You'd be forgiven for thinking that everyone needs a shared hosting provider but it isn't for everyone! There are pros & cons just like any product, so do your research before you buy!
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Last Updated May 2019
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The Internet is nothing more than a large collection of computers attached to a telecommunications network and a set of protocols that establishes the rules for data to be sent and received by them. Most computers are linked to the Internet through a modem that directs traffic to and from a local phone or cable company. An Internet service provider (ISP) directs the incoming and outgoing data through a local hub to regional hubs.
All the data that makes up a website is located on one or more specialized computers known as servers. Servers can be expensive to purchase and maintain, so companies, known as domain hosts or website hosts, lease server resources to subscribers in return for monthly fees. This allows most anyone to create a website that is available to the public on the World Wide Web (WWW), which is the collective network of all websites in the world that can be accessed through the Internet.
In order for computers to understand each other, universal codes and protocols have been established. One of the most important of these protocols for websites and domain hosting is hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP). It is this protocol that allows queries to be sent to specific servers so that the websites on those servers can be accessed.
To direct a request for access from a client computer to a website server, a system of names attached to Internet protocol (IP) addresses is in operation. The physical location of the server of a particular website is embedded in the name, which is also known as the uniform resource locator (URL).
The first step in acquiring a host is to register a name. These are regulated and maintained by name registrars, which ensure that there is no repetition. The actual registration can be done directly through the registrar but most likely will be done by a third party like a hosting service. They are easily readable by people, but for computers to understand them, domain names have to be linked to binary IP addresses through special servers called domain name servers (DNS). This system allows for a them to be transferred to another server should the webmaster decide to use a different platform.
The registrar may be the same company as the host, or it may be a totally different company. Most companies will allow customers to perform a name search & register it there. In fact if you choose a package first it is likely to get it for free for one year. Because the equipment required by registrars is so similar, most companies engage in both activities. Many companies marketed as registrars offer domain packages to those that use their name registration services, and other companies marketed as website hosts offer free or discounted registration for subscribers to their packages.
Find a host first or start with a search on a registrar. However, if it is already registered, you can subscribe to nearly any other hosting service. All you have to do is tell the host the names of the servers where the name information is stored.
Several different packages are available from hosting companies. Each package has a different set of features, and some may be more important to you and your website than others, but free domains for one year are common & you shouldn’t accept a package which doesn’t include this. Following are the most common types of packages:
Free hosting – Some companies offer free service. This service puts several subscribers onto a single server, and the resources of the server are shared between them. Free packages usually have very few features.
Shared hosting – Can also be a paid subscription service. Fee-based shared packages provide subscribers with more features than free hosts, and service guarantees may be available. Free names add a lot of value to these cheap packages.
Dedicated hosting – Subscribers who want their data to have the highest level of security and who require all the resources of a server can lease private servers that can be accessed and used only by them. These are the most expensive packages, but they provide the most power and flexibility.
Understanding which package will work best for you requires some research. Every domain host provides different features in their offered packages, and prices vary widely.