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Web Hosting FAQ
It can be difficult starting a new website. There are many platforms that allow you to host a website and it's sometimes confusing understanding all of their hosting terms. Here's a simple guide to help you understand each step of the web hosting process:
What exactly is web hosting?
Before a website is published online, it will need to be registered and hosted on a web server. A web server is a simple computer program that dispenses web page files to your browser as they are requested. A server machine will generally have software running on it that allows it to act efficiently as a web server. The purpose of a web server is to store, process and transmit web pages to users browsing the internet.
Selecting a hosting service can be tricky for beginners. There are a few different ways to go about this. You can look into a free web hosting service, but free services generally result in pop-ups or advertisements on your site. If you're looking for total control and transparency then the best option is to pay a reputable hosting company to host to your website.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is an instant way to direct people to your online website. As an owner of the site, you'll be able to select the name of your website. People will recognize your site by the domain name so make sure and choose one that's easy to remember and easy to spell.
What are domain extensions (TLDs)?
A domain extension allows you to classify your domain name by adding a relevant extension such as a ".com" or ".org". Each TLD generally has a purpose. For example, ".com" is typically for commercial use and ".org" is generally used for charities. This line is getting more and more narrow as less domain names become available.
What is bandwidth in web hosting?
Bandwidth measures the level of traffic and data allowed to travel and transfer between your site, users, and the internet. Each web hosting company will offer a specific amount of bandwidth. This is an important criteria when selecting a web hosting company. In most cases, the more bandwidth a web hosting company can provide, the faster and better their networks, connections and systems will be.
How much disk space is necessary?
The amount of disk space will depend on the type of website you have. For example, a website with mainly audio and video files will consume more space than a simple blog. E-commerce sites that list several product pages will also take up more space than an informational site. If you're planning to have a site with a few readers then your site will be fine running on low disk space. Otherwise, it's highly recommended you ensure that your website has ample disk space.
How does paid web hosting work?
There are only three ways to pay when hosting your website. Shared web hosting is known for being the cheapest solution. This is because your website is sharing a single server with several other websites. In most cases, this is more than sufficient, but a dedicated server will also work for sites that garner a high level of traffic. This would mean that your website is the only website on a server. However, the server that you'll use will still owned by someone else. Last but not least, you can get a co-located server, this means you actually own it but you'll still have to pay to have someone else house it.
How much does web hosting cost?
The typical cost for web hosting varies from company to company and it also depends on the type of hosting you require. Shared hosting is generally the cheapest, since many sites are all one on one server, companies prefer to cut expenses and go this method. Many shared hosting companies can charge up to $10 a month. This will often include a fair amount of monthly space, a free domain name and other features such as email addresses and social media plugins. If you're interested in a dedicated hosting plan, then those providers generally cost over $75 a month. A dedicated server is ideal for customers interested in leasing an entire server for a single purpose, such as a large blog that gets substantial traffic.
What is the best hosting company?
There are several good companies out there on the market that are popular among users depending on their needs. To make it an easier decision, we've outlined some of the top providers, but it's ultimately up to you to select the best plan and the best provider to meet your website needs. Two important factors to value are available space and monthly bandwidth.
Are you planning on having a website that supports credit card transactions and website logins?
If so, an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate is mandatory for e-commerce websites because it is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. An SSL will ensure that all data is passed between the web server and browsers will remain private. Need help picking a credit card processor, check out our recent SMB selections for top credit card providers.
Are you looking for a Website Builder?
There are many builder plans available on the internet and the prices vary between each platform. Website builders such as Wix, 3dcart and Weebly are known for providing fantastic templates. These are effective platforms for managing your content in a seamless way. They allow you to customize and design your website through a simple drag and drop procedure.
Which operating system is your server compatible with? Is it Windows or UNIX?
Generally, UNIX is always cheaper and it's also more stable. However, it's not ideal to run .NET or Visual Basic Programs. Windows is more suitable for .NET or Visual Basic Programs.
Once you've sorted all of the technical requirements. It's then time for you to compare price, reliability/uptime, customer support and overall user satisfaction. All of these factors will determine which hosting company is most suitable for your next website.
What is the difference between paid and free hosting?
There are a lot of differences between Paid and Free hosting environments. Free hosting environments generally include ads, banners, pop-ups and other advertising methods that are most likely out of your control. You are also limited by the available features. Free hosting is great for a very basic website, such as a personal one-page website.
Paid hosting is quite flexible because it can offer you a variety of beneficial services. In most cases, paid hosting will provide you with the necessary features needed in building and maintaining a professional website.
How can I choose the right hosting?
Choosing the right web host is critical to running a successful online website. Here are some guidelines you should consider before selecting your web hosting plan:
Start off by figuring out your hosting needs. If your site requires a lot of bandwidth, a shared hosting plan won't be suitable for you. Instead, you should look into a dedicated hosting solution. You won't be using a ton of bandwidth if security is a concern. Therefore, VPS hosting (a virtual private server) may be a better choice for a more secure website.
Know what type of technologies will your website require. For example, do you need Windows compatibility with tools such as ASP, Microsoft Access or Microsoft SQL? Or will you need Unix-based hosting to effectively use platforms such as WordPress, PHP, Perl and MySQL. Most beginners will want a simple shared hosting account on a Unix-based server. This is typically the easiest to use and will fit your needs as a beginner.
Make sure your web hosting plan gives you an option to upgrade. Other things that you should take into consideration include the length of a web-hosting contract and its renewal prices.
Last but not least, look for a web-hosting company that offers multiple ways to contact them. That way you'll always have reliable support.
You may also find other hosting services more appropriate depending on your needs. Hosting services such as cloud hosting, e-commerce hosting, reseller hosting and WordPress hosting are providing customers with a lot of flexibility.
Cloud hosting is a great option if you want to make sure you have a lot of storage space and allows you to utilize cloud computing to do so. There are many advantages to selecting cloud hosting, such as guaranteed server resources, redundant data storage and unlimited website growth.
E-commerce hosting is a popular option for many online businesses. In addition to providing customers with ecommerce functionality, many web-hosting service providers are also capable of providing you with a web server to host your website, along with an email server and other standard web-hosting features.
Reseller hosting is ideal for users who are interested in using his or her allotted hard drive space and bandwidth to host websites on behalf of third-parties. To do this, the reseller will need to purchase the host's services wholesale and then sell them to customers separately for a potential profit at retail prices.
WordPress hosting is an ideal platform for customers who are interested in creating a custom-built website. WordPress is popular among customers because it lets you build a professional custom website using a variety of templates, plug-ins and widgets.
What about after picking a provider?
Once you choose your provider, it's time for you to open an account with the monthly plan that fits your needs. If you still have questions about which plan is suitable for you, call their customer support staff and have them assist you through the registration process. Companies will generally charge a credit card on a monthly basis, however, some companies will also offer discounts for paying a yearly payment at once.
After selecting a provider, it's highly recommended that you test your internet speed to ensure that the data is being processed in a timely manner. You can visit CNET's Internet Speed Test to instantly assess your current internet speed.
How to speed up your website? Finding the fastest hosting provider?
People often think that a web host is the main cause of a slow website but, this is often not the case. When picking a provider, it's important for find a hosting provider that is close to your users and has a good amount of RAM and fast CPU power. Beyond that, it's often the way the website is set up that slows it down for users. To ensure that your website speed is optimal for users you need to make sure you pay attention to the following:
- Minimize HTTP requests to the server. This means that we limit the amount of request that are required to download the page
- Enable server caching. WIth server caching, after content has been download, the content is stored locally to allow faster access of the content and a reduction of strain on your web server.
- Enable compression of larger files. Compression reduces the bandwidth of your files, resulting in a lower HTTP response.
- Remove code bloat. Remove any unnecessary code or plugins.
- Optimize images. This will reduce overall page size.
There are many other ways to increase website speed but, these are the items that will have the biggest impact. You can visit CNET's Internet Speed Test to instantly assess your current internet speed and find a new provider if need be.
What if I can't find my questions here?
Many of your questions can be answered in our CNET Forums. If you're still seeking additional answers, then you may find more helpful information in our database of web hosting articles.
Note: This content was written and produced by an independent third party and is not associated with the CNET Editorial Team.