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What is Website Hosting?

Website hosting can be explained best with a mental visual of “Sam” on vacay. Sam walks into a Las Vegas hotel room. Chocolate mints and bath towels folded into the shape of elephants are placed on the bed. The smell of freshly washed sheets and Spring flowers make the room feel inviting. On the night stand sits a basket of fruit, candy, and gourmet cookies, with a hand-written note that reads “Thank you for allowing us to host you.”

But, wait.

This isn’t the type of host you were wondering about; you want to know about website hosts. Website hosting is all technical and intimidating, it’s nothing like the everyday use of the word host. Right? After all, anytime you see the word “website” before a common term, you can bet your bottom dollar that the definition is nothing like its common use!  At least, this is what most people think.

But, they are wrong…

Having a “Website Host” is actually just like being hosted by a hotel in “real life.”

In “real life,” when a person is going on vacation, they will likely search for a hotel. Not only does the person going on vacation need somewhere to sleep, but the hotel is used to store their belongings. The vacationer will be traveling with tons of things that are precious to him or her, and they will need a safe, dependable place to house these items. Beyond the essentials, a typical vacationer will also want a hotel with amenities and extra features.

So, the traveling party will budget the amount of money they are willing to spend, based on the length of the stay and features of the hotel. Some people travel with small children, so a pool and complimentary breakfast is a must during their hotel stay. Others might be looking for a romantic time, and they want a five start restaurant and a luxury spa inside their hotel.

After deciding what is needed from their hotel stay, the average person will go online and begin pricing hotels based on their intended length of stay. The hotel that can provide the most, at the best price, will end up hosting the vacationers.

So, the host hotel is responsible for the following:

  1. Providing a safe, dependable place to store items
  2. Allowing the vacationer to pay, based on the length of his or her stay
  3. Guaranteeing all of the features that the vacationer needs, at the best price

Website Hosting Storage

Website hosting companies bear the same responsibilities as the hotel, except web hosts are neither housing people nor tangible items like designer clothes, passports and hygiene items. Instead, web hosts are housing content that is used on a person’s website. Content can consist of anything that is placed on the website: images, audio files, video files and much more.

When a person packs a suitcase for vacation, they imagine all of the things they want to do and how they want to dress for those activities. Then, they place all of the things needed to bring those ideas to life inside their suitcase. Once the traveler gets to their host hotel, they unpack their suitcase and they can begin living out their ideal vacation. Similarly, a website file folder will contain all of the files that are needed for the home page, about us page, contact page etc. packed inside of it. Once the designer places these files onto a host, and virtually unpacks them, you will have a live website.

What to look for during storage consideration

The vacationer looking for somewhere safe to host their vacation will prioritize the safety of their possessions and how dependable the hotel is, just in case something goes wrong. In the same way, looking for a website host requires a website owner to prioritize safety and dependability. The website owner should be looking for website hosting that seeks to secure website files from viruses or malware and seeks to rectify any issues that may come up during the course of the “online stay.”

Website designer delivering files to a host is similar to a bellhop delivering a suitcase to a hotel room.

Website Hosting Prices

The length of the stay determines the cost of a hotel as well as the cost of website hosting. Because you are renting storage space, you will be responsible for an ongoing cost. You can opt to pay most website hosting companies monthly, yearly, bi-annually, or even tri-annually. Typically, website hosting companies offer discounts to encourage longer hosting commitments because these companies are well aware that there is a lot of competition. A lot of competition means that their customers can pack their files back up and hop over to a new hosting company that offers the same features for less money. Just like at a hotel; if a guest finds out the hotel three doors down has the same amenities for $100 less per night, they are definitely going to check-out and hop on over to the other hotel.

Competitive Pricing + Custom website = Customer Mobility

The same freedom to move around is available in the web hosting world (so long as you are not using a web-builder like SquareSpace or WIX). Do NOT mistake web hosting that you purchase for a custom website with the hosting that is included with a web-builder account. Be sure to read our article: “SquareSpace or Website Designer: Which One’s Best?!” to prevent making this mistake and to learn more on web-builders and hosting.

Website Hosting Features

Similar to a hotel, website hosts have features that they offer. The hotel features might include pools, restaurants, spas, gift shops etc. Website hosting features might include free email accounts, website security, automatic website backups, more gigabytes of space, etc. These features will be very important when a website owner is getting ready launch their site. For example, an eCommerce website will want to make sure that they have a secure site since they will be processing credit card information. A breach of this type of information can be deadly for an eCommerce company.

Other Features to Consider

Additionally, if the owner of the website intends to make changes to their site often, (e.g. blog posts, adding photos to a gallery) having the website automatically backed up is critical. Automatic backups allow the website to be restored to its last point of “good standing” in situations where an alteration causes the website to crash. The restoration process with a backed up site usually takes about two to eight minutes. The restoration process without back up files can take up to two weeks, and can cost up to $300. Talk to your website designer to understand what features you will need for your website’s hosting.

Apples to Apples

In conclusion, a hotel safely stores your belongings, charges you based on the length of your stay, and provides amenities and features to accommodate the specific needs of its customers. Likewise, a website host stores your website’s files, charges you based on the length of your stay, and provides features to accommodate the specific needs of its customer’s website. The primary function of both a hotel and a website host are to function as a storage or housing facility. The other responsibilities, pricing and features, are secondary. A great hotel as well as a great host will make you feel that all three of their responsibilities are primary. So, as you search for the perfect host, keep these pointers in the forefront of your mind. Good luck, friend!