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What is website hosting?

When you want to visit a website on the Internet, you open your web browser and type in the domain name and the website will be displayed automatically. 

As simple as it seems, there is a process that occurs from the time you type in the domain name to the website being displayed and one of the key players is website hosting.

What is website hosting?

Website hosting (or web hosting) is the activity of providing storage space and access for websites. Simply put, web hosting is a service that provides the technologies and services needed for a website to be viewable on web browsers.

Web hosting is very much like renting an retail space for your business. It’s simply a space where you can put up furnishings and decorations, as well as set up shelves for your products. 

When you signup for a web hosting package, you are paying to use space on your web host’s web servers. These web servers are powerful machines that are constantly connected to the Internet and hooked up to resources designed to handle quite a bit of visitors at one time.

By adding your web files to the web server, you are making your website accessible on the Internet.

The difference between web hosting and domain name

It is very common for people to get confused between a domain name and web hosting, especially if you are new to websites.

The easiest way to explain the difference between web hosting and domain name is: A domain name is like the address of your store, and web hosting is the actual space of your store.  

What you put in the space on your web server is the same as what you put in your store – it’s all up to you. You can use it to store web files that make up your website, or you can use it as an online photo deposit to store all your images. 

How does web hosting work?

Going back to our retail space rental analogy, say if your customers want to check out your new product line, they will look up your store address, then make their way to your front door, come into your store space and request to see your new products. 

Web hosting works the same way by:


  1. When your website visitors want to view your products online, they will open their web browser and type in your website address. 
  2. Their web browser will look up the domain name on a DNS database and match it to the correct web server IP address. This tells the web browser where your website is stored.
  3. Once the correct web server has been located, your web browser will send a request to it to ask for a copy of your website.
  4. The web server will process the request and send over your web files, as requested.
  5. If your visitor fills out the contact form on your website, their web browser will then send their information to your web server, which will be processed and stored for you to manage (ie. read, reply, delete, etc.)


Types of web hosting

Generally, there are four different types of web hosting: Shared, Virtual Private Server (VPS), Dedicated and Cloud. All these types of hosting serve the same basic function – allow you to store your website files. The main difference between the different types of web hosting is the amount of storage capacity, control, technical knowledge requirement, resources, server speed and reliability.

Shared Hosting 

In a shared hosting environment, your website is placed on the same server as many other websites. All websites then share the same pool of server and network resources. The cost for shared hosting is very low and it requires minimum technical knowledge, making it a great entry option for many users. Most websites with moderate traffic levels running standard software can get away with shared hosting with no issues. 

Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting

In a virtual private server hosting environment, a single server is divided into virtual servers. Each website is then hosted on a different virtual server. This creates a dedicated-like hosting environment, but in fact the virtual servers all share the same resources. Because of the dedicated-like environment, users can enjoy greater control and better security at the server level with this type of hosting. 

Dedicated Server Hosting

In the dedicated server hosting environment, you have exclusive use of the entire server. This type of hosting offers the maximum control, performance and security at the server level. But because you are the only user on the server, you have no one to share the  costs – and it can get pretty expensive. 

Cloud Hosting

In the cloud hosting environment, a team of servers (called a cloud) work together to host a group of websites. So, while you are still sharing resources with other websites, there are now more computers to handle all the websites. Because more servers are involved, the costs are generally higher than that of Shared Hosting.