Web hosting is the service that makes a web site available to others on the internet.
Web sites are hosted, or stored, on a special computer called a server. The server allows Internet users to reach your site when they enter your domain address, for example: www.yourcompany.com.
At its most basic level, a web site consists of many web pages. And a web page is basically composed of texts and graphic images. All of your web pages need to be stored on a web server so that online users can access them.
When you view a web page, your browser establishes a connection to the web server that page is stored on. The information (images and words) on that page is downloaded to your computer where it is displayed in your web browser.
While any computer can be turned into a web server, owning a web server can be very costly. In addition, web server maintenance requires technical expertise most people and businesses don’t posses. As a result, many small businesses opt to outsource their web hosting needs.
Well-established web hosting providers such as Verio, 1&1 Internet, and Yahoo host thousands of websites. This requires a large number of web servers to store the web sites. And all these web servers are connected to the Internet through high speed Internet connection and housed in a physical building called a data center. In order to ensure the security and operability of the web servers, a data center is a physically secure and monitored environment with fire protection, virus detections, computer data backup, redundant power backup and complete disaster recovery capabilities.
Web hosting companies charge a monthly rental fee for the service of storing your web site and allowing web site visitors to access the information on your site. Most small business pay $10-$40 a month for web hosting. Prices vary depending on the traffic, features, and functionality of the web site. More than price, it is important to consider a web host’s reliability and customer support when choosing a provider. Saving $10 a month won’t feel like a bargain if your web site is down and you can’t get in touch with anyone to help fix it.
Web hosting plans are monthly although some companies offer discounts for longer term commitments.
Once you select a web hosting provider and sign up for a plan, you will be provided with information on how to access your web server. This is typically done through FTP. Some web design programs such as Dreamweaver have an FTP client integrated within the program. You can also use a stand alone FTP application such as CuteFTP or WS_FTP to transfer your files.
Once your site is loaded onto the web hosting company’s web server, anyone with Internet access can view your web site from anywhere in the world.
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