October 20, 2011 - admin
What Is Web Hosting, and Why Do I Need It?
The basics of web hosting, for the web site novice.
Every time you sit down at the computer, open a web browser (like Chrome, Safari, or Internet Explorer), and click on a link or type in an address that begins with “www.”, there is a complex set of actions happening in the background to take you to a web page.
The exact path these bits and bytes take is an amazing story, and it will be covered in another article in more detail. Today we want to focus on the most basic question of all, “What is Web Hosting?” to help you understand the magic that brings the internet to your screen.
Ask And Ye Shall Receive
Every web site exists as a series of files stored on a computer somewhere out there in the world. When you type in the address for a site like Amazon.com, your computer sends signals out to the internet, finds the Amazon web server(s), and tells your computer how to talk to those servers.
For you, the aspiring businessperson, you simply want to get your information out there on the internet so your customers can start finding you. So when they type “www.YourAmazingBusinessName.com” into their web browser, your smiling face shows up.
But what does this take? How does it work?
From the Phone Book to the Front Door
Building a web site on the internet is like building in undeveloped land around a city. You can build whatever you want, make it as big (or as small) as you want, and use any paint and architectural combination you desire.
This can all be done on your computer, with files stored on your computer. Or you can pay someone else to build those files on their computer. But once those files are complete, that is when a web server is needed.
A web server is simply a computer with some special software installed on it. When you place your files into a particular directory or folder on that computer, the web server can see those files.
For your first web site, you are probably going to use someone else’s web server. If you have ever created a Tumblr, Blogger, or WordPress site, you have simply been creating a web site on someone else’s server. These tools help you automate the process of design, layout, serving, and publishing.
But in the end, there is still just a computer out there on the internet, running web-hosting software, with your files in a specific folder on its hard disk. Whether that computer is housed here at Wowrack, or at Google, or anywhere else, they all work on the same basic principles.
So when someone types “www.YourAmazingBusinessName.com” into their web browser, the server with your files on it responds to the request, and provides the web page. That gets people to your front door.
Cottage or Mansion?
Once inside your web site, people then see what you have created. And this is where the attributes of the server come into consideration.
To support a site with many graphics, animations, videos, or other large files, your server should be very fast and have a fast connection to the internet. People don’t like to wait for things to load – they expect things to appear instantly – so server speed, and the speed of the server’s network, are both important to consider.
If you want to accept payments online and let your customers pay for your items with a credit card, for example, then security is of the utmost concern. A secure server is required to protect your customers’ data.
The other thing to consider here is that if you have a large selection of items available on your site, then you probably need a database to store all those items, and a way to access and update that data. This also requires a very secure system, but databases take a different toll on the server itself. So not every server can run large databases as well as others.
These are just some of the “cottage vs mansion” decisions you will need to make when building your web site. In almost every case, it is the wisest decision to start with the minimum number of features you need, and then grow organically according to customer demand.
Building The Addition
There is a concept called “Minimum Viable Product” that is a wise thing to keep in mind when developing your first web product. Each of the features mentioned above will cost a little more than a basic web-hosting package. So when designing your web site, come up with the ultimate idea… and then start trimming off features.
Continue trimming features until you can’t possibly remove another feature, or the product will not work. Then, release that “MVP” and listen to your initial customers feedback.
As they define the features that you should work on, it will help dictate what kind of hosting you need to grow into. As you build these features – these additions to your cottage or mansion on the internet – your web hosting needs will expand. But there is no need to start off with a huge hosting package “just in case”.
We at Wowrack are here to help you make the right decisions for your web product, and to be able to grow with you as your customers and your business dictates.
That’s what we have been doing for ten years now for literally thousands of web sites. Let us help you be the biggest success you can be.