Without web hosting your site would not be visible to the outside world. When you pay for a hosting company to house your site you’re paying for space on one of their servers. A hosting company performs many important services. Here are their core functions:
As mentioned in the introduction one of the primary functions is to store the files that make up your web sites (web pages, images, PDFs, etc). However, there’s more to it that that; if you’re running a website that you can update yourself you’re also using the hoster’s database server and scripting language. Hosting companies also have special Internet access that allows them to transfer huge amounts of data at a time—unlike your domestic Internet connection.
You’ll also get use of the hosting company’s mail server—which will handle all your email. This also allows you to use spam/junk filtering systems. Most hosting companies will also offer webmail, which allows you to access your email from any computer with an Internet connection.
Hosting companies offer statistics as well. While they may not be as advanced as something like Google Analytics they’re still very useful as they show a different set of results such as data transfer. They also show the ‘raw’ statistics which shows the total amount of traffic you’re getting—including the search engine crawlers (which Google Analytics filters out).
Hosting companies backup your data in several ways. First all the data is written to two hard drives simultaneously. So if a hard drive fails (one of the most common causes of data loss) your site is still intact on the other drive. Then they back up to a separate server at regular intervals (e.g. hourly). Finally they store backups on a site separate to the main server.
Hosting companies store their servers in a very secure environment. They are housed in special anti–fire, anti–flood units. Additionally they protect your site from hackers via their firewall and anti–virus.
A hosting company does all this and more. Hosting is so inexpensive these days too so it’s something well worth paying for.
If you need help on how to choose a hosting company get in touch with Modern Ants, I’m happy to guide you along.
Domain name & hosting difference
Why do we need web hosting? We’ve already bought our domain.
Your domain name and registration are actually two separate things and here I answer the question: what’s the difference between a domain name and web hosting?
I’ll start by saying that if you’ve made the mistake in thinking they’re both the same you can be forgiven. Why? Most hosting companies offer domain names and a web hosting package together—and they may even appear as the same item on your invoice. I can assure they are different though—and here’s the explanation.
Imagine you buy a small house in a terraced street. Over the years you outgrow the house and subsequently move to a larger detached house in the same area. When you move house you keep the same phone number as this is the one all your family and friends use to get in touch with you. Over the years your children grow up and move out so you downsize to a smaller area; again, you take your phone number with you for the same reasons as before.
Think of the domain as the phone number and the web hosting as the house. Your domain name is a unique identifying word (similar to a phone number); it never changes. Your web hosting is like your house though—and it can change to suit your needs. All your domain name does is provide a common easy way for people and search engines to find you.
In reality, domain names sometimes change (as do phone numbers) but usually only as part of a major rebranding exercise. While some sites stay with the same hosting company for years at a time (as indeed some people spend their entire lives in the same property) it is very common for hosting to change from time–to–time as web traffic, etc changes.
If you still have questions on hosting get in touch with Modern Ants, I’m happy to guide you along.