If you're new to the world of website creation, you'll have likely come across the term “web hosting” before. It's a common practice and plays a vital role on the internet, but its meaning isn't immediately obvious. So, what is web hosting?
In short, it's a process that uses servers to get websites up and running on the internet. There's a lot more to it — which you'll find further down this article — but that's the main gist of it. There are a number of different types of web hosting, from the more expensive dedicated hosting to the cheaper shared hosting alternatives.
In this article, you'll find everything you need to know about web hosting. Learn more about what web hosting is, its types, its benefits, and the best web hosting service providers in the UK. We'll also give you some pointers to remember when choosing a web hosting package, and some helpful FAQs to round out your newfound knowledge on the subject.
Table of Contents:
Web Hosting Services: Overview 🔎️
Essentially, web hosting is where you rent or buy space for your online website. A web hosting provider will offer digital space on a web server where you can store your website files (code, images, links, etc). This allows your site to be visible by the public on the internet. Without a web hosting service, your site cannot be viewed through search engines.
When you purchase a hosting plan, you are buying space on a physical server. A web hosting company will then allow your website to be publicly accessible. These web hosts are responsible for the management and maintenance of this system to ensure your website never crashes or goes down. After all, you're paying them for visibility.
What is a Web Server?
A web server is a physical device that stays running continuously to ensure that your website always remains online. It connects internet surfers from anywhere in the world to your site, bringing in traffic and providing the physical means for your website to function. Without these devices, accessing websites online would not be possible.
You can create web servers yourself and become your own web host, but it's much easier to go through a hosting provider. Setting up and configuring your own web server requires exceptional technical skills and expertise, which is why many businesses simply pay a web hosting company like SiteGround to do it for them. In the end, it's much more cost-effective for most firms to leave the technical work to external web hosts.
Web hosting companies provide a range of web hosting services, often either via a dedicated server, a shared server, or a virtual private server (VPS hosting). Hosting packages are often flexible and can be tailored to meet your needs. For instance, you could use server resources to host multiple websites or web pages. Or if it's just a single domain name you're after, a web host can usually help you out.
How Does Web Hosting Work? 🤔️
If you research “what is web hosting”, you'll likely find explanations that are far too technical. If you're looking to get to grips with something, having it explained to you in an overly complicated manner doesn't help at all. That's why we'll break it down simply, so that you can actually find the answers you're looking for.
This is where web hosting providers come in. They offer physical servers that can host your website files and ensure your site remains visible and functioning. Web hosting companies also provide technical support in case your website crashes, malfunctions, or slows down. The servers they use are typically housed in data centres, which are large “server farms” comprising thousands of devices with strong, stable, and secure internet connections.
Companies periodically upgrade their servers to meet the rapidly increasing demand for high-speed internet around the world (InMotion have recently upgraded their dedicated servers). As more and more websites need web hosting services, the industry continues to grow.
What are the Different Types of Web Hosting? 👀️
There are a variety of different hosting packages out there, which vary in the type of service they offer. Given that web hosting providers will offer a range of packages and plans, choosing the right web hosting services for you can be a little overwhelming. As such, it's worth taking a little time to understand the different types of web hosting and servers that exist.
The main difference between each type of hosting is the server you'll get. More expensive hosting plans get you private servers that are faster and more secure. Cheaper alternatives are still highly secure, but you'll be sharing the server space with other websites. While you'll likely never encounter speed-related problems, this can slow your site down.
Below, you'll find more details on the various types of web hosting. Discover general information, pricing guides, and the pros and cons of each one.
The simplest and most affordable hosting option that exists, shared hosting is where multiple users and websites share a single server. This means that the overall memory, storage space, and connection speed is divided among all sites on the server. It's usually one of the cheapest hosting options because there are limitations on internet speed and high traffic on other websites can hinder your own site if you share a server.
If you're a small business or blog that's looking to publish a website, shared hosting will likely be the optimal choice for you. The following bullet points give you more information about shared hosting:
- Ideal for small to medium-sized businesses: Websites that aren't too large or don't attract vast amounts of traffic are ideal for shared hosting plans. What's more, the server is pre-configured and maintenance is taken care of by the provider. These factors make shared hosting the perfect choice for smaller companies.
- Cost-effective: The prices of shared hosting plans often reflect the limitations that are characteristic of this type of hosting. For businesses and sites that aren't affected by the limitations, shared hosting can be an incredibly cost-effective way of getting a digital presence.
- Technical support is often not needed: Server maintenance and administration is usually handled by the web hosts, so you don't need to worry too much about the technical side of your website. That said, it's always worth ensuring the hosting provider you choose offers good technical support in case of emergencies.
Dedicated hosting is essentially the opposite of shared hosting. Instead of a single server spread between multiple websites, you'll get your own physical server for your site. You'll have full control over the configurations of the server, including choosing the type of software you want to use and other hosting environment customisations.
The best dedicated hosting providers offer private physical servers that perform incredibly well, much like if you were to create a server yourself. However, the added benefit of partnering with a dedicated hosting provider is that you'll receive full technical support if and when you require it. Check out the advantages and disadvantages of dedicated hosting below:
- Unmatched control over your server's configurations: You can design your physical server to whatever specifications you want, since you'll have sole control over the system.
- Reliable performance even with high traffic: Since you don't share the physical server with anyone else, your website will benefit from increased speeds and less downtime potential. This is great for large businesses, as they can run multiple websites across the same server without worrying about slow loading times.
- Expensive and fairly technical: Dedicated hosting is more appropriate for larger businesses, since they have the budget and technical expertise to successfully implement and manage their own physical server. It's the most cost-effective option for large-scale firms, but is not recommended for smaller sites.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
With VPS hosting, you typically rent space on a shared server, but benefit from your own private virtual space. Each website belonging to a VPS server is allocated a certain amount of resources that they can use without impacting another site's traffic. VPS hosting takes all the best bits of shared hosting and improves the digital infrastructure to ensure you operate separately from other websites.
So, what's good about VPS hosting and what are its downsides? Learn more about virtual private servers below:
- Your own server space: While you still share a physical server with other websites, you'll get your own dedicated space to run your website from. This means quicker loading times and improved security, as well as the fact that your website can function at consistent speeds, regardless of how much traffic there is to other sites on the server.
- Technical knowledge is required: To use VPS hosting effectively, you'll need a little technical knowledge to be able to maintain and manage your virtual server space. This may mean hiring a software developer or increasing your IT costs. Fortunately, VPS hosting plans are often comparably inexpensive.
- Ideal for medium-sized and rapidly growing businesses: VPS hosting provides an excellent option for mid-sized businesses, eCommerce platforms, and blogs — particularly if they are rapidly expanding. It's affordable while also capable of handling high volumes of site visitors.
Cloud hosting solutions use multiple virtual servers to host websites. If one server crashes or experiences high levels of traffic, the others can compensate and keep the website running despite minor system failures. This reduces the potential for downtime, something that's incredibly important for websites of all scales.
Due to the flexibility of cloud hosting, packages will vary greatly in price and services. It's important to shop around to find the best cloud hosting plans for your website, because you'll likely have different needs to other sites. As a result, tailored solutions are often preferred. For more details on cloud hosting, check out the points below:
- Multiple servers reduce downtime: Since your website uses several different virtual servers to function, it can remain running even when one or two of them fail. This is especially useful if your site frequently experiences high levels of traffic, as you'll have greater reassurance that your site will cope.
- Scalable plans: With cloud hosting, you can adapt to your website's growth or reduction. Through tailored and flexible plans, you can add or remove servers where necessary to accommodate for spikes in your traffic or if you want to scale down your business. As such, the best eCommerce platforms often use cloud-based hosting.
You can use WordPress hosting providers to publish your website using a WordPress-optimised server that reduces loading times and minimises any issues that could arise. A staggering amount of websites are created using WordPress, which is why this type of web hosting service can have the best influence on your site once it's live.
If you have a WordPress-created website, though, you do not necessarily need to choose a WordPress hosting provider. That said, it is a beneficial choice, as the best WordPress hosting companies will provide an exceptional range of additional features that can boost your website's traffic. Here's an overview of WordPress hosting:
- Best choice for WordPress websites: WordPress hosting is optimised for WordPress websites, improving the speed and overall performance of your site. If you've not created your website using WordPress, this type of hosting is probably not for you.
- Free web hosting services: You can create and publish your website without having to choose a paid plan, meaning your business' website can be up and running as soon as you've done the design work. The only catch is that you'll have the WordPress name in your domain with free plans.
- Additional features to boost your site: With plug-ins, pre-installed themes, and extra security options, WordPress hosting plans offer services that are rarely found in other hosting packages. It's a great choice for both small and large businesses who want to optimise their website's outreach.
The Best Web Hosting Service Providers ➡️
There are plenty of web hosting providers out there, so it can be hard to find the best ones for you. At Hosting Data, we've done the hard work and collected information on the best web hosting services in the UK, so you can find one that suits you. Click on each individual name to read our review of the respective provider.
These companies all offer similar services in terms of quality and cost. While some are ranked better in terms of customer satisfaction or available support, there might be others that suit your individual requirements better. The best web hosting companies offer tailored packages that are adaptable to your website's growth, but always look for packages that meet your personal needs.
Choosing a Web Hosting Service Provider
Selecting the type of hosting service you need for your business can be a hassle, especially since there are some crossovers and variations between providers. When choosing a service provider, we recommend keeping the following things in mind:
- Budget: First things first, you need to evaluate your budget. If you have a sizeable amount dedicated to IT, you could opt for more expensive hosting packages. But if you're operating on a tight budget, you may benefit from cheaper plans if they still meet your needs.
- Size: Are you a small start-up looking to begin your digital journey, or a large-scale organisation keen on expanding your online operations? The type of hosting plan you pick will depend on how large your requirements are.
- Future plans: If you're forecasting high growth for the next few years, make sure your hosting plan reflects this. You need a flexible package that offers wiggle room for scalability, allowing you to keep your business flourishing and your website running smoothly even with increased traffic.
Web Hosting in a Nutshell 💡️
So, now you've learned all about web hosting. Let's sum up what it's all about:
- Web hosting involves providing a server for your website to use to become visible online.
- There are many different types of web hosting that offer varying levels of speed, security, and control.
- Choosing the right web hosting plan for you will depend on your budget, size, and future plans.
And that's really all there is to it! Without web hosting, the internet would be a pretty lifeless place indeed.
Web Hosting FAQs 🗯️
Still unsure about certain aspects of web hosting? Need a few pointers or reminders about what the whole concept is about? Or just looking to brush up on your web hosting knowledge Either way, check out these frequently asked questions below for some answers.
What is Meant by Web Hosting?
The term “web hosting” refers to the process by which a website becomes visible and accessible online. Physical servers provide space for website files to be stored, and this space can be rented or bought from web hosting companies. They provide the means of getting your website online and functioning constantly — this process is known as web hosting.
Do I Need Hosting for my Website?
In short, yes. If you want your website to be visible online, you need a web host. You can either pay a provider for the server space, or create your own server yourself. The latter option, however, requires a lot of technical ability and effort, so it's most often worth finding a good web hosting company to do it for you. If you want your site to fulfil its intended purposes and functions, you need web hosting to make it accessible to others.
What are the Benefits of Web Hosting?
You need web hosting to give your website online visibility. Without it, your site won't be published on the internet and cannot be accessed by anyone. Depending on the type of hosting you choose, it can be a cheap way of gaining more customers for your business. There are even free web hosting plans if your budget is really tight.
What are the 3 Types of Web Hosting?
While there are other types of web hosting, the three fundamental ones are shared hosting, cloud hosting, and dedicated hosting. Shared hosting is the cheapest, but you'll share server space with other websites and their traffic levels can impact yours. With cloud hosting, multiple virtual servers host your website so if one goes down, the others can keep your site running. Dedicated hosting grants you your own personal physical server.