If you order an HTML website from us, take a look at our 'Plus Pack', which includes one year's hosting on the same server that hosts our website, and means you won't need to worry about finding reliable hosting. If you prefer to find your own hosting and manage your website yourself, then read on...
The files on your computer need to be stored somewhere so that you can find and use them. The same applies to a website. A website is a collection of files which need to be stored on a server which is connected to the internet, 24:7. This type of storage is called web hosting. If you want to put a website online you need to pay a specialist company to 'host' your website on their servers. It's that simple.
In most cases, websites are hosted on what's called 'shared hosting', which means your website is stored on the same server as hundreds or maybe thousands of other websites. This sort of hosting isn't expensive and can cost as little as $4-5 a month. Of course, the quality of hosting varies considerably, as do the facilities provided. Lower-cost providers generally cram the maximum number of websites on each server, which can affect performance. In general terms, our advice is to go for hosting offered by reputable locally-based companies, even if it costs a little more.
In life, very little of genuine value is free and with web hosting, nothing of value is unlimited. Unlimited storage; your website files need space on a server which is shared with hundreds of other websites, so you don't have to be Stephen Hawking to work out that it isn't possible to give all those sites unlimited storage. In any case, your website is unlikely to take up more than a hundred or so megabytes. Unlimited bandwidth; a server can receive and send a fixed amount of data per second, and this capacity is shared by all the sites on a server. Genuinely unlimited bandwidth only exists if you have your own dedicated servers. Sites which exist primarily for downloading or to stream music and video are rarely tolerated on shared hosting.
Things that count - Every time somebody visits your website, the server uses memory and processing resources to fetch your pages and show them to people. The amount of memory each site can use on shared hosting is subject to 'fair use' rules. These mean that if there are 500 sites on a server, each site can use an equal share of the server's resources. If your site starts using too many resources, other sites will suffer, so your hosting company will tell you to upgrade (pay for a VPS or Dedicated Server, perhaps) or take your business elsewhere.
If you're planning your first website and don't expect to attract thousands of visitors a day, decent shared hosting will probably be good enough. If your site becomes busier over time, you might want to upgrade your hosting to deal with the traffic levels. The important thing is to find reliable hosting. Rather than read the forest of fake reviews that pollute the internet, try searching user reviews on sites such as webhostingtalk.com, where you have a better chance of finding honest feedback on hosting providers.
Assuming you want to keep costs down and aren't planning on launching the next Facebook, you'll be looking for shared hosting, which means choosing between Windows hosting and Unix/Linux hosting. UNIX-based hosting is more stable, performs faster and has fewer compatibility issues than Windows-based hosting. Unless you have a website designed to be run on Windows hosting, Linux/Unix is the better choice. All the websites we create are designed to be run on Linux/Unix hosting. Most Unix hosts provide you with a management program called C-panel (or a similar program) which is basically an administration and file manager program. C-Panel allows you to access and manage your files, create email accounts and so on.
Once you have your website hosting in place, you can link your domain name to the server, which is a simple process that usually takes about a minute, although it can take anywhere from 6 to 48 hours for your domain name to go 'live' and be reachable on the internet.
Wordpress is a program which creates and runs your website for you. All you need to bear in mind is that, like any program, Wordpress needs memory to operate and low-cost shared hosting is usually not good enough for a Wordpress site. Unless you have the right hosting, Wordpress can be horrendously slow, even when you don't have many visitors. The more visitors your site gets, the more resources Wordpress uses. Most shared hosting comes with a range of restrictions on memory, CPU use and PHP usage/memory, which makes it unsuitable for Wordpress. You can find dedicated 'wordpress hosting' which is configured for better performance, but is a little more expensive. In any event, as the number of visitors to your site increases, you will need to upgrade your hosting to allow for the increased memory and resource usage. It's true that there is more to it than is written above, but that's all you need to know to get started.