How to Host a Website (Simple Guide for Beginners) in 2024
If you are thinking of building a website for your business, one of the very first things you need to do is to find a web host for your website.
Hosting involves storing all the files that make up your website and making them available online. You can think of web hosting as renting virtual premises for your online business.
If you are not a technical person, the process of setting up a web host for your website can seem a bit complicated. However, it doesn’t have to be so.
In this post, we’ll walk you through the process of hosting your website and teach you everything you need to know about web hosting. Let’s get started.
How To Host A Website In 4 Steps
The process of hosting a website can be broken down into the following 4 basic steps.
1. Decide What Type Of Website You Want
Before you start setting up hosting, the first thing you need to do is to decide on the type of website you want, since this will determine which kind of hosting is best for you.
There are two basic types of websites – static websites and dynamic websites.
1) Static (Basic) Websites
Static websites are simple websites that display data on a user’s web browser the same way it is stored on the server. In other words, once you upload a webpage onto your host server, this page will remain as it is, and all visitors will be shown the same thing.
With a static site, the client browser makes a request to the server, which then delivers the requested page directly to the browser as it is.
You can think of static websites as online brochures. Everyone who receives the brochure gets the same information, and there’s no option for interacting with the information or elements on the website. Visitors can only view what is on the website.
Static websites are built using HTML (hypertext markup language), while CSS (cascading style sheets) is used to give the website the desired appearance. To make changes to a static website, you have to manually edit each individual page and re-upload it to your host server.
Static websites are a great choice when you’re building a small website with just a few pages, or when you’re building a website whose sole purpose is to pass information to your visitors.
For instance, if you want a one-page website to highlight your products and services and display your contact information, a static website is your best option.
Static websites are generally cheaper to build and host. Since they only hold read-only, non-interactive content and only use two languages (HTML and CSS), they don’t have any advanced hosting requirements, which is why they are cheap to host.
2) Dynamic Websites
Dynamic websites are websites that are able to display varying information depending on the user, the time of day, actions the user has taken on the site, and so on.
Rather than showing the same content every single time, a dynamic website uses client-side and server-side scripts to determine what needs to be displayed on the user’s browser, and then renders the webpage in real-time using building blocks from the website database.
Dynamic websites offer several advantages over static websites. Updating content is easier on dynamic websites, and they allow user interactions, such as creating accounts and leaving comments, as well as more advanced functionalities.
Most dynamic websites are powered by content management systems (CMS). Examples of dynamic websites include blogs, online stores and ecommerce websites, photo galleries, forums, social media sites, and so on.
Due to their advanced complexity and functionalities, database requirements, and the multiple scripting languages that they need to run, dynamic websites need more advanced hosting with better processing capabilities. This also translates to higher hosting costs for dynamic websites.
2. Buy A Domain Name
Once you have decided on the kind of website you want to build, the next step is to register your domain name.
A domain name is the address that someone keys into their browser in order to access your website. A domain name uses the sitename.extension format. For instance, the domain name for this website is founderjar.com.
Every website on the internet has a unique IP address that allows web browsers to locate it on the internet. For instance, let’s assume the IP address for this website is 188.8.131.52. This numeric string would be very difficult for most people to remember.
Domain names provide an easy way for people to access a website without having to remember its IP address. For instance, to access this website, instead of keying in 184.108.40.206, which is hard to remember, you only need to key in founderjar.com, which is very easy to remember.
The process of buying a domain name is very easy. The first thing you need to do is to find a suitable domain registrar. Some of the best domain registrars include Bluehost, Domain.com, GoDaddy, Namecheap, and Hover.
Once you open the domain registrar’s website, enter your preferred domain name in the search bar and hit search to check if it is available. If it is available, you can proceed to complete the purchase. If it is not available, you’ll have to pick another domain name.
The price of a domain name will range from a few dollars per year to thousands of dollars, depending on your chosen domain registrar, the domain suffix, as well as the actual domain name. There are even cases of domain names that sold for millions of dollars.
In most cases, however, you can expect to pay just a few dollars annually. It is even possible to get a domain name for free.
How To Choose A Good Domain Name
Your domain name has a huge impact on your website’s identity, branding, and success, so you need to make sure you’ve chosen a good one. Below are some of the things to keep in mind when choosing a domain name.
- Keep it short: The longer a domain name is, the more likely people are to forget it or to make errors when typing it into their browsers. To avoid this, always keep your domain name short and memorable. Ideally, you should go for 15 characters or less.
- Make it easy to spell and pronounce: Domain names that are easy to spell and pronounce are easier to remember and type correctly.
- Go for a unique and brandable name: Your domain name will form part of your brand, so you want to go for a unique name that can easily stand out in people’s minds.
- Stick with .com: While there are dozens of domain name extensions to pick from, we recommend going for the .com extension if it is available. This is because .com is an established domain extension that will make your website look credible and trustworthy.
- Take advantage of keywords: Where possible, incorporate the keywords your customers search for in your domain. This will make it easier for search engines and people to find your website and understand what it is about, which can improve your search rankings. For instance, if you are a real estate agency from Virginia, you could go for a domain like virginiarealestate.com
- Avoid hyphens and double letters: Domain names with hyphens and double letters are highly prone to typos, which in turn leads to traffic loss.
3. Select A Web Hosting Provider
With your domain name ready, the next step is to choose a web hosting provider. When you choose a web hosting provider, what you are basically doing is renting some space on their servers for the storage of your website files. This is what makes your website available online.
There are dozens of good web hosting providers to choose from, but not all of them are suitable for you. The best web hosting service for you will depend on the kind of website you want to build, your expected levels of traffic, your technical know-how, and so on.
Here are some of the features you need to take into consideration when choosing a web hosting provider.
1) Loading Speed
The longer your website takes to load, the more likely your visitors are to abandon your page. For instance, a 2 second page load speed will lead to a 9.6% bounce rate, but if the load speed increases to 7 seconds, the bounce rate increases to 32.3%.
A high bounce rate, in turn, tells Google and other search engines that internet users are not finding what they are looking for on your website, which can lead to lower search rankings.
To avoid this, you should go for a web hosting provider with fast server speeds that will deliver fast load times.
Every minute that your website spends offline leads to lost revenue. For instance, when the Amazon website experienced a 30-minute downtime in 2013, the company lost close to $2 million in revenue, or about $66,240 every minute.
With downtime potentially leading to such huge losses, it is important to go for hosting providers that provide maximum uptime. Always go for hosting providers that can provide 99.5% uptime or more.
3) Storage Space
The amount of storage space needed will depend on the kind of website you are building. If you are building a large, media-rich website, make sure that the storage space a web host is offering is enough to meet your needs.
4) Monthly Traffic
Some web hosts have a limit on the number of people who can visit your website in a month. If you exceed this amount of traffic, you could either be charged some extra fees, or your website could go offline.
None of this is something you want to have to deal with, so you should go for hosting providers that do not have a monthly traffic limit.
5) Ability To Scale
When starting out, your storage and bandwidth requirements will be minimal. As your business grows, however, your needs will grow as well, so you need to make sure that your chosen web hosting provider will allow you to upgrade your server to meet your future requirements.
6) Essential Features
Before signing up with a web hosting provider, make sure that they offer all the features you’ll need. Check whether they provide essential features like a one-click installer, FTP/SFTP access, .htaccess file access, DNS management, a file manager, regular backups, and so on.
The price of web hosting can range from just a couple of dollars to hundreds, and even thousands of dollars depending on your web hosting provider and your chosen hosting package. Here, it’s all about finding a balance between affordability and the features you are looking for.
One thing to keep in mind is that many web hosting providers have different sign up and renewal prices. This means that a price that seemed low enough when you signed up could become extremely expensive when renewing.
Therefore, when checking the price, make sure that the renewal price is affordable to you, not just the sign up price.
8) Customer Support
Sometimes, you’ll encounter some issues with your hosting account that you are unable to solve on your own. In such situations, you’ll want to be able to quickly reach the hosting provider’s customer support team to help you resolve the issue.
Therefore, always go for hosting providers who have highly skilled customer support teams, and more importantly, make sure that the customer support has a fast response time and is available around the clock.
Best Web Hosting Providers
After detailed reviews of dozens of web hosting providers, we recommend the following, who we have found to be the best web hosting providers.
- Bluehost: Best overall web hosting service, and very suitable for beginners.
- WP Engine: Best for specialized WordPress hosting.
- HostGator: Best cheap web hosting, and highly scalable.
- Hostinger: Best for small business and bloggers looking for fast and affordable hosting
- SiteGround: Best for managed WordPress hosting for personal websites and blogs.
4. Choose A Hosting Plan
Once you have found a web hosting provider that is suitable for your needs, the next step is to select a suitable hosting plan. Most web hosting providers offer multiple hosting plans at different prices, allowing you to pick a plan that is customized to suit your requirements.
When choosing a hosting plan, there are two key things you need to keep in mind – the resources you require, and the level of technical assistance you need.
One of the key differences between different hosting plans is the level of access you have to server resources such as bandwidth and disk space. When choosing a hosting plan, you have to consider whether the provided resources will be enough for your needs.
If you are building a small business website, a personal blog, or a small ecommerce site that will only have relatively small traffic levels, you are better off going for shared hosting, which is cheap but provides enough resources for such websites.
If you are building a large website that will attract hundreds of thousands, or maybe millions of visitors every month, or if you are building a highly customized website that requires specific configurations and specialized software, you’ll need dedicated hosting. While such plans are costlier, they will give you more resources and better control.
Level Of Technical Assistance
Different hosting packages also come with different levels of technical assistance. If you are not very tech savvy and do not expect to tinker with your hosting server settings, the best approach is to go with a managed hosting plan.
With a managed hosting plan, you get a high level of technical assistance, with most of the important stuff, such as networking, security patches, backups, and software updates done for you. Your only responsibility with such a plan is to design and develop your website.
If you know your way around hosting servers and are looking for a greater level of control over your hosting, you can go for a self-managed server plan.
With a self-managed server plan, the web host’s only responsibility is to provide you with a server. You’ll be responsible for everything else, from installing the server operating system and other necessary software to handling security patches, networking, and so on.
Once you’ve chosen your web hosting plan and paid for it, you’re good to go. All you need to do now is to install your preferred CMS on your hosting server and start building your website.
Why You Need Web Hosting
It is possible to build a website using free platforms like Tumblr, Blogger, and WordPress.com, which means you don’t have to pay for, or even worry about hosting.
However, using these free platforms comes with a lot of limits, which is why it is always better to get hosting for your website.
First, hosting provides you with a place to store your website files and makes it possible for people from all over the world to access your website whenever they want.
Second, hosting your website gives you total control over your website. You don’t have to worry about your website being taken down because you didn’t follow some ridiculous terms, or being restricted from monetizing your website however you prefer.
Hosting your website also gives you unlimited customization options. With a freely hosted website, the website actually belongs to the free host, and they determine how you brand your website, the level of customization possible, and so on.
With self-hosting, there are no limitations to what you can achieve with your website. You can customize it as you want, add whatever features you want and so on.
Finally, hosting your own website gives you control over your site’s security, since you have the ability to install security plugins, choose a secure CMS, and take any other necessary measures to keep your website secure.
How To Host A Website Locally
Hosting a website locally means that your website files are going to be stored locally on your computer, rather than renting server space from a web hosting company. Hosting a website locally is a good idea when you want to develop and test a website before taking it live.
The process of hosting a website locally can be broken down into 4 basic steps.
1. Install A Local Web Stack
To host a website, you need an operating system, a web server program, database software, and a programming language.
Since your PC doesn’t come with these programs by default, the first thing you need to do in order to host a website locally is to install these four programs. The easiest way to do that is by installing a local web stack.
Local web stacks are software applications that have all the four different programs needed for web development and hosting. Some examples of common local web stacks are WAMP, WampPServer, and XAMPP.
Most of these local web stacks are open-source and are available to download freely, so all you need to do is to find a suitable one for you and install it on your computer.
2. Configure Your Development Environment
After installing your web stack, run the application and make the necessary configurations that will allow you to use your computer as a host server.
While the configurations will vary depending on your chosen local web stack, this basically involves ensuring that both the web server program and the database program are running, and defining the ports that will allow interaction between the web stack and your host machine.
3. Build Your Website
Once your development environment is ready, you can now go ahead and start building your website. The easiest way to do this is to install your web building platform of choice, such as WordPress, onto your local web stack.
With your web building platform installed, you can now build your website the same way you would do when building an externally hosted website.
4. Make Your Website Public
When you host your website locally, it will be private by default, meaning that only you and people within your local network will be able to access the website. However, it is possible to make the website public and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
To do this, you will need to change the settings on your chosen local web stack from private to public. You’ll also need to change the firewall settings on your computer to allow external web requests.
While you can potentially save money by hosting your website locally and making it available publicly, rather than paying for external hosting, we do not recommend this.
Here are a few reasons why it is not advisable to host a website locally and make it publicly available:
- Unless you have very powerful server hardware and ultra-high bandwidth home internet, your site will have extremely slow loading times.
- You’ll have to keep your computer on around the clock. Anytime your computer goes off, your website goes offline as well.
- You’ll be responsible for managing the host server, including keeping the web server software updated, making backups of the website, performing security patches, and so on.
- You’ll need to request your internet service provider to assign you a static IP address, which will come with extra costs.
- Making a locally hosted website available publicly will make your computer vulnerable to DDOS attacks, malware injections and hacking attempts.
All this can be both time consuming and expensive, which is why it is far much better to host your website externally.
Hosting With A Provider FAQ
The cost of hosting a website depends on your web hosting provider and your chosen hosting plan. Shared hosting plans are usually the cheapest and will cost you just $1 per month. Other plans, such as dedicated hosting and specialized WordPress hosting can cost you as much as $800 per month.
The best hosting provider will ultimately depend on the kind of website you want to build, the features you are looking for, the kind of resources you want, and so on.
That said, some of the best hosting providers for general website hosting are Bluehost, HostGator, SiteGround, Namecheap, and iPage.
The best, beginner-friendliest hosting service is Bluehost. There are several things that make Bluehost suitable for beginners. First, their shared hosting plans not only offer an impressive collection of features, they are also very affordable, which makes them suitable for beginners with small budgets.
Second, their hosting service is designed to be very friendly and intuitive to people who are new to website building. Even if you have zero tech skills, you can still host a website with Bluehost.
Finally, Bluehost offers excellent customer support. This means that if you get stuck (which happens to a lot of beginners), they’ll be there to hold your hand and guide you as you build your website.
Hosting your own website has several drawbacks that make it an unsuitable option for most people. First, it can get very expensive. To host your own website while ensuring good performance, you need to invest in high quality hardware, software, and high bandwidth internet. All these costs can quickly become unmanageable.
Second, hosting your own website needs huge time investments. You’ll have to spend lots of time maintaining your hosting servers and keeping them secure. This is time that would be better spent working on your website and growing your business.
Finally, hosting your own website requires a lot of technical expertise. If you don’t have this expertise, it means you’ll have to hire a team of experts to do it for you, leading to even more costs.
Due to the costs, time-investments and expertise required for self-hosting, most people opt for professional (external) web hosting.
With external web hosting, you are assured of reliable servers and maximum uptime, adequate web security, better search rankings, lower costs, and constant customer support in case you run into problems.
Yes. Once you have installed a local web stack on your computer, you can install WordPress or any other content management system on your local server and use it to build a website just as you would with external hosting.
Launch Your Website Now
If you've been thinking of building a website for your business but didn’t know how to go about hosting the website, we hope that this guide has furnished you with all the information you need on how to host a website.
Remember, hosting a website can be broken down into 4 simple steps:
- Determining the kind of website you want to build
- Buying a domain name
- Choosing your preferred web hosting provider
- Choosing a suitable hosting plan
Now that you know how to go about hosting your website, all that is remaining for you is to build and launch your website now and start attracting customers and growing your business.