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Published 28th September 2008 by

Web hosting (sometimes referred to as 'web space') is a service which allows you to upload your own files and site to a shared server in a data centre. Once uploaded, your website can be seen by anyone who is connected to the Internet.
Creating Your First Website Series
  1. What are the types of website available
  2. Introduction to Web Hosting
  3. Registering Domain Names and Configuration
  4. Installing Wordpress
  5. Setting Up New WordPress Site
  6. How To Install WordPress Themes and Plugins
  7. Using WordPress Custom Fields
  8. Creating WordPress Themes
  9. Create Custom WordPress Shortcodes
  10. Creating WordPress Widgets
  11. WordPress Security 101
  12. 10 Essential WordPress Plugins for 2018
  13. 12 Best Free SEO Plugins and Tools

There are many different types of web hosting packages, from a basic account which can be used for hosting eBay images right up to professional reseller packages. There is also a vast array of features which vary between packages and providers, but I will list the most important features and explain what they mean.


The server is a physical computer that processes requests from people connected to the internet and serves the requested content. There are two main flavours of server - shared and dedicated.

Shared servers are as the name suggests, shared. The server will look after many hundreds of other hosting accounts as well as yours. These are usually quite powerful machines and can cope in handling hundreds of websites, however because they are shared there are strict regulations on what you can or can't do on the server. If you just wish to host a site then they are fine, but larger sites and high usage sites may be better with a dedicated account.

Dedicated hosting means that you will have a server all to yourself. This option can be very expensive as you are paying for the whole server and maintenance, while under shared hosting this cost is spread among hundreds of people. Because the server is just dealing with your site(s) you will have a much greater control over the server, including installing third party products and increased resource allocation.

Virtual Private Server is a hybrid of the two. Physically it is a shared server in that many people share the same hardware; however each hosting account runs in a dedicated area on the server (partition). These servers are becoming more and more popular as they offer the flexibility of a dedicated server, with the costs of a shared server.


The platform the server runs on (also called the operating system) will determine the languages you can write your website in. There are two main platforms available, Windows or Unix/Linux.

Windows servers generally run the IIS webserver and ASP or ASP.Net using the Microsoft .Net framework and when using third party software it must be written in ASP. A few Windows servers can run PHP, however there are not many.

Unix/Linux servers use the Apache webserver and run PHP or CGI scripting languages. PHP is by far the more common scripting language used on the web and is often quite a bit cheaper than Windows hosting. If you plan to work with PHP, Perl or MySQL, Linux is the solution you should choose.


Related to the above points, the languages available are somewhat determined by the platform. While ASP.Net can only run on a Windows server, PHP can be run on Windows or Linux servers.

ASP.Net is Microsoft's Internet scripting language which uses the .Net framework. For more details on ASP.Net you may wish to view some of the tutorials hosted on this site C# Tutorials which teach C# and ASP.Net technologies.

PHP is a free scripting language which is pretty much the standard when developing for the web. PHP typically runs on Unix/Linux servers, but it will run on Windows as well.


Databases are used to store information and provide dynamic data driven websites. Windows servers use Microsoft SQL Server while Linux servers will most often use MySql.

If your site is only going to contain a few static pages which do not change then you may not need a database, but if you are looking to run packages such as WordPress then you will need a database.

Web Space

Web space, also called storage, hard drive capacity, disk space and so on. This is the amount of data that can be stored on the server under your account. This varies from as little as 10MB (~8 digital photographs) on a very basic hosting account through to 10GB (~3 DVD quality movies) on pro level accounts. On dedicated hosting packages you can often use as much hard drive space as is installed. Typical disk space allocation is around 2-5GB.

An average WordPress website serving pages and a few pictures may only require 200MB space depending on the number and quality of images.


Also called data transfer or traffic, this is the amount of data that can be transferred over the internet each month. Whenever you upload files or somebody views your website, information travels through the network to allow visitors to see your site. The more visitors you have, the more information travels through the network and therefore the more bandwidth is used.

Bandwidth usage is very difficult to estimate as it depends on the number of visitors per month, the content your site serves and the proportion of visitors downloading that content.

Domain support

Depending on the hosting package and features you may or may not get a domain or sub domain, sometimes an IP address.

There are different styles of domain name offered by hosting providers.

Sub Directory Your website will be accessed from within a sub directory on the server, for example, http://www.hostdomain.com/~username/

Sub Domain Your website will be accessed through a subdomain of the server domain, for example, http://username.hostdomain.com/

Full Domain Your website will be accessed using your own unique domain, for example, http://www.yourdomain.com/.

Other Factors

A couple of other factors you may wish to consider are the number of email accounts, if you have FTP access to the server to upload your files, what support does the host offer, are there any stats packages offered and any additional services provided (site builders, search engine submissions etc...)

These are the main factors you need to be looking at when choosing a hosting provider; you should also research the company and try to find out what they are really like from existing or previous users. The cheapest is not always the best, nor is the most expensive.

Tutorial Series

This post is part of the series Creating Your First Website. Use the links below to advance to the next tutorial in the couse, or go back and see the previous in the tutorial series.

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