Web Hosting 101: Starting Your Website (Updated March 2023)

Posted on November 3, 2021 | Updated on October 20, 2023

Although people were already shopping online, the COVID-19 pandemic drove online sales in 2020 and 2021 much higher than analytics initially predicted. The numbers never came down once people saw the convenience. Companies find more people want to order online, and they need websites or updated systems to accommodate the advances in how many now use digital shopping.

Statista recently reported online retail sales exceeded $5.7 trillion globally in 2022 and continue climbing. There are numerous factors to consider when building your website in 2023, but one of the most critical elements is where you host your site and what platform you choose.

Consider this guide a sort of web hosting for dummies to help you figure out the ins and outs of basic hosting and choose the best setup for your business needs. 

Web Hosting for Dummies

If you haven’t worked with websites before, the entire process can seem a bit overwhelming. However, there are only a few things you need to truly understand. Sometimes the best way to learn a new skill is to jump in head-first and work out the details along the way.

Types of hosting include basic shared hosting, virtual private networks and dedicated servers. If you don’t understand how the backend of a server works, you may need a managed solution with a team of IT professionals who can handle keeping things up and running while you focus on marketing and sales.

The more services the hosting company offers, the more you’ll pay. Your job is to decide how much work you can and want to delegate to your host. The more work you farm out, the higher your web hosting costs will be.

Web Hosting Vs Cloud Hosting

Gartner predicted a 20.7% growth in spending on public cloud services in 2023, totally around $591.8 billion. At the same time, small businesses struggle to keep cloud computing costs under control and keep up with growth. 

Although there are many nuances, there are two basic types of hosting—cloud and web hosting. The web hosting model stores files on a server. You might have a shared hosting space where allocated resources get split between different websites. You can also choose dedicated web hosting, where the assets of a single server all go to your site. 

For many small businesses, shared hosting easily meets their needs. As your business grows, you can always scale up to a dedicated plan.

Cloud hosting, on the other hand, is virtual space rather than a specific server. You’ll pay for the resources you use as you go. While it still uses servers from different areas to pull up the website for visitors, the usage is much more fluid and delivered more quickly based on the person’s location. 

If you think your business might scale up quickly, cloud hosting is a better option, but you likely won’t notice a massive difference in performance for smaller sites. 

Web Hosting Tutorial

Knowing your intended online presence is the first step to setting up a website. An e-commerce store needs an online shopping cart and an easy way to add new products and track inventory. A static site requires only HTML or PHP and a limited amount of space.

Study what your competitors add to their sites. Do they use features you feel are crucial to a successful online presence? Make a list of needs and wants for your site. What can you live without but would be nice to have? You can always add these features later as your brand grows.

Before you choose a hosting provider, consider what platform to build your site on. Do you prefer a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or an HTML-coded site, or a third-party site? Choose a website hosting company that language works best with.

If you have a lot of technical know-how, building a site with HTML or PHP may be a good option. If you are not very web design savvy, then an out-of-the-box CMS system may be the better choice.

Some questions you’ll want answers to include:

  • What are your uptime scores? 
  • How do you keep my site secure? 
  • Do you offer SSL? Is it included or an additional fee? 
  • Do you keep backups, and for how long?
  • What issues fall under customer support?
  • How easy is it to scale up if my company grows?
  • What rules do you have for bandwidth? Remember “unlimited” is never truly unlimited.

When comparing plans, look at what the site will cost you after the trial period. Most companies raise their rates after the first year. Also, check reviews as some brands have slick marketing campaigns and onboarding but fall flat once you commit to a plan for a year or more.

Web Hosting Vs VPS

We talked about shared hosting a bit and how it’s best for smaller sites and startups. What is a virtual private server (VPS), and how does it work? 

VPS imitates a dedicated server but within a shared environment. Rather than having a single slice of a server, you have more space and the flexibility to move around on the system based on current needs for your site. 

You are still on a shared server, but you’ll have a bit more flexibility. VPS is a step up from shared hosting and works well for sites with frequently changing content, such as an online store or blog. You may have less lag time, depending upon who you share the server with.

Do I Need Web Hosting?

If you run any type of business, you need an online presence. You can throw up a Facebook page, but understand not every customer will use whatever social media platform you choose. With a website, you can reach any customer at any time.

Around 76% of all global searches happen on Google, with over 3.7 billion individual searches happening every day. You need a website to reach those customers and solid marketing to rank in the search engines.

While a typical web host isn’t going to help with search engine optimization (SEO), your server can impact how quickly your site loads and how stable it is. Google does take into account loading speed, although no one is quite sure what Google’s ever-changing algorithm is or how much page speed impacts overall SEO.

Which Web Hosting Is Best for Small Businesses

Comparing web hosting companies is time-consuming, but it’s worth the effort to find the number one web hosting for your needs. We’ve taken the time to look at some of the options out there that work well for small businesses and narrowed your choices down a bit to some we think are stellar. 

Each of these allows small companies to scale up as they grow and offer numerous options depending upon your choice of platforms and needs. As web hosting companies can change rapidly for the better or worse, we recommend proceeding with caution and carefully checking recent reviews before committing to any server.

Interserver Web Hosting and VPS

InterServer opened in 1999 and has over two decades of experience running websites for all types of clients. One of the most unique aspects of the hosting company is that they have 24/7 support with live agents available. For beginner website owners, access to help whenever you might need it is a game-changer. 

The brand consistently gets excellent reviews from its clients. People cite their exceptional customer experience and how they go above and beyond. They offer a variety of packages.

Standard Package

Their standard web hosting package is a shared plan that includes:

  • Unlimited SSD storage 
  • Over 450 cloud apps, many with one-click installation 
  • Free site migration 
  • SitePad website builder 
  • Free SSL certificates

Cloud-Based VPS

They also offer cloud-based VPS, which includes:

  • Dedicated resources 
  • Self-healing hardware, which redirects your site to another node if there’s an issue detected on yours 
  • 99.9% uptime guarantee 
  • Users get a choice between DirectAdmin, cPanel or Plesk

Other Plans

You can also choose WordPress managed hosting or dedicated servers. InterServer is an excellent option for a small brand looking to grow rapidly. You can start small and scale up as you go.


Standard $2.50 per month; Cloud VPS $6.00 per month


Bluehost opened its doors in 2003 and now has more than 750 team members and over two million websites. They also offer around-the-clock live support to help with any emergency at any time. 

They specialize in WordPress websites and have in-house experts dedicated to supporting their customers running on the PHP open source CMS platform. 

Their shared hosting plans come in four packages. Basic provides up to 50 GB SSD Storage for one site; Plus offers unlimited SSD for an unlimited number of sites; Choice Plus adds some privacy and security; Pro bumps the user up to a free dedicated IP. 

For the purposes of comparing plans, we’ll look at the basic features of each type of hosting.

Basic Plan

Bluehost’s  basic plan includes:

  • Custom themes 
  • Sitebuilder 
  • WordPress integration 
  • Free domain name F
  • ree CDN 
  • SSL certificate

Standard VPS

Their standard VPS hosting offers:

  • Comes with two cores 
  • 30 GB SSD storage 
  • 2 GB RAM 
  • 1 TB bandwidth 
  • IP address

Dedicated Plans

They also have dedicated plans. The standard option includes: 

  • 2.3 GHz CUP 
  • Four cores 
  • RAID Level 1 storage 
  • 5 TB network bandwidth
  • Free domain 
  • Three dedicated IPs

Other Options

Bluehost also offers some exciting WordPress options, including a WP builder that allows users to drag and drop their designs. You can choose a basic WP hosting package or managed WP with all the help you need, even if you aren’t technical. 


Standard Shared $4.95 per month; Standard VPS hosting $19.99 per month; Dedicated server hosting $79.99 per month; Standard WordPress $4.95 per month or managed starting at $19.95


HostMonster has been around since 1996. Their services are a bit more basic than many of the other web hosting providers listed here, but they are an excellent solution if you’re looking for a company with a proven track record and some basic features.

Buy plans through HostMonster by choosing from three options.

Basic Package

The basic package includes:

  • 10 GB website space for one site 
  • Unmetered bandwidth 
  • Free SSL certificate 

Plus Plan

Upgrade to the Plus plan to get everything in the basic, plus:

  • Unlimited number of websites 
  • 20 GB space
  • Unmetered bandwidth 
  • Domain privacy 
  • Spam prevention

The Choice Plus Plan

The Choice Plus adds:

  • 40 GB space
  • Domain privacy 
  • Backup protection 

Other Options

You can add on a Pro level and gain a dedicated IP. You can also upscale to any of the bigger packages as you go along, giving you a bit of flexibility.


Basic $4.95 per month; Plus $6.95 per month; Choice Plus $6.95 per month; Pro $14.95 per month

Just Host

Chris Phillips started Just Host in 2002 in California. While a newer company than some of the others, they still have nearly two decades of experience under their belt. The company monitors its servers 24/7 to ensure uptime. If they have an issue, they fix it fast. 

They also offer a money-back guarantee, but you will have to pay a fee if you cancel early. Still, knowing you can get out of the contract without losing most of your money may convince you this brand is worth a try.

Just Host offers four possible plans. Basic, Plus, Choice Plus and Pro. Each comes with additional features.

Basic Plan

Basic includes:

  • One website 
  • Free SSL certificate 
  • 10 GB space 
  • Unmetered bandwidth

Plus Plan

Plus comes with everything in Basic plus:

  • Unlimited websites 
  • 20 GB space
  • As many parked domains as you need 
  • Unlimited email storage 
  • Spam prevention 

Choice Plus Plan

Choice Plus adds:

  • 40 GB space
  • Privacy protection
  • Automated backups
  • Extras

Other Options

Pro has all of the features of the first three packages but also gives you a dedicated IP address. Some of the extras Just Host provides include a free domain name, website builder and one-click software installs, such as for WordPress. 


Basic $3.95 per month; Plus $6.95 per month; Choice Plus $6.95 per month; Pro $14.95 per month

Host Gator

Brent Oxley founded Hostgator from his college dorm room in 2002. By 2012, the brand had grown to a worth of $225 million. Endurance International Group bought it alongside some of their other digital assets such as BlueHost, iPage and Pow Web.

They have a wide variety of packages, making it easy to scale up as your brand grows.

Hatchling Basic Shared Plan

Their basic shared hosting plan provides:

  • Single website
  • 10 GB storage
  • Unmetered bandwidth
  • One-click WordPress installation
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Free domain for one year

Other Options

If you need to add a few domains, upgrade to the Baby plan for $3.50 per month. They also offer a reseller plan starting at $19.95 per month for 60 GB and unlimited sites. The Silver plan gives you 140 GB of space. One thing we don’t like about their reseller plan is the metered bandwidth limitations. The numbers might work fine for most websites, but you can easily run out with one viral campaign.

Their virtual private server plans give you a lot of additional control without costing a fortune. Their smallest package is the Snappy 2000 and comes with:

  • 2 GB RAM
  • 2 core CPU
  • 120 GB SSD
  • Unmetered bandwidth
  • Weekly backups

As your brand grows, you can also invest in a completely dedicated server to meet your increasing needs. Hostgator’s Value Server package includes:

  • 4 cores
  • Intel Xeon-D CPU
  • 8 GB RAM
  • 1 TB HDD
  • Unmetered bandwidth
  • Linux or Windows operating system


Shared Hatchling $2.95 per month; Reseller $19.95 per month; Snappy 2000 $23.95 per month; Value Server $89.98 per month


DreamHost is another college dorm startup. Four friends geeked out in 1997 and started open-source technology before turning into the company it is today with more than 400,000 customers. They host 1.5 million websites and growing.

For businesses and individuals wishing to get online with a basic WordPress site, they offer some managed WP options perfect for their needs. However, the brand also features shared hosting, VPS and dedicated servers.

Their shared hosting sticks to the basics to get people started quickly. You save quite a bit of money if you pay a year in advance.

Shared Starter Package

Their shared starter package meets the needs of most small business owners. You’ll gain:

  • One website
  • Free domain name
  • Unlimited traffic
  • WordPress Preinstalled
  • SSD storage
  • Free SSL certificate

Unlimited Plan

You can upgrade to an unlimited plan for around $9 per month. If you’re looking for cloud hosting, it starts around $4.95 per month. As your company grows, you may want to check out their VPS plans. Their managed VPS plans are very reasonable. The Basic package comes with:

  • 1 GB RAM
  • 30 GB SSD storage
  • Unlimited websites
  • Unlimited traffic
  • Free SSL certs

Dedicated Plans

Your next step might be a dedicated server with resources allocated only to your needs. Their dedicated plans are fully managed, so you don’t have to be a computer guru to keep your site in top shape. With their base dedicated package, you get:

  • Intel Xeon 4-core
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 1 TB HDD RAID 1 storage
  • Root Access Ubuntu 100% uptime guarantee 24/7 tech support DDoS protection

Each level of hosting offers various options and add-ons to meet the individual needs of clients. You can also take out a WordPress package a WooCommerce managed site or add staging.


Basic shared $2.59/month; VPS starts at $10.00 per month; Dedicated starts at $149.00 per month; WordPress managed starts at $16.95 per month


One you might not have heard of but that has an established background is SiteGround. A group of college buddies formed SiteGround in 2004 and today hosts over two million domains. They have offices in the United States, Italy, Spain, Germany, Singapore, Australia and the UK.

The advantage of having datacenters all over the globe means clients can choose a server close to where the majority of their clients reside and reduce lag time. SiteGround is perfect for beginners or businesses that likely won’t need a custom solution in the future. They offer shared hosting, cloud hosting, WordPress and WooCommerce managed hosting and reseller plans.

The StartUp Plan

This basic shared plan comes with:

  • One website
  • 10 GB space
  • Around 10,000 visits per month
  • Unmetered traffic
  • Free SSL
  • Daily backups
  • Free CDN
  • Managed WordPress

The Jump Start Plan

If you get more than 10,000 hits a month, you’ll want to upgrade to the GrowBig or GoGeek plans. Their cloud-based hosting meets the increasing needs of a growing business with employees and customers around the globe. The Jump Start plan offers:

  • 4 CPU Cores
  • 8 GB Memory
  • 40 GB SSD space
  • 5 TB transfer
  • Fully managed server
  • Dedicated resources

WordPress Hosting

The provider also has fully managed WordPress hosting, which includes:

  • 10 GB space
  • 10,000 visits per month
  • Unmetered traffic
  • Free WP Installation
  • Migration
  • Free SSL
  • Daily Backups
  • Free CDN

You can easily start with the most basic package SiteGround offers and then scale up as your brand grows.


Basic shared $3.99 per month; Cloud hosting $100.00 per month; WordPress Managed $3.99 per month; Reseller Reseller plans start at $6.69 per month *Note that they run sales often, so prices may vary slightly.

Web Hosting Vs Web Server

A web server is a computer where websites exist. Typically, a web hosting company owns multiple powerful computers and hosts multiple websites on each. Each server has software installed and provides various services. 

Web hosting utilizes the server to deliver the website to those who visit the address. The hosting allows people outside of the building where the servers reside to access the content via the world wide web. 

The two work together. You can’t have a website without a server, and you can’t easily access a server’s files without the language and programs the web hosting provider installs and maintains. 

Website Security Concerns

Before you create a website, you should think through the security issues you might encounter on any web host. For example, if you install WordPress, you will be a target for hackers. While WP has around 64.3% of the CMS market, it can also be open to security breaches. Cybercriminals love to try to get into a site via backdoor methods and SQL injection attacks.

Fortunately, a good web hosting company will help ensure your site remains secure. They’ll prevent backend attacks and work with you to secure your site. You must do your part by installing firewall plugins and using hard-to-guess passwords.

Train anyone who works on your site to use antivirus software and not fall victim to phishing scams. If you follow basic security protocol and go with a hosting company that takes security seriously, you should stop 99.9% of potential attacks.

Also, seek a host that keeps backups daily. Should the worst happen and your site gets hacked, the server can revert back to a copy before the attack occurred.

How Web Hosting Works

Web hosting offers storage space for content, which customers access via their own computers. Although there are different types of web hosting and a variety of add-ons, the basic concept of storing files on a server is the same whether you choose shared hosting, VPS, dedicated or a cloud host. The delivery and functions vary, but the overall concept is the same. 

Start Your Website Today

For most small business owners, they care less about the exact science behind websites and more about going live to reach their customers. Look for a hosting company offering the support you need for your expertise level. 

Over time, you’ll become more comfortable with some of the software and coding needed to keep your site humming like a fine-tuned machine. You can always hire help for the things you don’t understand. For now, get up and running and worry about the mechanics as you go.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

Leave a Comment

Related Posts