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An Introduction To Web Hosting

Updated - 10/10/2002

This article is intended for the consumer who is brand new to the hosting industry and wishes to learn some of the basics of how hosting works before choosing a provider.

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting involves placing the computer files that your website is composed of (.html, .gif, .swf, etc.) and storing them on a web server. A "web server" is a computer with software installed on it that enables communication through the Internet using specific communication protocols (or languages).

Web hosting companies will gather together several of these web servers in a single facility known as a data center. This "data center" maintains constant, high speed connections to the very backbone of the Internet. Web hosting companies then sell you an allocation of storage space on one of their web servers, combined with a certain amount of data transfer through their Internet backbone connection.

In this manner, Internet users from all over the world have access to your website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When You Buy Web Hosting, What Do You Really Get?

As stated above, two of the most basic elements you get when you purchase a web hosting account are disk storage space and data transfer (also called bandwidth). These are typically measured in Megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes (GB), with 1000 MB equal to 1 GB. Some other account features include:

  • Your own Email Addresses and special forms of email delivery
  • Various Management Tools, like control panels and traffic analyzers
  • Some level of Customer Support for technical assistance
  • Special Components, such as FrontPage extensions or CGI scripts
  • Miscellaneous Bonus Features, like a free Internet marketing kit

Typically, everything you need for hosting your website files is included with a hosting account. One additional purchase that most people should make is registering an Internet domain name. This is the special Internet address that is used to identify your website's location (such as, Most web hosting companies can provide this service for you at the same time that you sign up for a hosting account with them.

To learn more about domain names, click here: Registering Domain Names

The Basic Types of Web Hosting

There are three main types of hosting: shared (or virtual), dedicated, and colocation. If you are brand new to web hosting, then you shouldn't concern yourself with dedicated or colocation servers. Both of those types of hosting involve substantially high costs and a certain level of technical expertise.

Each of those basic hosting types can be further divided by what "hosting platform" is used. The hosting platform that your account uses is determined by the particular type of operating system that is installed on the web server. The three primary operating systems / platforms used today are Unix, Linux and Windows.

Basically, the hosting platform determines what manner of additional special features can be installed on a web server. Certain features will work only on certain platforms, or will simply cost more to get on others.

The Costs Involved With Web Hosting

Prices for web hosting accounts will vary tremendously, ranging from free to hundreds of dollars per month. The features included with your account will usually determine its cost. For example, if you choose to use a free hosting service, you will likely have far fewer account features than if you paid for your account.

For simplicity, we'll stick to the costs of a shared hosting account.

A host may or may not charge a setup fee to configure your account for you. After that, you will be billed on a per month basis averaging around $10.00 to $30.00 per month for shared accounts. Hosting providers will give you nice discounts if you pay for several months, a year, or even two years in advance. No other costs are involved unless you either add more features or you exceed your storage space / data transfer limits.

The average price for the hosting accounts listed on our site are from $5.00 to $9.95 per month. You can examine these providers in our section on Web Host Reviews.

Uploading Your Website To A Web Server

After you have created your website's HTML and graphic files and purchased a hosting account, the next step is uploading them to your hosting provider's web server. There are three methods for accomplishing this:

  • Using a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) software program, such as WS-FTP
  • Through a File Transfer feature in your hosting account's Control Panel
  • Or by a built-in "Publishing Feature" included in your own Website creation software, such as the popular FrontPage or Dreamweaver.

In almost all cases, the information on how to do this will be contained in your hosting provider's account confirmation email, whether you use FTP, their control panel, or web page publishing software. Save that email and read it carefully. It will contain all the data you need, including the server name, username & password for your hosting account. It will also list all of the phone numbers, email addresses and information websites you can use to contact your hosting provider's customer support department.

If you'd like to read some more helpful articles on choosing a low cost hosting provider, then please return to our Hosting Guides section.

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Hosting Reviews
iPowerWeb - $7.95/mo
Lunarpages - $7.95/mo
InMotion - $7.95/mo
Easy CGI - $7.96/mo
FuseBlast - $8.95/mo
HostRocket - $11.95/mo
Globat - $7.50/mo
NitroWeb - $9.95/mo