What is Host ? (for websites)

This post was last updated on February 18th, 2021

Computer Servers - What is Host ? (for websites)

What is a host for a website? This is a question that most people will ask when they first become interested in setting up a website or blog.  Well in this article I’ll define hosting.  I’ll also explain why you need a host and how to find the best value hosting to suit your needs.  In summary:

A host is the computer server where your website is stored.  It’s served up to the world’s internet from that server. Every website needs a host and unfortunately there are no free options..  The website user’s speed can be increased by utilising a CDN (Content Delivery Network) which becomes a proxy network of hosts.

If you’re starting a website, popular hosts to consider include Bluehost, SiteGround, A2 Hosting and Kinsta.  All hosting incurs a cost to the owner. Thankfully, due to competition, there are some really inexpensive plans out there, for as little as the cost of a coffee per month.

So to start a website, all you really need is a domain name (or URL) which can generally be bought for around $15 per year ( eg from Godaddy) and a host (or hosting as its commonly called).  

A2 Hosting is currently the most affordable with plans starting from just US$2.96 per month which is only $35.52 per year.  This means that you can get up and running with your own website for only $50 or so which is crazily affordable! To check out A2’s plans click here

A2 Home Page - What is Host ?

If you’re looking for even faster hosting at an amazing price, my choice is Siteground.  They offer SSD (Solid State Drive) servers on all of their hosting plans. Their SSD servers give up to 10X the speed of regular shared hosting. 

Siteground Main Screen

For this reason, Siteground is our current preferred choice for shared hosting. Check out their plans here.  Please also have a look at my review of Siteground here. 

What Types of Hosting are There?

The most affordable hosting is shared server hosting.  This is the one that I recommend you start with as it’s the most affordable and perfectly fine for a new site.

With shared server hosting, your website is stored on a server with other customer’s sites.  Your site is in its own container and isn’t affected by others on the server. Bluehost, Siteground and A2 Hosting all offer shared server hosting.  

 

Bluehost Main Screen

One minor drawback with shared server hosting is that there could be some slowdown in page load speed if your site traffic suddenly spiked, such as from a viral post. However, this is unlikely in the early days of your site as you won’t have much traffic.

Cloud hosting is the next level up and is perfect for when your site traffic starts taking off.  The major advantage of cloud hosting is that it’s fully scalable. So if your site traffic explodes with a viral post, your website will be able to handle it with no decrease in speed.  

While you might not need it from the beginning, cloud hosting is something to consider.  The inherent speed will provide SEO benefits immediately. Amongst the cloud providers , Kinsta and Siteground offer great cloud hosting options.

We particularly like Kinsta.  They are a dedicated 100% Google cloud hosting provider who can provide you with premium service and lightening fast page speeds.  

Kinsta Home Page - What is Host ?

If you’d like to check out their plans, please click here. I’ve written a useful review of Kinsta which you can find here.

What is Host (self-hosted) compared to Wix and Squarespace?

But what about Wix and Squarespace and what is host (self-hosted) compared to these platforms.

Well, Wix and Squarespace are website platforms where they provide an integrated hosting and content management system as part of a single package.  They also include drag and drop type website builders in their platforms. 

Build websites with Wix

We’ve found that these platforms have their limitations.  The website builders, while more intuitive in the beginning, tend to be constraining and not as easy as they’re made out to be.  With Wix, you can’t change your theme easily once you’ve chosen it. While SEO is better than it was with these website builders, it still has a long way to go. 

Furthermore, I’ve found that Wix and Squarespace web pages don’t load as quickly as self-hosted WordPress sites do.  This can also have a negative flow-on effect with SEO.

Wix and Squarespace are also a lot more expensive than self-hosted WordPress which is a factor for most people.  By building a website, you’re creating a long term asset, so you need to consider these year-on-year costs.

In comparison, self-hosted WordPress has unlimited scalability and easy portability between hosts.  

If you choose to go with a site builder such as Wix or Squarespace, it’s likely that you will need to move to a self-hosted WordPress host later as your site grows. So it’s usually better to start with WordPress to save the major hassle of moving later.

My belief is that although there’s a steeper learning curve with WordPress, it’s a preferable option for most people.

Why you also need a CMS – either WordPress or Joomla (both are free!)

OK so now you’ve got your domain name (the address where your site can be found).  You’ve also got your $2.96 per month hosting from A2 Hosting or another host (where your website is stored).

What you also need is a Content Management System (CMS).  This is the engine of your website. The most popular by far is WordPress which powers about one third of the internet. Apart from WordPress, Joomla is the next most popular.  Both WordPress and Joomla are open-source software and are completely free.

My recommendation would be WordPress, mainly because it’s the market leader by far.  It offers so much flexibility and there is a huge availability of themes and plugins to do just about anything. 

WordPress is used by some of the most notable companies including TechCrunchBloomberg ProfessionalSony Music and Walt Disney.

 

TC blogs discussion

Your CMS manages how your web pages, posts and images are stored.  It also controls how your site is delivered to users and how they can interact with it.

You’ll also need a WordPress Theme – It’s Also Free!

Your WordPress theme controls what your website specifically does and how it’s stylistically presented to users.  This is the final piece of the website puzzle.

There’s  a raft of free themes on WordPress which are suitable for all types of websites and blogs.

Also available are many paid themes if you’re interested in something more customisable or specific to your needs.

By now you should already have:

  • A domain name / URL → your web address
  • Hosting → where your website will live
  • WordPress or Joomla installed on your host → the engine of your website

And now you also have::

  • A WordPress theme – How your site is styled and presented to users 
 

Conclusion – What is Host ? (for websites)

To summarise, your host is the computer server where your website is stored.  Unfortunately, hosting is a cost that you really can’t avoid if you’re using a CMS or running a blog.   However, it doesn’t need to be expensive. 

Hosts can either be shared server or cloud based (such as Google cloud). If you’re just starting out I’d recommend a shared hosting plan with a provider using SSD drives such as Siteground.

If you’re interested in starting a website or blog, we’ve created a useful guide which can help you through this process.  Please check out the guide here.

Frequently Asked Questions – what is host?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of shared hosting?

Shared hosting is less expensive as you’re effectively using only a small part of the host’s server. The main disadvantage is that surges of visitors to your site might be beyond the scope of your host. This might lead to slowdowns or additional charges.

Is it possible to get free hosting?

No, unfortunately there is no free hosting provider at the moment. So your only option for a free website is using a site builder platform such as Blogger. The downside is that your free website will have a domain name of .blogspot.com.  However, you can choose to pay to use your own custom domain name if you wish.

Photo by imgix on Unsplash

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