A well functioning website is usually the culmination of months, or even years, of hard work, time, and dedication. So what comes next? Can the site be hosted locally? Should it be? What kind of commercial web hosting exists, and what types of products and services do they provide? How do I know which one is right for me and my site? Sounds like a lot of confusion but, if we just take it one step at a time, we’ll have a functioning and accessible website in no time!
One option is to host the site at home. This is the cheapest option, assuming you have either a dedicated RAID disk Server lying around (unlikely), or (more likely) an old computer that can be powered on 24-7 to function as a server. Some considerations- By hosting a site at home, you have just become your own customer support, and tech support. This can be quite inconvenient when trying to keep a website up 24-7. Web hosting from home isn’t for everyone, but it can be an inexpensive alternative for somebody who knows (well) what they are doing.
The other, more commonplace option is to “farm out” the hosting of your website. The owner of the website pays one of these companies monthly for two main things. One is for the physical space that the owners’ site takes up on the host server. This also depends on whether or not your website requires a dedicated server (Your website, website X, is the ONLY THING on the host companies’ massive server- This is expensive and often unnecessary, at least for our purposes). Many hosting companies put most of their plane-Jane customers on shared servers, meaning that your website sits right next to many others on the same machine. This presents some minor security risks, but it is the most common type of web hosting.
The other factor in the monthly bill is bandwidth. What good is an awesome website on someone else’s server if nobody can get to it? Just like nobody can get to your business if there isn’t a road that leads to it, nobody will be able to “grab” your website’s content and view it for themselves if you haven’t got a bandwidth plan. A site’s “bandwidth” is a measure of how big the site is, how much must be downloaded to the end user, and how fast that information moves. Bandwidth can be a fickle mistress- get too much, and you end up seriously overpaying for the services you receive. Get too little bandwidth, and nobody will be able to access your website. Thankfully, though, most providers will let you fiddle with the amount and cost of your services, until you find a package that fits your needs.
There are also several “full service” web hosting companies. These organizations will host, maintain, manage, and in many cases design a website around the specific needs of their clients. This is useful for people without a lot of computer experience, for people who are too busy to design and maintain a website by themselves, or people who “just want it done”. These companies will usually charge more money for their services, but they are generally worth it. By delegating the technical responsibilities to somebody who can confidently fulfill them for you, you can focus on the positive effects of having your own website.
Picking a method of hosting can be daunting and scary, but once the process is broken down into manageable pieces, the hardest part is deciding what to put into your site!