Just about anybody can create a presence on the Internet. Building a web site can be as simple as using a word processor, but once you have the site you need a way to publish it on the World Wide Web. This is where web-hosting companies come in.
A web host rents you disk space and provides all the services necessary for others to see your web site on the Internet. Barring technical problems, a web host operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so that anybody in the world can access your web site at any time.
There are literally thousands of web hosts to choose from so choosing an appropriate host can be a difficult task. The prices range from free to hundreds of dollars a year. Hosting companies can offer a multitude of services that can be confusing to a newcomer. This series of articles will help you to sort out all the information available and give you the confidence to make the proper decision about choosing a web host.
Free or Paid?
There are plenty of hosting companies that provide free hosting, so why bother paying for it? The old adage ‘You get what you pay for’ is just as valid in the electronic age as it was 100 years ago. In web hosting, when you pay nothing you sometimes end up with nothing.
Most free web hosts offer limited services. Even though they are not charging you to host your website, they still need to make money. They often do this by placing advertising on your site. You probably won’t have any control over what kind of ads show up – it’s a matter of take it or leave it.
In addition, free hosts may restrict the content you place on your site. You may not be allowed to sell things or have certain content such as videos or music. Finally, your web site could simply disappear overnight. New companies that offer free hosting pop up almost everyday, but they also vanish with astonishing regularity. When your hosting company vanishes, your web site goes with it.
If you are serious about having a web site you need to use a reliable web host. Prices range considerably – some companies offer rates as low as $2 a month while others charge $60 or more. Be careful, though. High rates don’t always translate as high service. Some of the lower priced hosts offer reliable, stable environments that allow your website to be accessed day in day out for years.
Generally speaking the more you pay the more you get. Higher rates should bring you more storage space, more bandwidth to handle Internet traffic, and more services such as databases, email accounts, mass mailers, and the ability to add custom scripts. Higher rates can also mean better technical service if you have problems with your website.
What is a Web Server?
Whichever hosting company you choose, it helps to understand some of the technical details about their service. Every host has dedicated computers called servers which connect to the Internet and ’serve’ pages when they are requested. That is, whenever anyone wants to see a certain web page by clicking on a link the request is sent to the particular server where that web page is stored. The server responds by sending HTML data across the Internet. A web server must have fast connections to be able to serve pages quickly. For the greatest speed and reliability try to find a host that has multiple high-speed connections as well as reliable back up power supplies in case of power outages.