How to host a website

Wondering how to host your own website? Or simply looking to find out a little more about website hosting? Well, look no further. Here we’ve got the essentials to website hosting covered

Globally, there are over 1 billion websites in existence. To put that into perspective, there are 7.7 billion people on the planet. So, given the amount of websites out there, you’d think it would be pretty easy to host your own.

In truth, most people use a website builder like GoDaddy or Wix which will both create, and host your website. If you choose not to go down this path, however, you’ll need to arm yourself with a hefty internet server, an almost unlimited power supply and a huge dose of technical know-how.

The biggest reason you might wish to host your own website is for greater freedom and flexibility. For example, if you developed a website with Wix, your content would be exclusively hosted on Wix’s servers, meaning that it’s there for good. But, if you host your own website, you are in complete control of all content, because you are hosting it.

But, with great freedom comes great responsibility.

When choosing to host your own website, there are some really important things you need to know. Read on for a breakdown of the basics.

In this article we will cover:


What is website hosting?

First of all, let’s understand what website hosting actually is.

Your website content takes up space. Not just virtual ‘space’ on the internet, but all that data that sits in the background of your site has to live somewhere. Like the files on your computer are stored on your hard drive, the files for your website are stored on a server.

Think of a server like a shelter that looks after your website and keeps it safe.

But servers are expensive to run, require a whole load of upkeep and take up a lot of space. For this reason there are lots of companies that specialise in web hosting. For a small fee, you can essentially ‘rent’ space with a server, that server will then be your website’s host.

When you use a web host, a specific amount of data space will be allocated to your website. That location will also be linked to a specific (and fixed) Internet Protocol (IP) address. This means that your website is always reachable and your customers will be able to connect to your site.

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But, what’s an IP address?

An IP address is the numerical version of your website’s domain name. We (humans) use words to navigate around the web, for example, when you type something into Google, you use words not code.

Unlike us wordies, computers use numbers and code to navigate around the web. So, when you type a domain name in, your computer will source the site you want via that domain name’s corresponding IP address.

An IP address is basically where certain data lives, and pulls the searcher to the exact location on the exact server as and when required. Each and every device has an IP address, and it’s how we have access to data on the web.

The problem is, domestic IP addresses (like the one linked to your laptop at home) are subject to change. Something as simple as turning off your router can reset your IP address. This is a problem if you’re hosting your own website because once your IP address changes, your customers will no longer be directed to the correct location of your website.

It’s for this reason that most people use a website hosting platform. External servers have Static IP addresses, this means that they are not subject to change. Whereas a domestic IP address is known as a Dynamic IP, which means it is liable to change.


How to host your own website, the nine essentials

Wondering ‘how can I host a website’?

Choosing to host your own website is a complicated and costly (but not impossible process).
Here are the nine web hosting essentials you’ll need to get started:

  1. 1. A web server
    This is a computer that stores web pages. Remember, these are powerful machines so they can get very very hot, it’s worth investing in an air conditioning device too, so your machine doesn’t overheat and cause a fire.
  2. 2. A very strong, fast and powerful internet connection
    This is essential if you want multiple users to be able to access your pages simultaneously.
  3. 3. A lot of money to pump into the project
    The server itself and the speed of connection required to maintain your web presence is only achievable at a very high cost.
  4. 4. A DNS service
    This is used to stabilise a domestic, changeable, dynamic IP address to a static IP address. This will ensure that your domain name points to your actual IP address so customers can find your site.
  5. 5. The website itself, complete with registered domain name
    This goes without saying really, but in choosing to host your own website, you’ll also be creating your own website too. So, you’re going to need bags of techie know-how, or a good developer on your side.

    A good place to start is with WordPress. A free and easy to use system that’ll help you build your website or blog. Or, if you really want to start from scratch, you could use Adobe Dreamweaver.

  6. 6. A bandwidth of about 20 gigabytes per month
    This will allow you to transfer about 2,080,000 pages, if each page is (on average) 10 kilobytes, or 1000 words, in size.
  7. 7. An operating system: Windows or UNXC (Linux)
    This is the software that’ll run your server. Just as your PC might run on Microsoft Windows, your server requires something to run it too, because it’s essentially just a big, powerful computer.

    Note: for smaller websites, there’s very little difference between Windows and Linux.

  8. 8. Scripting knowledge
    Website scripting allows you to program your web pages so they behave in the way you want them too. To script, a programming language is used, such as:
    PHP
    ASP.NET
    Java
    Python
  9. 9. An email account with the same domain name as your website
    Your email account will need to support POP3 or IMAP – but don’t worry of you don’t know what this means, most of the common email accounts, such as Microsoft Outlook are compliant.

  10. What are the alternatives?

    If all of the above sounds a bit complicated and expensive, there are plenty of web hosting providers out there that will do all of the groundwork for you. See our handy guide for the best website hosts for small businesses here.

    When choosing a web hosting service, make sure you keep a cautious eye out for:

    • Hidden bandwidth charges
    • Undisclosed VAT/setup costs
    • Domain name transfer fees
    • Domain name ownership (make sure the domain name gets registered to you and not the company hosting your site)
    • A lock-in contract (most companies offer a month by month rolling contract which will give you more freedom to leave should you wish)
    • Technical support – the world of web hosting is a jargon minefield, if you’re not 100% confident in your tech knowledge, choose a host with good customer support
    • Also, when looking at alternative hosting options, it’s important to keep in mind that there are different hosting services available. These include: shared hosting, dedicated hosting and Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting.

      A website’s size is determined by its number of monthly visitors, and most websites are considered to be ‘small’, so don’t be afraid to label yourself as having a small website, as this is what the majority of sites are.

      Here’s what the different hosting options mean:

      Shared Hosting
      The most popular and least expensive option. With shared hosting, you and a collection of other sites will be hosted on the same server in the same location. Each site will still have a unique IP address, but you’ll share the physical location that your files are stored in.

      A shared host can handle up to 30,000 visitors per month, this is enough for most websites.

      Dedicated Hosting
      This is for bigger websites, with high traffic and lots of content. It’s a more expensive option, and will give you a whole server to yourself.

      VPS Hosting (Cloud)
      Charges by the hour and requires some serious technical know-how. Favoured by developers and code fanatics alike, this option pools together lots of computers in a network to act as a single network.

      Next steps:

      Get yourself set up to start hosting your own website or, if you don’t fancy the faff, find out more about other hosting providers via this handy guide.