How to Host a Website: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners
In order for your website to appear on the internet, you’ll need to store it on a web space that visitors all over the world can access. These spaces are known as servers, and they’re provided by various web hosting companies. Servers keep your site files safe under a unique address that allows online traffic to reach it easily.
For beginners, learning how to host a website may feel like a daunting task, as it’s easy to get lost among the technical terms and seemingly endless list of options. This step-by-step guide breaks down the entire process in five digestible sections so that you can figure out the best option for your web hosting needs.
How to host a website
Compare web hosting types
Research website hosting platforms
Choose a web hosting service provider
Pick a web hosting plan
Purchase a domain name
01. Compare web hosting types
The first step in learning how to host a website is getting acquainted with the different types of web hosting. While you don’t need to become an expert in computer science, you should get a general idea of what each platform offers.
There are three main types of web hosting:
Shared hosting allows website owners to share a server with others in order to minimize operational costs. Each user can easily manage their site through their own separate account, but cannot access advanced controls. Furthermore, this type of web hosting has trouble handling high traffic volumes. You can think of this type of web hosting as an apartment building where all tenants share a single structure.
VPS hosting (virtual private server hosting) divides a server into various virtual compartments that can function independently. Each website is stored in one of these compartments, providing owners with a middle ground between the other two types of servers in terms of pricing and management capabilities. Cloud hosting falls under this category. If shared hosting is an apartment building, VPS hosting is a townhouse where the space is divided in separate, functional units.
Dedicated hosting is the most complex and expensive type of web hosting, as it provides an entire server for a single user. This type of web hosting is the go-to choice for large companies because it allows for maximum customization, flexibility, and security. In real estate terms, dedicated hosting is like a house where the owner controls every aspect of the space.
Alternatively, you can host your own website on a local level by using your computer as a server. This practice is widely discouraged, as it tends to produce slow, unreliable results. Furthermore, self-hosting means you’ll be fully responsible for maintenance, backups, updates, and security.
02. Research website hosting platforms
Once you know the type of web hosting you need, it’s time to look at the different platforms available. Much like buying a house (or an apartment or townhouse), this decision is not something you should take lightly. After all, the web hosting platform you choose will play a major role in all aspects of your website, from its stability to page load speed.
With hundreds of web hosting providers out there, starting your research from scratch can seem quite a daunting task. There are many things to take into consideration from pricing to website security. Keep in mind that certain platforms offer a one-stop-shop for your online presence, for example building a website with Wix automatically gives you free web hosting.
03. Choose a web hosting service provider
There are many factors to take into account when choosing a web hosting provider. And contrary to what you might think, pricing is not within the most important ones. Ever heard the saying 'if you buy cheaply, you pay dearly'? Risking your professional website’s performance to save a couple dollars a month is not something you want to consider.
In order to ensure you’re choosing the right web host for your site, there are several technical requirements to bear in mind:
Uptime is the amount of time a web hosting service is available to users over a given period of time. That is, for how long websites stored on their server are up and running. Once your site is live, there are several web analytics tools you can use to track your own uptime.
Bandwidth is the amount of data your website can transfer to visitors over a certain period of time. You can calculate your website’s bandwidth needs based on the amount of traffic you expect and the average size of your site pages.
Customer support might not seem too crucial at this stage, but you’ll be happy to have the ability to reach your hosting service if something goes wrong. Ideally, your web hosting provider will offer an online help center, as well as offer callbacks and respond on social media.
Additional features such as being able to get a custom email address, offer online scheduling, or access advanced SEO features should also be taken into account. Since the technical specifications of different web host service providers can be quite similar, you use these additional features as a tie-breaker.
04. Pick a web hosting plan
Most web hosting platforms offer different plans to best fit their customers’ budgets and needs. After you’ve chosen your service provider, it’s time to take a look at the different plans they offer and see which one suits your site best.
At this point, you’ll be able to understand why there isn’t a clear-cut answer to the common question “how much does it cost to host a website?” It could be anywhere from a monthly cost of $3 for shared hosting to $25 for VPS hosting and over $150 for dedicated hosting. In fact, you can even host a website for free on certain service providers.
Calculate your budget and choose the plan that best suits your online needs. While limited costs come with limited capabilities, you can always upgrade to a higher plan later if you’d like additional features.
05. Purchase a domain name
While certain web hosting providers allow you to publish your site without doing so, registering a domain name can have a huge impact on your site’s perception and exposure. Most website hosting platforms offer domain registrars, which significantly simplifies the process. Many even provide free domains for the first year, meaning you won’t need to worry about how much a domain name costs.
Ready to find the perfect web address? Take a look at this step-by-step guide on how to choose a domain name to make sure you come up with an address that merges professionalism, searchability, and brand value.
By Judit Ruiz Ricart
Blog Content Expert