Frequently Asked Questions

Web hosting can seem like a pretty incomprehensible topic to anyone who isn’t particularly technologically inclined, but it’s one that you’re going to need to get your head around if you hope to launch a website of your own. If you have questions about precisely what web hosting is and how it works, there’s a good chance that those questions will be answered here – just read on to find out more.

  1. What does ‘web hosting’ mean?
  2. What is a ‘domain name’?
  3. What is ‘bandwidth’?
  4. What are you actually buying when you pay for web hosting?
  5. How much does it cost?
  6. What is the best hosting company?
  7. What happens after someone has chosen a provider?
  8. What if I can’t find my question here?

What does ‘web hosting’ mean?

In order to put a website on the internet to be seen by browsers, it needs to be hosted on a web server – essentially a computer set up in a particular way that means the world wide web looks at it and shows its contents when told to. There are numerous ways of doing this; one is to set up a web server of your own, though most find this difficult and expensive. It’s much easier to hire space on someone else’s. Some of these services are free, but those tend to be funded by tacky, intrusive advertisements and popups all over your published website that you’ll have no control over.

What is a ‘domain name’?

Your site’s domain name is just the name of your website – its address, its URL. You’ll choose the first part, and it’s whatever you’d like it to be. The second part is the ‘top-level-domain’, and there are an awful lot of them – though you’ll be restricted in the ones you can choose by the service you’re using, which is a good thing because they’re actually pretty incomprehensible and confused.

To begin with they were regional, and many still are: is British, for example, andit’s still used by plenty of websites. It’s just as common for a British person to use .com, however, which isn’t actually the American equivalent at all – that was supposed to be .us, saving .com, for commercial sites, but nobody really paid any attention to it in the end.

The current formation of URLs sort of happened by accident. The leading protocol (http://) certainly did – the man who chose it assumed it would be temporary and intended to change it to something easier to remember before the world wide web went out to the masses, but accidentally left it till a little too late and now we’re all stuck with it! Top-level domains were always supposed to be better organised than they are in actuality.

What is ‘bandwidth’?

Whenever someone comes to visit your website, some data is transferred. They temporarily download your site to their computer – this is how people see websites. They also temporarily upload some information about what they’re doing there – this is how people tell a website which parts of itself to show them. Your bandwidth is a number that represents how much of this you’re able to cope with before your website falls over under the strain. Big, popular sites need a lot more than small, personal ones for this reason.

You should also think about the amount of disk space you’ll need – it varies similarly.

What are you actually buying when you pay for web hosting?

One of three different things, depending on the kind of web hosting you’ve bought. The cheapest and the most common way is to pay for space on a server that hosts multiple websites – sometimes thousands. This is sufficient for most purposes, but you’ll need to upgrade if your site gets very busy and popular. After that comes the thing that most popular, busy and successful ventures that still aren’t giant corporations settle on – a dedicated server, where you’re paying money to have only your own site on it. If you wanted something a little more secure, you could go for a co-located server – in this case you’ve bought the server itself, rather than space on it and/or exclusive rights to its use, but you’re also paying for someone else to keep the physical box. After that, of course, you could just set up a server of your own.

How much does it cost?

To start with, you’ll probably be paying >$10 a month for space on a shared server. Dedicated servers, however, can rise to somewhere around the $75/pm mark – and a co-located server is $150 or more.

What is the best hosting company?

That’s not at all an easy question. Which company works best for you will depend on all kinds of things – the amount of space you’re looking for, the quantity of support you’ll need, what kind of monthly bandwidth you’re likely to use, how much money you can spend. Make sure you read through some reviews carefully before you make a decision.

What happens after someone has chosen a provider?

It’s usually pretty simple. Most hosts let you set up your account online without having to talk to anyone – though there’s generally an office you can ring if for some reason you want to.

What happens after someone has chosen a provider?

What if I can’t find my question here?