A web site lives on a computer… one that is set up as a “web server”. Web servers “serve” – show – web pages to the browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, Internet Explorer etc.), that visit that web site.
Nearly any computer can be set up as a web server, but that doesn’t mean you should let “any computer” hold – host – your site. Use a reputable company that makes it their business to provide good hosting service. There are many of these; we use Hostgator for new sites. If you want us to update your site and it is with another company, we can usually work with that. You will need to provide us with some “under the hood” details such as the logon and password.
What’s it cost to host a web site?
The hosting cost varies by company and should be well under $10 per month, even for a month by month plan, for shared hosting (see “multiple service levels” below for the explanation). If you sign up for longer – 6 months to several years – the monthly cost is less… and you will probably be billed for the 6 months or annual amount when you create your account and provide your credit card number. See the hosting company’s billing policy for details.
Multiple service levels
There are different levels of hosting services. The basic is shared, where one computer hosts multiple web sites. Typically small businesses will be on a shared hosting service plan.
A higher – and more costly – level is a dedicated host, where the server only hosts the web site for one company. High traffic sites such as CNN, Yahoo, Google and Amazon use dedicated hosts, and multiple hosting computers to handle all of the traffic. And they have a number of employees who keep those servers running.
Here’s a good article from Hostgator support on how much traffic a site can handle.
How to choose a hosting company?
Talk to your designer; he/she will recommend one, and may also recommend some to avoid. If you want to do some research, search for “web hosting reviews” and “problems with (company name)”. Many companies may have occasional issues that cause some dissatisfied customers to write a bad review. Bit if the bad reviews seem excessive – especially if fairly recent – than consider another company.
Keep domain name registry and hosting separate
If you are just getting started, absolutely avoid putting both eggs – domain name registration and web hosting – in the same basket. Use separate companies for those two services. That way if you decide to move your site to another hosting company, they can’t delay the transfer. We’ve heard horror stories about that with certain companies.