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what is web hosting

What is Web Hosting and why do you need it?

When answering the question “what is web hosting?“, I firstly need to explain what a domain name is.

A domain name is a human friendly address for a computer connected to the internet anywhere in the world. For example, www.mywebsite.co.uk. Computers are actually identified by a series of numbers called an IP address. IP stands for Internet Protocol. Each IP address is unique to every computer on the internet anywhere in the world. Read more about domain names here. BUT, humans are rubbish at remembering strings of numbers. Most people don’t even remember their mobile numbers! The domain name e.g. www.mywebsite.co.uk is a human friendly method of sharing addresses for websites and is totally unique for each and every website.

In essence think of a domain name as an address for a house. Instead, a domain name is an address for a computer.

How does web hosting work?

A web address is no good if there is nothing to see when you type in a web browser, right? If a blank page displayed it would be pointless!

Web hosting can be explained as the plot of land on which a house is built. You can’t build a house without a plot of land. Without an address to find that plot of land you can’t even begin building it. A house without a plot of land is useless. A plot of land on it’s own is pretty dull to look at. And you can’t find that plot of land without an address!

Your website is made up of files. Like when you create a word document and save it on your computer so you can go back at a later date and look at it, then amend it. Those are files on your computer. No one else can see them, unless you share them by email or other methods. Even if your computer is connected to the internet, no one can just access those files without you making them accessible via a computer network, or on the Internet.

In order for people to view your website which is made up of similar files (which create the web page), a web server with online connectivity to the internet is required. A web server is configured so people can access website files and view them from any other computer connected to the internet. When you type in your human friendly domain name to a web browser on your computer, you send a request to another computer (web server) for access to view those files for that website.

A simple explanation of web hosting

  • Mrs Smiths house address is the Domain Name.
  • The plot of land on which her house sits is like a web server in a data centre. Mrs smith could not build a house without the plot of land. Your website cannot be viewed on the internet without the server space which is provided by a web host.
  • Mrs Smith can’t build her house with out tools and materials. You need tools to build a website. Web hosting services also provide you with the tools and materials you will need to build your website, so web hosts are like builders merchants too.
  • The web hosting service does not build your website for you and if Mrs Smith does not have the skills to build her own house then she will need someone to build it for her.  Mrs Smith might need to hire a builder to help her build her house. Often it is necessary to hire a web designer / web developer to develop your website for you.

I hope I have managed to answer the question, what is web hosting? In the analogy above, the website is the house and it’s contents. You have an address for a plot of land, when you get to that plot of land by going to the address, you see a house. That’s your website! All of which are pretty pointless without each other.

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