The term 'web hosting' mostly refers to companies renting out their web servers to businesses or individuals who wish to make their websites available on the internet.
What does it mean to host a site?
Hosting involves storing and maintaining files that make up a particular website on a web server that is connected to the internet 24/7. These can be HTML documents, images, audio, video and other types of files that, when viewed over the internet, deliver your website to its visitors.
The web server gives each hosted website a unique internet protocol (IP) address. This enables visitors to use the website's address (ie the domain name) to find and access the site via an internet browser. Read about the difference between a domain and web hosting.
Types of web hosting
There are three ways for a business to operate a website. You can:
- host it on your own server in-house
- outsource the talk to an external hosting provider
- host the website on a server owned and operated by an internet service provider (ISP
Hosting your own web server in-house can be expensive and requires significant resources and technical knowledge. See the pros and cons of in-house hosting, and find out how do you host your own business website.
Alternatively, you can buy a hosting service from an external provider, such as an ISP. Read about the pros and cons of using ISP for hosting.
Types of web hosting services
If you are thinking of hosting your website externally, you will generally have a choice between three types of web servers:
- virtual, including cloud hosting
As well as the server space, some web hosting services can also provide value-added services, such as:
- easy-to-use website building tools
- site statistics
- search engine optimisation features
- shopping carts
- one-click app installers
- unlimited number of email addresses
- customer support
- other control, maintenance and safety features
How much does it cost to host a website?
If you are a sole trader or a small business, it is possible to host a basic website on a free web host. However, there may be significant risks involved with the free service you receive as well as the accessibility of your site, as free web hosts typically have more frequent ‘down time’ than their commercial counterparts.
If you run a web-based business, or if having a website is important to your operations, a commercial web host may be a better choice. The average costs of commercial web hosting plans vary, depending on the:
- hosting provider
- the service they provide as part of the package
- the size of your website
- the expected traffic to your website
- whether you need email addresses
- whether you need e-commerce functionality, etc
With many hosting options available, it can be difficult to know what to look for. See factors to consider when choosing a web hosting provider.