this case, if the owner purchased the domain from a different service, the owner could simply point the domain to a new host to avoid getting their website shutdown.