Whether you’re trying to publish a blog or setup a website for your company, you will inevitably encounter the term “hosting.” If it’s the first time you’ve encountered the term, it may be a little perplexing. No, this kind of “hosting” doesn’t involve having people over for dinner. And, no, etiquette does not require you to present yourself at someone’s door with a bottle of wine in order get your content published. This will be obvious if you’ve gotten this far, but the point I’m trying to make is that even if you consider yourself to be fairly internet savvy, you might still find coming up with a simple web hosting definition to be a tricky task and you need to begin by asking the right questions.
When you log onto a website, your browser downloads data in order to compile the presentation of the content you actually see displayed. For that to happen, the data had to be waiting somewhere, ready to be accessed by surfers. That “somewhere” can be pretty much anywhere as long as the site’s domain name is correctly associated with the IP address of the server where the data is stored. To make a long story short, a “web host” is a system setup to store a website, all its data and files, and make everything accessible over the Internet using the appropriate software. A “web hosting service” is a product comprising the servers, software and technical expertise required to operate and maintain a fully-functional website, letting the users concentrate on the content they want to publish. However, any comprehensive web hosting definition will need to go into a little more detail.
The kinds of hosting services out there are as varied as the applications for which they can be used and the budgets of the users. Technically, you can setup a web host in your home using an ISP that provides you a static IP, a computer, and the right server software, but it is usually easier, more reliable and more cost-effective to use a professional hosting service tailored to your specific needs. If all you want to do is publish a blog that will draw a relatively low volume of traffic, you won’t need a fully dedicated server. If you’re running a full e-commerce business you’ll need a setup that can handle a high volume of traffic, with more security and redundant servers in different locations to make sure your site is always live, even if one server malfunctions. Different options will all have advantages and tradeoffs, in terms of both technological capabilities and operating costs.
Accordingly, different hosting companies will each have their own specialty, which means the first step in finding the right one to choose is to understand exactly what kind of service you need. Are you trying to setup a personal page, a corporate site or an FTP server? Is your webpage designed to provide information for a specific group of people that will produce a low level of traffic, or are you trying to attract lots of attention from around the world?
We’re not only trying provide you with a simple web hosting definition, but a growing glossary of terms that define the different kinds of services available so you can match them to your needs (stay tuned). But to begin with, all you need to know is that to publish anything on the internet you will need a web host, and you’ll also need to think about what, exactly, you want to accomplish.