How to Host a Website
Nowadays, there’s no shortage of options to get your website online. You could use platforms like Wix, Squarespace, and even GitHub quite easily to host it. However, these platforms take some of the management of your website away from you and often have limited customisation options. Also, what happens when the platform you use chooses to up its pricing significantly or, even worse, close down?
For this reason, you might consider using more traditional options for hosting your site. When you do, you can build almost any site you like and manage it yourself. In addition, hosting your website in this way offers several other benefits including that you’ll own your website and data.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at the process you’ll need to follow to host a website.
Decide What Type of Website You’ll Host
The first step in hosting a website, before you consider different hosting providers and hosting options, is knowing what type of site you want to host. This is an important consideration as it, to some extent, will inform what type of hosting will be best suited to meet your needs.
Here, you’ll typically have a choice between two types of websites:
- Static. These are simple websites with one or more HTML pages. They’re called static because the information on them does not change dynamically. A typical example of these websites is a business’s website with home, contact, about, and services pages. When hosting a static website, you’ll upload your files to your hosting server and, because the information they contain can’t be changed dynamically, you’ll need to make changes on your local machine when necessary and upload the files to your hosting server again.
- Dynamic. Unlike static websites, dynamic websites contain information that changes over time. For example, a blog has a library of blog posts with new ones being added continuously. Another example would be an eCommerce website where you have an ever-changing catalogue of products. Either way, hosting these websites might be a little more involved as you’ll need to install and configure a content management system (CMS) to manage the information on the website. Typical examples of these CMSs include WordPress and WooCommerce.
Choose the Right Hosting Provider
Once you know what type of website you want to host, you’ll need to find a place to host it. So, the next step in the process is choosing the right hosting provider. To do this, there are several things you should consider.
The first thing you’ll need to consider is what specifications the hosting provider offers and whether these meet your unique needs. Here, the most important aspects you’ll need to consider are:
- Bandwidth. Bandwidth is the amount of traffic your website can receive, or, in other words, how much data can be transferred between your sites and your users. So, if your website is data-heavy and contains a lot of images and video, you’ll use more bandwidth. In contrast, if you only want to host a static website, your bandwidth requirements will be far less. Ideally, you’ll want to consider a hosting provider that offers unlimited bandwidth on most, if not all, of its hosting packages.
- Databases. In most cases, websites use MySQL as their database. However, in some cases, especially when you want to host a custom website or web application, you might want to use another type of database. So, you’ll need to make sure that the hosting provider offers the type of database you need.
- Scalability. Ultimately, when you build your website, you want it to get more users and grow over time. As such, you’ll need to ensure that the hosting provider you choose offers the necessary room to expand. If not, you’ll sooner rather than later need to move to another hosting provider which is more hassle than what it’s worth.
- Accessibility. Finally, you should also make sure that the hosting provider offers the tools you need to manage your hosting plan and website yourself. If it does, you won’t need to do all the technical work yourself and, in the process, you’ll save a lot of time and effort.
The next thing you’ll want to consider when choosing a hosting provider is reliability. The last thing you want is for your users or customers to go to your website only to find that it’s down. This is where uptime guarantees are invaluable as they indicated how much downtime you can expect. So, as the name implies, these guarantees ensure that your website stays up and running.
What percentage of uptime is sufficient? Well, you should consider hosting providers that offer an uptime guarantee of more than 99.5%. For example, HOSTAFRICA offers an uptime guarantee of 99.9%.
Nowadays, with data and other security breaches becoming more common, security is becoming increasingly important and is vital when you would like to host a website. For this reason, you should ensure that your hosting provider has the necessary security measures in place. These include SSL and regular backups.
Understandably, you might run into issues when setting up and managing your website’s hosting. When this happens, you don’t want to spend hours on fixing issues. So, you should ensure that the hosting provider you choose has stellar customer support that can help you sort out any problems quickly, easily, and efficiently.
Finally, you should also consider what other features the hosting provider offers. Now, these features will likely differ from provider to provider, but one of the most common additional features offered is email accounts. Also, some hosting providers might offer a domain name as part of the hosting package. We’ll deal with this aspect in more detail later.
Decide What Type of Hosting You’ll Need
When you’ve decided which hosting provider you’ll use to host your website, the next step is deciding what type of hosting you’ll need. Ultimately, the main considerations during this step of the process are performance, security, and price. Fortunately, there are many types of hosting available depending on your unique needs and budget.
For example, at HOSTAFRICA, we offer:
- Shared hosting. As the name implies, with shared hosting, or commonly referred to as just web hosting, your website will share a physical server with several other websites. The main benefit of this is that this type of hosting is more affordable than many other types because you’re sharing the expenses. However, there could be some drawbacks. For example, you might manage your website’s security properly, but the other owners on the server might not which, in turn, puts your website and data at risk.
- VPS hosting. VPS or Virtual Private Hosting is similar to shared hosting in that you share a server with others, but, in this case, the server is divided into several private virtual servers that can function independently. This eliminates the security concern mentioned earlier, but, understandably, VPS hosting is more expensive than shared hosting.
- Dedicated servers. With dedicated servers, your website will have an entire server for itself. Typically, this gives you high performance and a dedicated server is also one of the best options if you want the highest level of security. As a result of these features and the fact that you have a server for yourself, dedicated servers are likely also the most expensive type of hosting.
- Cloud hosting. With cloud hosting, you’ll host your website in the cloud. As such, it won’t be hosted on a physical server. Cloud hosting offers good flexibility and there are several options available from Windows servers to Linux and managed options. These types of hosting might offer the best balance between performance, security, and costs.
Choose a Hosting Package
Once you’ve decided what type of hosting you would like, you can choose a hosting package. Typically, hosting packages’ pricing is based on what features they offer. As such, you can expect to pay more if the package offers higher performance, more storage, and other features.
To illustrate this a bit better, let’s look at a simple example. If you look at HOSTAFRICA’s web hosting packages, you’ll see there are four on offer. The most affordable package, Starter, offers 20GB storage, 25 email accounts, 5 MySQL databases, and is priced at R85 per month. Conversely, the Power package is priced at R220 per month and offers 100GB storage, unlimited email accounts, unlimited databases, and more.
Remember, though, hosting packages are not necessarily better the higher their prices are. So, you should carefully consider the available hosting packages and choose the one that meets your needs and budget. In this way, you’ll avoid overpaying for features, storage, and performance you don’t need or ending up with a package that lacks certain essential features.
Get a Domain Name
When you’d like to host a website, you’ll also need a domain name. Now, choosing the right domain name can be the subject of an entirely separate blog post and there are several things you should consider. We won’t deal with these aspects here in detail, except for saying that you should choose a domain name that fits your brand and is easy to remember.
Once you’ve decided on a domain name, you’ll need to buy it. You’ll typically do this through a domain name provider and, unlike your hosting package, it’s a once-off purchase that you’ll then need to renew every year. Fortunately, HOSTAFRICA’s range of web hosting packages includes a free .co.za domain in your subscription.
When you’ve bought your domain name, you should also change your DNS records. This allows you to specify what IP address your website is hosted at and where your domain name should point to. In other words, changing your DNS records ensures that when your website’s users type your domain name into their browser’s address bars, they’ll end up on your website.
To change your DNS records, you’ll need to log into your account with the hosting provider and find the settings option. Here, you’ll find the Name Servers option and enter the records specified by your hosting provider. Once entered, it will take about one or two days before your domain name points to your website.
Fortunately, for the less technically inclined, when you buy your domain name from your hosting provider, as is the case when you subscribe to a HOSTAFRICA hosting package, you likely won’t need to change the DNS records.
Upload Your Website
The final step is to upload your website to the hosting server. When doing so, you have two options. The first is by using cPanel. Here, you’ll log into cPanel and find the File Manager option. In the window that opens, you’ll select public_html and then choose Upload. You can then select the website files you would like to upload.
Using cPanel to upload your website is quite simple. However, it’s not always available. And this is where the second option comes in; you can also use FTP to upload your website to the server. To do this, you’ll need an FTP client like FileZilla or Cyberduck.
No matter which FTP client you choose to use, you’ll download it from the internet and install it on your local computer. Once installed, you’ll connect to your hosting server with FTP by providing the server’s IP address, the username and password provided by your hosting provider, and setting the Port to 21.
Once connected, you can upload your website files to your hosting provider. Keep in mind, though, that although this process is largely the same for every FTP client, the user interface and menus might differ from client to client.
There you do, now you know exactly what to do when you’d like to host a website. When you want to get started, get in touch with us. We offer hosting packages for every requirement and budget and our support is world-class. No wonder over 20,000 customers choose us as their hosting partner.