As a web developer, the most obvious part of the job after building a website is taking it live – that is, making it available online for the world to see. All the tricks and tips you’ve learnt and incorporated into your website mean nothing if no one is able to see it. You need your website to be online; otherwise, that e-commerce store you’ve built the website for just might not get the promotion it needs. It’s time to consider Web Hosting.
What is Web Hosting?
Don’t think of Web Hosting as one particular object. Instead, think of it as a system of services that allow you to move all of the files needed for your website to run to a live server, where it can be viewed online. Web hosting is the most important part of developing a website (after building the website, of course). Naturally, unless you’ve spent the countless hours building the website for fun or practice (which is also okay), you would want people other than your friends and family to see the website, and they’re going to have to do it without you sending a collection of files and folders to their email. There are many options for hosting your website on a live server. This is not a discussion as to which option is the best; instead, as a beginner in web hosting, you’re going to learn the most relevant terms related to Web Hosting, as well as how to get started. Here’s your guide to taking your website live by using the services provided in web hosting.
Terms you need to know
As the title suggests, this is a beginner’s guide; therefore, before diving into how everything is done, it is best that you know and understand some common terms related to web hosting.
If you’ve been paying attention, you would have noticed that the term “live server” has been mentioned a few times before. This term is used to describe a server that is connected to the internet for the purpose of hosting a website. It can also be referred to simply as a server or a host. A server, in its simplest sense, is a collection of electronic hardware, and software used to store and manage data. When a server is live in the context of web hosting, it is online, which means that all of the files and data on the server can be viewed from anywhere in the world, through the world wide web. All that is needed is the domain name.
The domain name can be defined as the name you give to your website, so that it can be accessed easily on the web. This is needed in order for users to find your website without having to remember the string of numbers that the computer understands and that point to your website’s location. Your domain name must therefore be unique. It can include letters and numbers, and must also include at least one domain name extension, such as “.com” or “.net”.
One of the biggest concerns when uploading anything to the internet is safety. You want to ensure that your data is protected from all sorts of threats that saturate the internet. Safety is an important issue for web developers and website owners, especially if your website is for an eCommerce business that stores personal data. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a technology that provides the standards for protecting data that is sent between two systems over the internet. It works by encrypting the data that is being transmitted from the source to the receiver, making it hard to read, should it be intercepted by hackers in-transit. SSL is the most commonly used term when it comes to describing website safety. Note however, that you may also see Transport Layer Security (TLS), which means the same thing. There are many types of SSL certificates with different levels of encryption.
Types of Web Hosting
Before you get into how to begin hosting your website, it is important to know what type of hosting you would like to use to do so. This, of course, would be based on what you can afford, what you need to host your website, and any other factors you wish to include.
Free Web Hosting
This is said to be the worst possible option for web hosting. In this type of hosting, your website is added to a server that is shared with many other sites, lessening security and slowing your website down tremendously. With this type of hosting, you are under the control of the hosting service that you are using, which means if they wish to put some of those annoying adds on your website, they can do so.
Shared hosting is the most popular type of hosting, probably because it is the cheapest. It beats Free Hosting in the sense that it is more secure, and the companies that provide this service are more trustworthy. This type of hosting is ideal if you just want to run a small website and don’t need to manage the server yourself. It is still not as safe or as fast as other types of hosting, but it is a pretty safe bet, considering the fact that it is very cheap.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
This is another type of shared hosting that provides something of an illusion of having your own server. Sites on a VPS server are partitioned, allowing each site owner to have control over their part of the server. Your website is also a lot safer and faster than the previously mentioned hosting options.
This is the option for more advanced web hosting. You receive your own server or servers, which you operate and manage on your own. It is the best and most expensive option because you do everything on your own, providing security and all of the resources you need to run your site. It is also much faster, because yours is the only website running on the server.
This option has the advantage of allowing your website to continue running, even if one of the systems that manages it goes down. This is because cloud hosting allows you to use multiple machines to handle your website. This option is a safe bet, because of the reliability and speed it provides due to having your website’s resources split among multiple systems.
Getting started with a web host
Now that you know the most basic needs for hosting your website, you can begin the process of making yours a live website. The process includes paying for what you need and signing up with a web hosting service. There are many companies that provide web hosting as a service.
Step 1: Secure a Unique Domain Name
After you’ve built your website, the next step to take is to decide on a unique domain name. The internet is riddled with domain name generators that provide domain names that are not already in use, if you’re unable to come up with one on your own. When you’ve chosen a domain name, your next step is to purchase and register it, making it unavailable for use by other individuals who may be trying to create their own website. It is worth mentioning that some web hosting services grant you a free domain name when you sign up with them.
Step 2: Sign up for a Web Host
It would be in your best interest to select a hosting service that is popular and has good reviews. You should be the one to determine which option you use, bearing in mind that safety is always a priority. The sign-up process includes, of course, your payment and selection of any other options the service provides.
Step 3: Upload your website
After you’ve purchased your web host, you must upload your website to the server. The service you signed up with should provide you with log-in information, so that you can access the server. You will need a control panel (also called a cPanel) to manage your website from. This management includes uploading your website’s resources, so they can be accessed on the web.
That’s it! You’re done!
You have successfully begun hosting your own website! What was discussed today only scratches the surface of what web hosting is all about. There are many more terms, practices, and tips that you can incorporate as you become a more seasoned web developer. As your business grows and your need for more resources increase, you will need to modify your server’s parameters to suit those needs.
This was a beginner’s guide to web hosting. In this discussion you were able to define the terms Server, Domain Name, and SSL. You also learnt about the different types of hosting and the steps you need to take to begin hosting your own website. Feel free to delve more into the field so you can grow as a web developer. Happy hosting!