A server farm showing lots of servers hosting websites

What is hosting?

The age-old question, what is hosting?  We get asked this by nearly all of our customers, and quite frankly it feels like jargon.  Which is why we have written this article.  To explain things in a simple, non-jargon way.  Because as we all know, jargon is the unknown, and often the unknown is scary.

So to explain things in a non-jargon way, perhaps it is easiest to compare it to something in the real world.  So that's exactly what we'll do.

What is hosting most comparable to in the real world?

Hosting is like renting a space to keep your things, but in the digital world.

Just like when you rent a physical space to keep your belongings, with hosting, you rent a space on a server to store your website, web application, or other digital content. This server is usually provided by a web hosting company, which takes care of maintaining the server and making sure that your content is available online.

Think of it like renting a storage unit for your physical belongings. You pay a fee to store your items in a secure location with controlled access, climate control, and security features. Similarly, with hosting, you pay a fee to store your digital content in a secure server with reliable uptime, fast loading speeds, and technical support to ensure that your website or application runs smoothly.

Why should I pay for hosting, can't I store my website on my computer?

Simply put, if you don't have hosting your website or application will not be online.  But why should you have to pay?  You already own a computer, why can't you store the website there?  Well, that's a fair point, and one that many of our customers make.  And the technical answer is "yes", if you want to store it on your computer and ensure your computer is always turned on, and connected to the internet you could do.  But you would usually need a web server installed on your computer, which is also possible.

So, why SHOULDN'T you store your website or application on your computer?

For a start, you may wish to use your computer, and doing that at the same time as many people use your website may slow down the user experience (or your experience).  Or there may be a reason to turn off your computer.  And what if your internet connection goes down?  So does your website.  And they may all be things you can put up with... but they aren't the main reasons.

The main reason to use a hosting company is that they will monitor the website, they will provide security for the website and backups for the website.  And furthermore, those backups should be off-site, in case of a fire or something similar.  The last thing you want is your website to go online and hackers to start trying to hack it and by default try to hack your computer.

But there are other reasons too.  Most hosts are secure environments, protected by CCTV, locks, security etc.  Most will have air-conditioned server rooms specially designed to be at the right temperature.  There are many, many good reasons to use a host instead of self-hosting, but simply put, the most compelling reasons are: 

  1. Your lack of knowledge or expertise in the area.
  2. Your time to learn those expertise in this area (people go to university to learn all these skills)
  3. The fact you won't necessarily have support if you go alone, but with a host you will do.

So before you think about saving a few pounds, think about saving yourself time, protecting your company/website reputation and ensuring your website is online as much as it should be.  Good hosts now offer 99.99% uptime.