Website Hosting Explained For Non-Techies
While running a business or casual blog, you’ve likely come across the term website hosting. This is a phrase many of us digital marketers throw around without really explaining what it means.
So, let me break the generational curse of website-designer-jargon and clearly explain website hosting.
Hosting Is Rented Internet Space For Your Website
Hosting is basically the name for the space given to a website for it to exist on the internet. You pay a hosting provider for space on its server so anyone anywhere can access your site. Without hosting, your website won’t show up online.
A server is a computer whose space is dedicated to different websites. It’s where all the information about your site (images, text, address, etc.) is stored. A hosting service owns the servers and you pay them for space. It’s like buying a piece of the internet.
Think of hosting in terms of renting an apartment:
- Your web address (domain) is your postal address.
- A server is an apartment (your domain is just one apartment of many in the building).
- The landlord (hosting provider) owns the apartment and the land it’s on.
- You pay the landlord rent (hosting payment) in order to live in the apartment alongside many other tenants.
In short, hosting is the process of selling (or renting) server space to someone who wants a website. Having a reliable hosting provider means people can access your website whenever they want.
Every single website that you can view on the internet has hosting.
If you’ve decided to purchase a domain name, you need to choose a hosting provider next. There are many reputable hosting providers available but I tend to recommend HostGator or Sun & Soil Design (but never, ever, under any circumstances are you to use GoDaddy – they are the worst).
Different hosting providers offer different services and packages to their clients. These packages can vary based on the amount of server space or with the addition of more technical offerings like WordPress management. It’s important to choose the package that meets your particular needs so you aren’t wasting money (or ruining your website’s page speed score – but more on that below).
Do I Need Website Hosting if I use Wix, SquareSpace, or Other DIY Website Builders?
The short answer is yes, but hosting comes as part of your monthly payment. When you first begin building your website, the company will provide you with space on their server and access to their drag-and-drop builder in exchange for a monthly or annual fee. Most of the money you pay these do-it-yourself website building sites is to continue renting their server space. So, essentially they become your hosting provider.
The one “gotcha!” part is that if you use a do-it-yourself website builder and purchase a plan from them, you are stuck using their website building service exclusively in addition to their hosting. You could not – say – move your website from Wix to SquareSpace and retain your Wix hosting or Wix website. Most of the time leaving a do-it-yourself website builder like Wix means losing your website and website content in the process.
If you “self host” (a.k.a buy hosting directly and don’t go through a do-it-yourself platform like SquareSpace), you are able to switch from hosting provider to hosting provider with ease without losing your website.
So, say you have a WordPress.org website you’ve placed (hosted) on GoDaddy’s server (BOOOOO!) and you realize GoDaddy is a piece of s#&!. You want to leave GoDaddy’s server but you don’t want to lose your website. Well, since GoDaddy is a hosting provider and not a do-it-yourself website builder, you can easily leave them, join Sun & Soil Design’s server and not have to rebuild your website!
Not All Hosting Is Created Equal
So by now you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I hate GoDaddy (they are the slum lords of internet hosting) and you should not use them for your website hosting needs. Many people are drawn to GoDaddy because they are cheap. But they keep their prices low by overloading their servers – which makes your website incredibly slow and prone to crashing.
I mention this not just to crap all over GoDaddy – but to show that not all hosting providers are created equal. It is not enough to merely buy hosting, you need to buy hosting from a reliable source or your page speed (and therefore SEO) will face the consequences.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a set of rules and best practices put out by search engines – primarily Google – to determine which websites will show up from internet searches.
One pillar of SEO is page speed – or, how fast your website loads. The faster your website loads, the more likely Google is to show your website to its users. Since hosting is a huge factor in how fast a website loads, it’s important to purchase from a quality hosting provider so your website has a better chance of ranking.
So, don’t use GoDaddy hosting.
Hopefully you now have a better idea of what we mean by hosting and why it’s important 100% required for your website.
Of course, website hosting can get incredibly technical if you let it. If your website is running slow, or you are confused by your current hosting provider (or if you have GoDaddy), reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can un-complicate your hosting problems. We make the process much easier by taking over the technical stuff for you and increasing your website’s load time.