Many people who are setting up websites for the first time are not aware that they need hosting in order to have their website visible on the internet. But why do you need hosting? What is it for and how does it help you with your website? This simple guide provides some background and useful information that will help you understand a bit more about why this is such an essential part of your business.
Hosting is perhaps not the first thing you think of when you are setting up a website for your business, or perhaps a personal blog. However hosting is a necessary expense for all websites as this is how you acquire space on the internet to put your website. Without it, your site would not be able to go live.
In business terms, if you have a physical business, you would need premises from which to sell your products or provide your services. This would usually this would be in the form of a shop or offices, and you would normally be charged rent for the premises. Renting space on the internet to ‘house’ your site is a similar concept.
How Does Hosting Work?
What your hosting is housing is your website files, images and databases that your website is constructed from. Usually you will have a file manager at your hosting where you will find all the website files – including the HTML and PHP code that your site is constructed from, and then you will have a section in your hosting for databases, which is where you will find all of the data that populates your website. Things like price data, blog text, comments, product data and contact form data are usually stored in your database. Your web developer may change things directly in the database, but usually you would enter the data through an interface, such as WordPress or a website builder, and then it would get stored within your database. It’s rare that you would need to access the database directly unless you are an advanced user.
You may use a dedicated server, or you could choose shared hosting. Either way, this will allow your website to live on a server and be displayed on the internet.
Emails can also be included in your hosting package. Your hosting control panel may allow you to set up emails associated with your domain.
Each hosting control panel is different, but many hosting providers use cPanel – a hosting software control panel developed by cPanel, LLC. The benefit of cPanel hosting is that it is the same no matter which hosting provider you go for, so if you have used it before, you can easily change hosting provider without needing to relearn a new control panel.
Some hosting providers have developed their own control panel. This is usually to try and simplify the interface, however be careful, as sometimes the interface can be more confusing and less user-friendly.
Although often you can buy your domain and your hosting from the same provider, your domain is a separate thing to your hosting. It needs to be purchased from a Domain Registrar, which many hosting providers are also domain registrars, but you don’t need to necessarily purchase both from the same place. Your domain is the address that your website resides at – like the street address of your office or shop. It needs to be memorable and usually quite short so that people remember where to go to find you on the internet. Remember that your domain needs to be unique, so you will need to check domain names that are available with a registrar. Usually there will be an online form that allows you to do this.