So, you’re starting a new small business or side hustle. First of all, that’s super exciting! Go you. It takes a lot of motivation to get that point. Maybe you’ve realized that one of the first steps you need to take is to think about your online presence, and get a website. As you get started, you may be confused by all the lingo and new things to learn in the big, big world of website creation. I know it’s a lot. But I promise you can handle it. Let’s get started by learning a few basics. This post will focus on web hosting explained for beginners, and after that we’ll get into domains, CMSs and all sorts of fun stuff! Don’t be anxious. Take your time as you work your way through this process. And you can always comment below or contact me with questions 😁Without further ado, here’s web hosting explained quick and easy:
Where does a website live?
Websites are made up of lots of parts. Think of your website like a house, but instead of bricks, wood and plaster, the parts of a website are things like pictures, text, and files filled with code (don’t worry–that doesn’t mean you have to write code to build one). This data all has to live somewhere—that’s where your web host comes in. So if your website is a house, the web host is like the plot of land where the house sits.
So then a web hosting company is like a real estate company, selling spots for websites to go. A web hosting company owns a bunch of computers called servers that do nothing but hold data and “serve” it to other computers when needed.
What is a server?
A server is just a computer, not unlike the desktop computer you might have in your house. Instead of running apps like a personal computer, a server holds data, and is designed and optimized to give data out to other computers (clients) when they request it.
So here’s an example: you type facebook.com into your phone. In this scenario, your phone is the client computer, and all of the data from Facebook is held on Facebook’s servers. Your phone requests the data, and Facebook’s servers send it out so you can see it.
Do I need a server?
If you wanted to, you could buy a computer, configure it to be a server, put your website data on it, and make sure it was always connected to the internet so that your website visitors could access your site all the time. Sound like a lot of work?
That’s why most people hire a hosting company to do this for them. These companies have lots and lots of server space, and you can pay a monthly fee to access some of it to hold your website.
This is a great solution for several reasons:
- it’s relatively inexpensive (between $10-$30 a month, depending on what you need).
- you don’t have to worry about upkeep or security. Most modern web hosts take care of this for you.
- servers can slow down over time, or they can slow down at different times when traffic is heavy. A good hosting company keeps track of usage and implements plans to optimize speed on your behalf.
- if anything goes wrong, you can contact your hosting company’s support and they can help to sort it out
- many hosts offer extra bells & whistles like site building services, automatic backups, or optional speed improvements called CDNs
Basically, your hosting company are server experts so you don’t have to be.
What hosting company should I use?
There are lots of good web hosts out there. There are two that I use (and recommend to clients). Full disclosure: I’m an affiliate for both of these companies, meaning I’ll get a little kickback for anyone who signs up using the links below. I only join affiliate programs for products I really believe in, I’ve handpicked these two because they are the absolute best hosting companies out there. They are:
Budget Option: SiteGround
SiteGround is the budget option that I recommend. The cheapest plan is around $10 a month, and they usually have a deal to make it even cheaper for your first year. The price is great, the customer service is very responsive and helpful, and it is easy to upgrade your plan as you go if you need to be able to handle more traffic.
My only criticisms of SiteGround are that it is fairly barebones for that starting price. Add-ons like SSL certificate, backup solutions, etc all cost extra. Another thing to consider is that you use your hosting through something called /cPanel/, which is basically a very powerful dashboard that allows you to access your server space, install things, and edit files. cPanel is great, but it’s quite technical and it can be pretty intimidating to newcomers. Be prepared to Google the phrase, “how to do x in cPanel” a lot when you’re starting out.
Click the logo below if you want to sign up with SiteGround:
Cadillac Option: Flywheel
If you are willing to pay a little more, I’ll highly recommend Flywheel hosting. I use them almost exclusively for new websites at this point. They have significantly streamlined the process of setting up a new WordPress website.
Currently, their hosting packages start at $14 a month, and for that you get security, speed, excellent support and tutorial articles, and a free SSL certificate for every site.
Click the logo below if you want to sign up with Flywheel:
So after I have purchased hosting, what’s next?
There’s a few steps you could take next. Probably you’ll want to set up your domain. More on that in the next article.