I love analogies and metaphors so here is one that might help explain what a web host is:
Web hosting is like you leasing your telephone line.
The telephone providers give you access to the worldwide telephone network so that you can call your family, friends and colleagues wherever they are. I could try and replicate Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone system in my home but I would only be able to call someone in the kitchen from my bedroom, for example, to ask them to put on the kettle; or call someone in the living room from the kitchen to ask them what’s on the TV. So, I couldn’t call my dad, in his own home, to ask him what time does he want us for dinner.
So, a web host will let anyone in the world see your website. You could setup a computer in your home as a web host. But, without special, costly access arrangements from your broadband provider, and, with an increased security risk to the computer you use it is not a sensible option.
Web hosting is where hardware and network specialists rent you space on their computers so that anyone in the world can have a look at your great website. They have the infrastructure in place to look after this space for you, just like BT have with the telephone network. And when I talk about space I am talking about files stored in a computer folder, much like on your Windows computer or Apple iMac. The files have been programmed by your web designer or developer, to generate your web pages.
A website needs this space mentioned above, and it needs bandwidth. You may have come across “bandwidth” issues at home – when you try to access the internet at very busy times and it is sooooo slow, like on the last internet shopping day before Christmas for example. So a web host, as well as giving you space for your web pages, will give you a bandwidth allowance. This allowance will cater for an estimated number of visitors to your website in a given timeframe.
Where does the domain name come in then I can hear you thinking?
Well, a domain name is like your telephone number – it identifies where the specific website I am looking for is and sends me there. Domain names are managed by registrars. A web host may be a registrar as well. Domain names can be independent of web hosts – your web designer or developer just needs to let the registrar know where the web host has stored the pages.
- You may sell wedding dresses but you don’t make them
- You may bake bread but you don’t mill the flour
- You may assemble parts for the aerospace industry but you don’t create the alloys and composites
Web hosting is a specialist subject, that web designers should have a very good understanding of. But as you can see it is very much a hardware issue that is best left to those with the training, experience and infrastructure.
So web designers will provide web hosting to their clients via a third party. And this third party should have been carefully vetted and assessed beforehand by the web designer. It is normal that a web designer will have used a specific web host several times so can judge if they are going to be any good.
Hope that explains web hosting a bit for you – I have had several enquiries asking about this so I thought I would blog about it. If you have any other questions please get in touch or comment below.