It seems that you’re not anyone these days if you don’t have a website. But setting up the site itself is only the start, you also need to find somewhere to host it so that it’s available online for your customers or fans to find.

What is a Host?

For your website to be visible on the Internet it needs to be on a machine that’s permanently attached to the Web, preferably with fact connections to cope with high volumes of traffic. If you’re a major corporation you might have the resources to do this yourself, but for the rest of us it’s the function of a hosting company. The host will have dedicated servers running hundreds of sites, so when you sign up for their services you’re effectively renting space on their system to make your site available. They’ll also allow you to buy a domain name – the address of your site – to allow people to find it easily.

How Do I Choose?

Most hosting companies offer a range of different packages. These have varying features. The first is the type of server operating system, such as Windows Server or Linux. If you’re running a straightforward website, this choice isn’t really important, but if you need more specialised things like database functions it could be crucial. The next thing to consider is the amount of disk space the package offers. Simple websites are relatively small. However, if you plan to have a lot of images or media files on your site then you’ll need more space.

You’ll also see hosting companies boasting various amounts of bandwidth. This is the measure of the amount of traffic passed over the Internet each time your site is accessed. Once again an average site will have quite modest bandwidth requirements but popular pages will need much more. It’s generally better to have too much rather than too little, otherwise you risk your site being taken offline or incurring extra charges for exceeding its limits. When you sign up for a hosting package you’ll be offered a number of email addresses associated with your domain name. Make sure that you’re going to have enough addresses to meet the needs of your business.

How Much Will It Cost?

It is possible to get web hosting for free, but this does come with drawbacks. In most cases it won’t allow you to have your own domain name and your visitors may also be subjected to advertising over which you have no control. There will also be restrictions on disk space and bandwidth. The most common pricing model for running a site with your own domain is known as shared hosting. This effectively means you’re renting space on the host’s server. You’ll pay a monthly fee for this based on the amount of space, bandwidth and so on. You’ll also pay to register your domain name and this needs to be renewed every two or three years.

If availability and performance are crucial, or you need to install specialist software, you may choose to rent a dedicated server. This is a much more expensive option and only really suited to larger companies.