Congratulations! You’ve decided to start your first website! And now, you’ve heard, you need to host it somewhere. But what does that even mean, and how do you get started? Don’t worry; it’s easier than you may think. Here’s a guide to help you through the process.
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First, some definitions:
Bandwidth: The transmission capacity of an electronic communications device or system.
GBs: Gigabytes; 1 gigabyte equals 1,000,000,000 bytes.
Server: A computer or device on a network that manages network resources.
Domain name: The name of your website; for example: MyCoolWebsite.com.
Top-level domain: What comes after the “dot” in a web address. Examples are .com, .net, .edu, .biz, etc.
Root access: Administrative access to a server. Basically, it’s the ability to control your server.
Now that you have those key definitions down, here are some more in-depth explanations of the essentials.
What is web hosting?
In simple terms, web hosting means “where you put your website to make it accessible on the Internet.”
What is RAM?
RAM stands for Random Access Memory. Think of RAM like your office desk. The larger your desk is, the more stuff you can put on it without it piling up. The more RAM you have, the more tasks you can perform simultaneously.
What is a CDN?
It’s a Content Delivery Network. A CDN puts files in different locations so the person using your website receives the latest copy quickly.
Do I need a CDN?
You need a CDN if:
- Your site will be image-heavy.
- You plan to stream large video files.
You don’t need one if you’re planning a simpler, text-based site. If you’re starting a blog or simple writing-based website, there’s no need to worry about a CDN.
If you decide to purchase a CDN, Cloudflare and Amazon Cloudfront are two popular and reliable options.
What are HDD and SSD?
- HDD stands for hard disk drive. This is the traditional hard drive we’ve always known, which stores data on platters.
- SSD stands for solid state drive. This much newer type of drive stores data on microchips rather than platters. Because it doesn’t rely on any physical moving parts, SSD is much faster than HDD. In blunt terms, SSD is the future. It’s more reliable and faster, and it’s becoming more ubiquitous every day.
What is a nameserver?
A nameserver essentially translates domain names (like yourcoolsite.com) into IP addresses that your computer can understand. Amazon’s Route 53 is a great nameserver to use.
Which type of hosting is right for me?
It depends on your website’s needs. There are four main types of web hosting:
Shared (~$3.95/month): With shared hosting, your website is on the same server as many other sites.
- Upsides: It’s cheap, and minimal tech knowledge is required.
- Downsides: There’s no root access. Plus, because there may be many sites on the same server sharing the same resources, your site performance can be affected by the other sites on your server.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) (~$29.99/month): A server is divided into “virtual servers.” Each website is hosted on its own virtual server but still shares resources with other sites.
- Upsides: It’s cheap and has root access.
- Downsides: There’s limited ability to deal with heavy site traffic, and your site can still be affected by other sites on your server.
Dedicated (~$99.99/month): Your website is the only one stored on the server.
- Upsides: Your site’s performance won’t be affected by other sites.
- Downsides: It’s expensive.
Cloud hosting (~$25/month but can vary greatly depending on your needs): With cloud hosting, a “cloud,” or team of servers, works together to host a group of websites.
- Upsides: There’s an unlimited ability to handle high traffic volumes.
- Downsides: It’s somewhat expensive, and some cloud host setups don’t allow root access.
How much server space do I need?
The amount of server space you need will vary greatly from user to user. It’s dependent on what your needs are. You can estimate how much server space you need based on these factors:
- Figure out the “category” of your website. Is it mostly text-based? Mostly image-based? Etc.
- Assess the types of files you will be putting on your website. Will you be using a lot of images or videos? If so, you will need more server space.
- Estimate how many individual pages of your site will be in use at the same time. If you’re setting up a personal blog, this number will likely be low. If you’re setting up an e-commerce site, it will be higher.
For most people starting out, a shared hosting plan will probably suit you just fine.
A typical shared hosting account includes 10 GB of storage.
That’s enough to house more than a million HTML documents and over 3,000 high-resolution photos.
What’s the deal with domains?
Like we talked about earlier, a domain name is the name of your website. After you decide on a domain name, you’ll need to register it so no one else can use it. A few of the most popular domain registrars are:
How do I choose a hosting service?
Ask your web host a few key questions before deciding on one.
- What is its server backup protocols? (This is important so you don’t lose critical data.)
- Is there scalability, meaning can you expand your space at a later time if you choose to?
- Are there any limitations to the types of software you can install or run?
It’s important to choose a plan that’s right for your website. Tell your potential host about what you plan to run on your website, what you’re willing to spend, and how much RAM and bandwidth you anticipate needing. If you’re unsure, tell them about your website and ask them for their recommendations. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and to get a second or even third opinion if you feel at all unsure.