A question I get again and again from clients, friends, fellow network-event attendees, and their moms, is "what exactly is hosting"?
I mean, it is another one of those words that you hear around a lot, but if you're new to the whole "having a website" thing, you may have no idea of what it is, only that you somehow need it for a website. So, let's talk about hosting, what it is, what it isn't, and if you need it-and all in a way that is not too techy and that covers what you as a creative entrepreneur need to know.
What Is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the leasing of internet space where your website will go. If you're opening a brick and mortar store, you either buy a place, or rent a place, or already own a space and build your own building there, so, people can visit your store. Now apply that same concept to the world wide web. For you to build a website, you need space from somewhere. Some people create their own space through their own servers, but as a creative entrepreneur, that's more of a hassle for us. So, we purchase or lease space from someone that already has all that space in their servers. They are hosting us on their web space, so, it's web hosting.
But, imagine that space you got is in the middle of a virtual forest, with no street signs or indications of any kind. You can build a website there, but people won't be able to find it unless they have the specific coordinates. And let's be honest, you don't use coordinates to find places very often. That's when domains come in. Having a domain does not mean you have hosting. Domains are also called web address, because that's what they are, a way to find that hosting space. You purchase a domain with the name you want, and then you connect that domain to that space so people can actually find your website. The domain will lead people through the unknown forest, make sure they don't get lost, and take them straight to your little space in the internet. Am I taking this analogy too far?
Anyways, that's hosting!
But, do I need hosting?
Depends! What kind of website do you have? If you're using a standard blogging platform, like Blogspot or Tumblr, then definitely no, they have you covered. Then there's services who provide you with hosting space and a website builder for more customized website, like SquareSpace or ShowIt-you don't need hosting there either.
But if you want the freedom to grow you website into something bigger, or you want to have more control of every aspect of your website, or you just want one same space where you can build multiple websites for multiple projects, then you want to purchase hosting. Once you have your hosting space, you can install a content management system like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, to help you create your website. Or you can be hard-core and code your own website, but this article is meant for creative entrepreneurs, right? So, we probably don't want to do that when there's solutions that are way easier and way more efficient, we have to make the smart choices!
So many options-how do I choose?
Luckily for you, nowadays everything that can be reviewed has been reviewed. So, you can find lots of pros and cons lists out there telling you what option would be best for you. But I will tell you about what I use and why, and it might be insightful for some of you. The following are affiliate links, meaning that I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. But believe me, I wouldn't recommend them if I hadn't tried them out myself and loved them.
I personally have been on FatCow for about ten years, and recommend them because downtime is minimum, and support has been great all these years. I've built and rebuilt dozens of pages there, and I keep all my websites on that same hosting account. The introductory price is $4.08 / month, and the normal one is $14.95 / month. But there are bulk discounts, and I usually buy 2-4 years in advance. I'm not going to lie, I've had website issues in these ten years, but support has always been very responsive. They have a 24h live chat that usually fixes whatever issue on the spot; the rare few times that the problem was bigger, they passed it on to their tech team who got everything fixed usually within 48 hours.
For most of you, Siteground will be a perfect fit. They have different plans, but the basic one is everything you need to launch your first website. The introductory price is $3.95 / month, and the normal one is $11.95 / month. They are the one I recommend to clients starting their website from scratch, unless their project requires more than what the basic plan offers, but that has not yet happened to any of my clients.
Why do I use FatCow when it seems more expensive? Because I have a lot of websites. I have unlimited amount of websites I can create there. In Siteground, you can only have one website unless you get another plan. So, looking at it that way, it makes more sense for me to stay with FatCow.
Bonus: Siteground Setup
After I recommend people to use Siteground, the next question is usually "how do I do that?". Here is a straight forward, step-by-step guide on signing up for Siteground:
- Visit SiteGround here.
- I recommend you purchase the StartUp package, since it usually covers everything you need for a basic website. So, click on "Get Started" under that package.
- Choose whether you already have a domain or not, and fill out the corresponding information.
- This last tab requires all the information they need from you: new account information, personal information, payment, etc.
- In the Purchase Information box, I recommend you buy at least 12 months of hosting, since what you buy now is what will receive that 3.95 introductory price, the price goes up to $11.95 when you renew.
- In the Extra Services section, there is a "SG Site Scanner" option. If you have someone doing regular maintenance checks on your website, you may not need this. But if you want to get it, it's never bad to have another set of eyes taking care of your website.
And that's it. That's where I step in, install WordPress, and get the project running for my clients!
I hope this has been a useful post, and that your hosting questions have been answered! If there's anything you think I missed, feel free to comment below and I'll look into it.
You've got Hosting, now it's time for your website
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