How to Host a Website: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners
This post was last updated on October 15th, 2022.
Hosting a website is an essential part of any online presence. Whether you’re creating a simple blog or a complex e-commerce site, having a well-hosted website is key to your site's success.
When deciding how to host your website, you need to consider how much traffic your site will receive, how much storage space your website needs, how complex the setup of the server is, and how secure the hosting environment will be. Once you have a clear understanding of these factors, it’s much easier to choose the right web host for your site.
A modern, professional free website is one way to keep up with your audience and run your business, but without a reliable host, even the most professional, well-designed site is useless.
With approximately 200+ million active websites online, cloud hosting has become increasingly advantageous for its scalability, security, speed, and accessibility. When building a site of your own, you have many options: Do you choose a website builder that comes with secure, reliable and free web hosting, or do you opt to shop around for a web hosting provider on your own?
In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to make an informed decision about how to host a website.
What is web hosting?
A web hosting service provider allows you to post your website online through the use of servers. Companies utilize servers to store customers’ websites and assign IP addresses to every site it hosts, making them accessible on the internet. Essentially, without a host, your website won’t be visible to anyone.
You want to choose a secure, reliable host so visitors can access your website 24/7 without any issues. The more issues a visitor encounters when attempting to view your site, the less likely they are to return.
How to host a website
01. Select a type of web hosting
There are six main types of web hosting:
Shared hosting allows website owners to share a server with others to minimize operational costs. You can think of shared hosting as an apartment building where all tenants share a single structure–each user can easily manage their site through their own separate account, but cannot access advanced controls. The main benefit of shared hosting is the low cost but multiple users can create issues with performance and site reliability especially for high traffic sites.
Dedicated hosting provides a single user an entire server. In real estate terms, dedicated hosting is like a house where the owner controls every aspect of the space. Large companies often choose this web hosting type because it allows for maximum customization, flexibility, and security. It is also the most complex and expensive type of web hosting.
VPS (virtual private server) hosting divides a server into independently functioning virtual compartments. Each website is stored in one of these compartments, providing owners with a middle-ground between shared and dedicated hosting in terms of pricing and management capabilities. If shared hosting is an apartment building, VPS hosting is a townhouse with spaces divided into separate, functional units.
Colocation provides a business its own dedicated server to support its website and stores it in a data center among other businesses’ servers. Large enterprises primarily use this hosting type. This allows them more control over the management and security of their hosting.
Cloud hosting provides your website its own dedicated resources on a network of multiple servers, rather than on a single one. This fast-growing type of hosting makes it possible to access all your website data from anywhere. Cloud hosting offers website owners improved performance and security at an accessible price point.
Multi-cloud hosting simultaneously hosts websites on multiple networks. If a network goes down, it will automatically redirect all of the websites it hosts to another hosting network. This greatly reduces the chance of a website being down due to network issues because a backup host is always in place.
Home servers, hosting a website from your own home server can be an ideal option for people who need more control over how their websites are managed. Using a home server allows you to customize how your site is hosted, what software and hardware it uses, how secure the hosting environment is, and how reliable the uptime is. This can be a complicated option if you're not sure exactly how it works, or how to handle troubleshooting.
Tip: Wix uses two of the biggest networks on the planet, Google Cloud Hosting and Amazon Web Services (AWS), to protect user sites via multi-cloud hosting. In case these networks ever go down, Wix also uses its own disaster servers to ensure that all sites continue functioning even if network interruptions occur.
02. Consider your website hosting needs
Your website needs and function is a huge determining factor when it comes to choose the type of hosting you need, and your hosting provider. Consider how much traffic your site will receive in a given time period, will there be times when you might expect sudden increases in traffic. This is of specific concern for eCommerce websites who handle large amounts of seasonal and holiday traffic.
You will also need to take into account your need for reliability. Not just during times of traffic surges, but if servers go down - does your hosting option and provider, step in with backup options? Will you accept payments on your site, and if you will - how will you ensure your hosting choice protects your customers sensitive details.
There's also the issue of your budget. It use to be that the safest hosting options, cloud hosting for example, were expensive and inaccessible. This is no longer the case and everyone can have access to reliable and safe hosting, often for free.
When hosting a website, it is also important to consider how your web host will handle issues such as backup and recovery of data, user authentication and authorization, website performance optimization, and how user data such as passwords is stored and secured.
Uptime is the amount of time a web hosting service is available to users over a given period, or how long the websites stored on a server or network are up and running.
Bandwidth is the amount of data your website can transfer to visitors over time. You can calculate your website’s bandwidth needs based on your expected traffic volume and your average page size.
Security is how secure your site is. Websites can be attached through their servers, some of the more popular include DOS and phishing attacks. These can lead your site vulnerable to data breaches and theft which can put your business, and your online customers at risk.
Generally as a business owner or website creator, the technical specifications of your hosting provider won't matter to you. However if you'd like to know more you can consider some of the following specs. This includes the type of web server software used (such as Apache, Nginx, or IIS), how powerful the hardware is that runs the server (CPU, RAM, and storage capacity), how secure the hosting environment is (firewall protection and encryption), how well the server is configured (database settings, software versions, and other configurations), how reliable the hosting provider’s uptime is, and how dedicated their customer support team is.
Since web host service providers provide quite similar technical specifications, use these additional features as a tie-breaker:
Free website. Take advantage of a web host provider that also provides a complete website building platform.
Custom email addresses. Align your branding strategy with a custom email address featuring your business name.
Online scheduling software. Allow your clients to book appointments or services with you and manage your own calendar, all in one place.
Advanced SEO features. Use professional SEO tips and protocol to boost your website’s Google ranking.
Customer support. Whether through an online help center, phone calls, or social media responses, reach your hosting service quickly in case of emergency.
SSL certificate and HTTPS. Both are essential security measures taken by your hosting provider to ensure the security of your site. HTTPs allows your site to communicate securely with your server and also shows your site visitors they can trust your site with their personal and payment details.
03. Choose a web hosting provider
Your web hosting provider allows you to store all of your website data and deliver it to your visitors. So how do you choose the best web hosting provider?
Once you’ve identified your website needs, look for a host that meets them. For example, if you own an e-commerce photography website, you’ll need a host that guarantees enough storage to upload all your image files.
Tip: Wix automatically provides users with 500MB of free cloud storage, but you can always upgrade to a premium plan and purchase as much as 50GB as your storage needs grow.
Security is obviously another paramount feature for e-commerce sites, as they need to protect private customer data. Cyber attacks are on the rise, and you want to choose an experienced hosting provider that adheres to international standards with a comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity basics, like Wix.
Lastly, choose a provider that offers flexible plans that you can upgrade or cancel at any time. This gives you the freedom to make adjustments as you see fit.
04. Purchase a domain name
A custom domain name conveys professionalism as well as makes your site more distinctive, easy-to-find and search engine optimized. Most website hosting platforms offer domain registrars so you can easily create your domain name and purchase a host in the same place.
Tip: With Wix, users get a free domain for the first year, meaning you won’t need to worry about domain name costs up front.
To select a URL, consider simple keywords or phrases that best describe your site. If creating a business website, simply use your business name as your domain. If someone has already claimed that domain name, add your business city or state to differentiate it. Take a look at this step-by-step guide on how to choose a domain name that represents professionalism, searchability and brand value.
By Talia Cohen
Small Business Expert and Marketing Blogger
By Judit Ruiz Ricart
Blog Content Expert