If you are thinking about buying a website domain to start a blog or a business, then you may have heard you need to host your blog. For complete newbies, it may be surprising that you can’t just buy a domain name and get started. You can participate in a free blogging service like blogger.com or wordpress.com, but your domain will be within their massive website.
If you want a special and unique website and name that’s yours and only yours, you’ll need to put that website and all of the files associated with it, somewhere for safe keeping. This is called hosting my friend and it’s like hiring someone to host a party for you. There are specific requirements for your website that you’ll want to consider before hiring just anyone or before taking it on yourself. So, let’s get into the details. By the end of this, you’ll have a good understanding of what hosting a website really is and you should feel empowered to at least buy your domain and get it hosted. (hey, if you’re still deciding on a domain name and feeling stuck, you’re going to want to read this).
So, what is hosting?
Like I said, it’s like a party that someone is hosting and everyone is invited. Sounds kind of funny but it’s true. Web hosting is just that. The host is an internet hosting company of some kind or possibly yourself or your neighbor (which I get more into below) and the party is your website. They’ve taken your website and made it the star of the party by storing it on one of their servers and making it available to everyone. When I said that everyone is invited to the party, I do actually mean everyone in the big wide world who has access to the internet.
Wait, what is a server?
A server is the place where your party is being hosted – e’hem – I mean where your website is being stored. All of your files and pages live on this server. These files are just like the files you have saved on your computer but they’re in an organized fashion that makes sense for web hosting and the internet. If you find a company to host your website, you’ll notice that they want to charge you an annual or monthly fee for leasing the space for your party / website on their server. Other computers and servers around the world will be accessing the information they have stored for you via the internet and so it will be important if you get lots of traffic and people coming to your “party” that your host has plenty of space for your guests and that the door is wide open to let them in without a traffic jam or else you’re left with a sluggish and slow website (For a profitable biz, that could be bad news!). In other words, bandwidth and storage space should be a consideration of yours when picking a host, but we’ll get into that a little further down. Keep reading my friend!
Who are these hosts?
There are a number of companies and people out there who have servers and the space available for web hosting. In fact, you can do this yourself too, but it will take some training and work. Like I mentioned before, there are things to consider when choosing a host because if YOU can do it, so can your neighbor. Do you want your neighbor storing your website files for you? I don’t know who your neighbor is, but if their like mine… your answers probably NO.
So who are some trusted web hosts? Here’s a list of hosts available (some I’ve used and some I’ve heard good things about). Pay attention to the circled area’s on the images below because these are items you are going to want to compare between all the hosts you consider.
What things should I consider?
Bandwidth: This determines that speed of your website and how much data it can transfer of periods of time. It may seem a little technical, but think of it like your party and the number of guests you come through the door at any given time. If the door to your party is small, you can only handle so many people coming through it at once and if it’s big – well, you get the picture. I am definitely not an expert on determining the bandwidth you need but there are calculators and experts out there to help you. Check out this bandwidth calculator to see what you might need or read this for more information.
Customer Service: This is huge because what if there is a problem and you’re website is down or you cannot get in to make changes. I’ve had this happen to me and it will freak you out. You’ll start to think the worst and wonder about all your work you’ve put in and all that great content. Having someone to call when there is a problem is a KEY factor you should consider. This is also why I’m taking steps very soon to self-host my website with the help of my very technical husband who has kindly offered to set it up for me.
Disk Space: This is the combined total data size of everything on your website, including files, images, text, and code. An average page within your size may be 600kb – 2 MB or higher and the smallest disk space I’ve seen available is 50 GB’s (for reference, there are 1000 MB’s in a single GB). If you’re just starting out, this might make absolutely no sense to you and you’re not going to know what size each of your pages is going to be but you can apply this simple rule of thumb – look for offers of UNLIMITED disk space. Frankly, you won’t know how much disc space you’re going to need and unlimited makes it easy for you and only costs $1 – $2 more per month. THAT’S A NO BRAINER! Example is that if you are a photographer looking to build an online portfolio, you might need and use a ton more disk space than others and the most popular hosting services offer unlimited space at killer deals. If you want to go the super-duper cheap route and use a service that costs $1 – $2 less per month and gives limited disk space, go for it, but I don’t recommend it.
Shared or dedicated hosting: Once you dive in, you’ll be presented with an option to have dedicated hosting or shared hosting. This boils down to the size of website you’re about to build because it’s fairly typical that shared hosting has less bandwidth and less disk space than a dedicated hosting package. If you are planning to create a blog or small business, then shared hosting would be just fine to start out with. If you are planning to grow quickly and sell many things from your site and set up ecommerce, then I would definitely recommend a dedicated hosting service.
Can you self-host your blog?
Yes, you absolutely can self-host your website and blog but let’s talk about what self-hosting is. It is not buying a hosting service from one of the companies I mentioned above. You would be setting up your own equipment and servers and managing your own files and you are your own customer, providing bandwidth and disk space. So that said, you’re going to want to consider all of those steps I mentioned above before coming to this self-hosting conclusion. I say, slow your roll! Don’t take on too much if you are just starting out. You can leave this for another time in the future when you’re more comfortable. Up until now, I haven’t even done this yet but I am considering it for a few reasons but mainly because I’m a control freak. Don’t be me!
Before I send you to some information about self-hosting, let me caution you again that I am advising not to self-host until you are comfortable with your website’s concept and how to run WordPress and your blog. Here is some more information about what self-hosting means, if you are ready for this step and how to go about it.