But a good website host provides much more than just computing and storage. It keeps your site secure, optimizes performance, offers backups and email address, and more. You need someone to host your website who is reputable and has the right tools to support your particular site.
What do website hosts do?
As discussed in the previous section, website hosts dedicate storage space for your website on their servers. What’s a server? A server is a computer that stores files, and their servers are massive and lightning-fast.
Hosts have software that makes sure all the elements of your site communicate properly with other resources, such as search engines.
Many hosts provide startup packages that load basics such as WordPress and WooCommerce software to your new site, making it quick and easy to start building.
Many hosts also provide security features, such as SSL (see my post about domain names). They may also have firewalls, malware detection software, or other tools to keep your site safe.
A good host has fast processors and lots of space, so your website loads quickly. Nobody likes waiting around while images scroll in, and your host can help with that. Hosts may offer various types of caching, storing frequently-used files within easy reach for super-fast page loading.
Some hosts offer backups, but some don’t.
Think of this as a notebook where you draft ideas without publishing. If you’re redesigning your site or just want to try something without changing your live site, a staging platform is the perfect place. You can copy your site and play with that or start with a blank slate. The staging site will remain hidden until you publish it.
Provides domain-based email addresses, like email@example.com.
A good host will support you via email, online chat, and maybe phone (but don’t hold your breath on that last one).
Is website hosting free?
While it’s possible to host your own site, the practical answer is no. Hosting on your own computer is a little like building your own house from scratch. For most people, choosing a hosting company is the way to go.
Basically, you’re renting space on their servers and getting software support. It’s not free, but you can get a basic monthly hosting package with a reputable company for the cost of a deli lunch, so it’s worth paying for!
Website hosting vs. domain
It’s easy to get confused about the difference between hosting and domain.
A domain is the name of your website – see my article here.
Hosting is the physical storage of your files and software support to run the site.
Can you transfer website hosting?
Yes, you can. Depending on the hosts you’re transferring to and from, it can be an easy or difficult task. At a minimum, you’ll need login information for the old host, a new account set up at the new host, and access to your domain name registration.
Which website hosting service is best?
Well, that’s a question with no right answer. Which host works best for you depends on your needs. If you’re a small business who’s building your own simple site and want to have all your services in one place, Bluehost or GoDaddy might be right for you. I’ve worked with both and: meh.
I use SiteGround. Their interface is easy to understand and I can access all my websites from one page. They provide all the site tools I have listed above and have great customer service. They send weekly activity reports right to your inbox, and who doesn’t like that?