If you are new to doing business online, then you need to understand the concept of a web host. Think of it like a library. A library stocks thousands of books. If you are interested in, say, cooking, and you know that Heston Blumenthal has written a book called “My 100 Favorite Recipes”, then you can go to the library, either borrow or open the book, and read all of the recipes.
A web host is akin to an online library. The web host stocks (or “hosts”) thousands of websites. So, in cyber space you can go to the web host and open and view any one of the websites it hosts and read all the information that website contains. The web host is a business, like the library, but instead of having shelves it has computers (or “servers”) which are connected to the internet 24/7 and on which all of the websites it hosts are stored. When you type a web address into your browser you will be taken straight to the website you want, regardless of which web host (and there are thousands) is hosting it.
Theoretically you could host a website yourself, but you’d need the dedicated equipment and skills to do so. When you consider that for a small business hosting can be had for less than ten dollars a month, it isn’t worth thinking about.
A good web host will offer 24/7 support, 24/7 access so that you can update your website (You might be having a sale next week and want to announce it.), a control panel so that you can alter your site, traffic statistics so that you can see how many people visit your site, email accounts so that you can send and receive email via the site, and much more.
There are different types of hosting plans available. Shared hosting is the most common, wherein your website is hosted on a server along with many other websites. For most businesses, this is fine. However, if you have a lot of traffic to your site you might want to consider a dedicated server on which only your website is hosted. Then there are virtual dedicated servers which have several websites running on the same computer, but when you log in it looks as though you have a dedicated server. Finally, there’s managed hosting where you have a dedicated server and the web host manages it for you.
The other things that you do need to consider are support and downtime. With an extremely cheap web host downtime may become a problem because they do not have the staff or the technical know-how of a larger host. Technical support can also be an issue, especially if you are just starting out. You want a web host that offers rapid support and answers to your questions.
As with many things in life, you get what you pay for. However, there is no need to opt for a more expensive program if you don’t need it. Any reputable web host will be happy to discuss your requirements with you. After all you may start out small, but if your business grows they know that they will make more from you in the long run, so it is in their interest to take care of you from day one.