For web sites to be available to everyone they need to reside on computers that are always connected to the Internet. These computers are called Servers and they host web pages and all their associated files, such as images, Flash movies, video and audio etc.
Server machines are different from standard desktops or laptops even though the latter may also be connected to the net 24/7. The differences lie in the kind of hardware and software installed.
Typically, Servers are much more powerful (faster processors) than your home/office computers; however, the main distinction is primarily in the kind of installed software. To know more, read about differences between a web hosting Server and your home/office computer.
As mentioned above, a web site has to be placed on a web server for it to be accessible to everyone. Setting up and running a Server is not an easy job. Apart from the special hardware and software, one requires to have a good working knowledge of server maintenance and security. This, you will understand, is not everyone’s cup of tea.
So instead of setting up web Servers in house, majority of web developers ‘outsource’ this to other companies. Typically these web hosting firms rent out web servers on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis. And as per requirements, one can either get an entire Server or a ‘part’ of it from these companies. The latter involves sharing the same Server with others.
Web hosting involves taking the services of hosting company since you, typically, would not have the expertise to set up and maintain a Server. You can, thus, procure a Server dedicated for your web site or share the machine with others. The latter is a much cheaper option and works well for most web sites.
Once you acquire hosting, the nest step is to transfer the web site files to the Server and pointing the domain name (web address) to it. And this brings us to the question on how to develop a web site.
To develop a professional web site, you require three things:
Do not confuse web hosting with a domain name or a web site. These are different entities. A domain name is simply a name… that’s it! Also, a domain name is not your web site.
When you want to develop a web site for, say, your company, the first step usually is to acquire a domain name. The second step is to get a web site made. You can either create the web site on your own or hire a professional developer to do it. Once the web site files are ready they need to be put on a web hosting server.
And why does the web site need to be on a hosting server instead of your computer? Because even though your computer has 24/7 net connection, the files that reside on it cannot be accessed by everyone on the web due to the limitations and security features of the machine. You computer also lacks the necessary software for it to behave like a web server. Thus, you need web hosting to make your web site available to all on the Internet.
Let us understand this again. You need to create a web site for your company – what do you do?
First get a domain name. Second, create your web site. Third, put your web site on a computer (Server) for all to see – this is web hosting.
Typically, web hosting involves purchasing a web hosting package from a reputed and reliable company (recommended reliable web hosting companies). This package details the server configurations and the features at your web hosting account. For instance, the web hosting package will tell you how much hard-disk space you have taken on rent, the amount of bandwidth limit you are allowed per month, the software and hardware available to you etc.
After purchasing a web hosting package, you need to associate your domain name with the web server, or in other words, point your domain to the hosting server. This involves a little knowledge of domain name management. You can find step-by-step instructions on how to associate your domain name with your web site hosting account in “What do I do once I procure hosting?“.
The final step after successful association of the domain name to the web server, is uploading the web site files. This process involves copying the files that reside on your system or the computer of the developer you hired to the web site hosting server machine. This process of transferring files is usually done using FTP. Step-by-step instructions for FTP are available on “How do I put my files on my web host?“.
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