Selecting Your Hosting Platform
If you want a website, you need more than just a domain name — you also must have a hosting account.
Hosting is virtual space on the Internet. To put it in perspective, you can consider your website like a house. Domain names are the addresses people use to find your website, and hosting is the location where your website will live. If you have an address but no home, there's nothing to visit.
When you purchase hosting, you're essentially renting space on a server to hold your website. This space is similar to your personal computer's hard drive, except anyone in the world can find it using your domain name.
Selecting a hosting platform is important — you have to choose what's best for you, in terms of your needs and budget.
Based on your needs, you can select from the following hosting platforms:
Site builders are all-in-one template-based Web applications that include hosting. They're so easy to use, you don't need experience in Web design. With a site builder application, you can create websites — from a personal blog to an online store — using templates that have most of the work done for you.
Site builders are ideal if you want to get online quickly, but they have some limitations. For example, you can't upload a website you created somewhere else.
Web hosting is one of the most popular solutions because it offers plenty of flexibility, can scale to your business's needs, and is reliable. It works by sharing space with others on multiple servers.
With Web hosting, you can upload a website you created somewhere else or that someone created for you. It offers more flexibility than site builders, but requires more experience.
Most hosting companies offer two different Web hosting "platforms:"
- Linux uses the PHP programming language with MySQL databases.
- Windows uses the ASP programming language with SQL Server databases.
Because these are not related to your computer, you don't need to choose Windows if you use a Windows PC. If you're not sure which one to choose, it's OK; we'll help you decide. For more information, see Should I choose a Windows or Linux hosting account?
Web Hosting with an Application
You can also use Web hosting to build a site using other applications.
The most commonly used Web hosting application is WordPress®, which is a powerful content management system (CMS) and website-building application. You don't need to know HTML to build a website with WordPress, but it's not quite as simple as most site builders.
Other applications you can use include Drupal® and Joomla!®. We recommend researching each application before committing to building your site with one.
Servers give you ultimate control, but with great power comes great responsibility. If you run a server, you're typically expected to maintain it on your own. Sometimes there are options to have someone else maintain it for you.
When you purchase a server, you're leasing a server box that's reserved exclusively for you. That gives you the freedom to install your own software, customize hardware options, and create heavy database-driven websites, such as social networks. Some hosting providers have partitioned servers that are reserved only for a few people on that server box.
When you select a hosting provider, you want to ensure they have reliable service with good server and traffic management. You also want to make sure their networks are secure, to protect your website against malicious attacks and hacking.
Once you've selected your hosting platform, you're ready to build your website. We have plenty of tips to help you with that, as well.