Step-by-step website hosting instructions
Follow these instructions and in just four steps, you’ll have a hosted website for all to view online.
1. Buy a Domain
Before you put a web-hosting plan to work, you need to register a domain name. Most hosting companies will help you purchase one if you don't have a domain name already. There may be price advantages to buying both services as a bundle.
You also may buy the two parts separately from different companies. Some hosting providers don’t sell domain names, they specialize solely in hosting products. You must purchase a domain from a domain name registrar before using their hosting services.
Buying hosting and the domain name together greatly simplifies the process; if you buy a domain name and hosting separately, there's an extra step involved. You will need to set the nameservers on the domain registrar's website to point to the addresses provided by your web host. It’s best to check how it’s done with your registrar for instructions, as it can vary from site to site.
2. Choose a web hosting service provider
The next step is choosing a web host. This is an important step because, in order to have your website available on the internet, you need a place to host it. Although you can self-host (which we'll come to later) this space is commonly provided by a web hosting provider. To choose the right hosting provider for your website, there are a few important aspects to consider, which we'll discuss next.
How Do I Choose a Host?
There are lots of factors involved in choosing a web host. There are hundreds of hosting providers available, ranging from local outfits to national providers, like Namecheap. All differ in terms of the price and the services they offer.
Web hosting incorporates more than just making your website available online. Hosting providers also offer other indispensable services, such as technical assistance, firewall protection, email services, domain name registration, and more.
The best way to judge a good host isn't on price. You'll never know whether you need to spend $20 versus $200 a month unless you know your site’s technical requirements. What follows are tips on the features a web host provides. Consider the specifications your site might have, as well as other features you may need to factor into your selection of host.
First things first, make sure your site is available at all times. The last thing you’ll want your visitors to experience is a blank screen when they type your address into their browser. Look for a host with a strong reputation for consistent uptime. Check customer reviews, and their advertised uptime guarantee, which should be 99.5%.
If you plan on running a small site with modest traffic, this might never be an issue. If on the other hand you foresee your site’s traffic growing, think carefully about your uptime allowance to avoid any downtime or upgrade complications.
When a small website goes down because of a problem due to the host, it might bounce back unaffected. Other businesses rely on their websites as their source of revenue and any down time means loss of profits. When a host offers redundancy, it means they will compensate websites if an outage occurs as a result of server-side issues.
In the worst-case scenario is that your site goes down, you’ll need access to quick professional support. This means choosing a provider offering 24/7, 365 professional support to get the assistance you need, if and when you need it.
Bandwidth measures the amount of data or traffic that passes through your website and the rest of the internet. You need a rough idea of how much bandwidth does your site needs from your host. To put it simply, if you don’t host large media files (many images, video, streaming, etc.) you can run off under 10GB per month. This is a decent option for small businesses. Media-sized businesses with over a thousand expected visitors per day and data-packed pages will need something in the region of 150GB per month, by contrast.
Once you have worked out how much bandwidth will be sufficient for your website right now, it’s time to think ahead. Once your site generates more visitors as it becomes more known, you’ll need the option to move to larger hosting to accommodate your traffic avoiding downtime due to excess bandwidth. Make sure your chosen host offers pathways to upgrade, instead of stinging you by charging large amounts for additional usage.
It’s easy to make changes to your server settings and email accounts when you have a control panel through your hosting account. From there you can easily manage your databases, change your backup settings, manage email accounts and plenty more. If your host provides a low-quality control panel or none at all, it can require some technical expertise to handle these tasks. The most common type is cPanel, which is ideal for anyone new to hosting.
If you’re interested in protecting your visitor's security and if you plan on collecting credit card information and processing online transactions, you’ll need an SSL certificate. If your website is SSL secured, you’ll get an SEO boost. To simplify adding a certificate, check if its possible to get one through your chosen hosting package.
Why perform backups yourself when your host can do them regularly for you? In the case of any damage done to your site by hackers, or any other unpredictable event, it’s best to run regular backups to have a recent version of your site to revert back to. A good host carries out backups every 24 hours, so in the event that anything goes wrong, you’ll never lose more than a day’s worth of changes.
If you’re interested in having an email address from your host, check that support for email is included in your chosen package. Most hosts include email with unlimited accounts. It’s always best to double-check that they provide enough for what you need.
The most common type of database used by content management systems, such as WordPress and e-commerce websites, is MySQL. Some websites need other databases, such as SQLite, so check what type your website needs against whether the host offers it.
We’ve covered the types of services you can expect from a host. Getting these benefits from one place will save you time and money, so before you sign on the dotted line, be sure to get a clear picture of what you will receive in your service package.
Questions to ask yourself
Picking the right host is easy if you know what your website needs from a host. To help with that, ask yourself the following questions.
What type of site am I building?
Different types of sites come with different technical requirements. For example, a WordPress site will have different technical requirements than a static HTML site. Think about how your site is going to be built first and foremost. You'll then be more clued up on thing like the coding languages and databases your host needs to work with.
Do I need email hosting?
We've discussed the benefits of setting up email addresses associated with the domain of your new site. It would be a shame to miss out on this by overlooking whether your host provides email hosting that fits your needs.
How much data will I be storing and serving?
The bandwidth you'll require from your host is not just a matter of traffic. It also depends on the files size of the pages you’re showing to that traffic. If your site is packed with data-heavy pages, the more storage, and bandwidth you’ll need your host to have. On the other hand, a predominantly text-oriented site, such as a personal blog, will need a smaller amount of storage space and less bandwidth, while a site with lots of high-quality images will need larger amounts.
How much traffic do I expect?
It's most likely your traffic will start pretty low but, if you plan to build it up to high levels, you 'll need a flexible plan where you can increase your bandwidth capacity as time goes on.
What is my hosting budget?
Think up a ballpark idea of how much you can afford to spend on hosting. If your budget is limited, your service might not include all the bells and whistles. If your budget is a bit more flexible, you might get some extra perks, such as free SSL.
How technically proficient am I?
The beauty of the internet these days is that it's possible for anyone, no matter their expertise, to set up a website. Certain types of site management tasks will require a bit more experience. If you don't have the experience to administrate your server, leave it to the professionals and use a fully managed web hosting service where everything is done for you.
3. Choose a web hosting plan
Now that you’re up to speed on the features web hosting services offer, it’s time to choose a hosting plan to bring your website online. When you browse between web host’s products you'll see four main packages on offer: shared, dedicated, VPS and reseller. Let’s outline briefly what each of these hosting types is.
Shared website hosting
We’ve described how buying web hosting is essentially renting space from a server. When signing up for shared hosting, you share one server with many other customers (websites) who are also renting space on the same server.
Lowest bandwidth allowance
If servers become overcrowded because other users take up more than their share of resources, performance for all other websites may drop
Shared hosting is the most popular type of hosting because it’s cheap and easy to set up. It’s ideal for any brand new, low traffic and low bandwidth site.
Reseller website hosting
Reseller hosting is another form of shared hosting. With this style of hosting you are permitted to sub-rent portions of your own allocated space to others. They typically come with a special dashboard where you can divvy up your space into sub-accounts, allocating storage space and bandwidth.
Performance could be affected if other accounts sharing the server use more than their share of the resources.
Reseller hosting is popular choice when you want more resources than the limited ones of shared hosting plans, but there are still fewer resources than with VPS hosting.
When you purchase dedicated hosting, you won’t be sharing a server or any resources with anyone, and you get an entire server to yourself. This style of hosting gives you more control. You can configure everything on the server because it’s typically self-managed - which doesn’t suit all webmasters.
Using this hosting means you have to take care of all the technical tasks that the hosting company would normally handle for you in a shared hosting service. There is the option of fully managed dedicated hosting. However, this is another price tier up and not within typical hosts standard packages, so you might have to go looking for it.
Dedicated hosting is the ideal choice for websites with very large bandwidth and storage requirements. If you don’t have the technical expertise or time to manage your own server and you don’t have anyone available to help, fully managed dedicated hosting is the right choice for you.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) is somewhere between shared and dedicated hosting when it comes to price and performance. Consider it the next best thing to having your own dedicated server, since VPS is almost as good as having a private server. A VPS divides a single server into separate virtual servers. Similar to shared hosting, there are multiple customers (websites) running off the same servers, but with VPS, the number is far, far fewer and you have dedicated resources. Similar to dedicated hosting plans, you’ll have to take care of technical tasks related to your server yourself if you opt for VPS hosting.
Good and reliable performance
Cheaper than dedicated hosting plans
Customizable server setup
Enough storage space and bandwidth to power data-heavy, busy websites
VPS is common among site owners who need more storage and bandwidth than is offered through shared hosting plans. They might find dedicated hosting is above and beyond their needs regarding price and flexibility. Like with dedicated hosting, be sure to look for a fully managed option if you don’t have the skills or any help with the handling of server admin tasks.