Very basically, web hosting is renting space, and certain services, on a fairly powerful computer called a ‘server’, or ‘web server’, that is connected to the internet. You cannot have a website online without using some form of web hosting.
Just because your PC or notebook is connected to the internet, does not mean you can run your website from them. It requires certain other hardware and software to ‘host’ a website on the internet.
Companies that offer these internet-connected servers that provide space, and services, are call Web Hosts, or Hosting Companies. Web hosting allows you to have your own website up, running, and connected to the internet 24/7. No matter what your site is, or what it contains, the host will keep it available for anyone on the internet.
Think of a web server as a supercharged desktop PC. One that is capable of handling multiple users and doing multiple tasks at the same time. This server has both hardware and software that is designed from the ground up to serve the internet. A web hosting company may have hundreds, if not thousands of these servers. All available for renting and connected to the internet.
Each one of these servers has a name, these names are called ‘nameservers’. When you sign up for a web hosting account, the hosting company will tell you on which of their web servers your space will be located, that is, they will tell you the nameservers. This is important, because you are going to need to know this bit of information later on down the road.
How to make use of the host
For a web site to be made available on the Internet, it has to be hosted on a web server. But you don’t build or create your website on the server. This is done on your own PC or notebook.
There are various tools available for creating and building websites, there are even good free tools available, but we won’t go into that here. The thing to remember is that you build the site on your own computer, then move it to the web server for hosting, so that its available on the internet.
This moving of your website file(s) from your computer to the web server is called ‘uploading’. You ‘upload’ your files to the internet, that is, to your server.
There is no editing of the files on the web server. If you want to make changes to your website on the internet, you must make the changes to the files on your computer, and then upload the changed files to your web server. This creates a new version.
So now you’re wondering, how do you connect with your web server, and upload the files to it? Good question, you use a kind of software called ‘ftp’ software. This ftp software forms a connection between your computer and the web server at the hosting company.
This software shows you the files and folders on your server, and also shows you the files and folders on your computer. Then it’s a simple matter of dragging and dropping files from your computer to the web server.
Now when talking about web hosting, we also have to mention domains. A domain is a name that you purchase from a ‘domain registrar’. That is, a company that sells domain names, and makes sure that they are all unique. It wouldn’t be a good idea to have multiple websites with the same name. We won’t talk about getting a domain name here, for our purposes right now lets assume you’ve already got a domain name.
Putting the two together
So, you’ve got a domain name. Now you’re wondering what do you do with it, and why does it relate to web hosting? Another good question.
You have to associate that domain name with the space that you are renting from the hosting company. Think of when you move to a new residence. The new house has an address, you have your name, but you have to tell the postman that your name is now to be associated with that address. One without the other is useless.
Web hosting is the same. You have to associate your domain name with the space you’re renting on the web server. This space then becomes your ‘domain’. Your domain is the part after the ‘http://www.’ in your web address.
To make this association you need to tell the company you got the domain name from where you are going to host that domain. That is, you need to tell them the nameservers that your hosting company gave you. That way whenever someone types in your domain name, they will be taken to your domain, hosted on your web servers.
This is how your domain name gets tied to the web servers of your hosting account. This becomes your domain. Its your little piece of internet real estate.
So that is what web hosting is all about. Its renting some space on a web server, then labeling it with your domain name, and then uploading your website files on it so you can have your website on the internet.