During the past year we have received many questions from our readers and we have decided to write a full article on the most common questions regarding web hosting. We did expand the research a bit and looked for the most asked questions on sites like Yahoo Answers, Quora, Ask and Google and here is the list of the top most common questions and the answers we have to them.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is the activity or business of providing storage space and access for websites. For example, when you create a website or any other content that you want to be accessed by other users on the internet, you have to buy a web hosting plan, to upload your files on the web server (a very fast computer optimized to deliver content and connected to a very fast network). Then when someone types in a web address in their browser, such as http://www.top5hosting.co.uk the internet connects the web server with the visitors computer and they transfer files. This way your visitors can surf trough your website content.
This raises another question. Can't you host your website on your computer? The answer is Yes, you can. Any computer connected to a network can play the role of a web server. There are many reasons you should not do that tough - your computer has to be online 24/7, you need to have a web server software running, you have to care of your security all by yourself and so on. Nowadays you can buy a professional web hosting plan for as low as 1£/month.
Which is the best web hosting provider in the UK?
There isn't one-word answer to this question. There are many reputable UK hosting companies that can be a home for your web project. Finding the best website hosting provider depend on your business needs, your business model, your monthly traffic and visitors, the type of service or data you are serving to your users and the level of support that you need. All the website hosts in our top 10 UK hosting chart are with a good reputation and will be sufficient if you are just starting. If you have more specific needs, do not hesitate to contact us with details and our experts will provide you with free hosting consulting tailored for your project needs.
What is the difference between web hosting and domain name registration?
Domain name registration and web hosting are two closely connected but very different services. Domain name is your digital identity and what people type in their web browsers to see you content. See the image below.
People buy domain names for different reasons: to host their websites, to get custom e-mails or buy them for business - to sell them later on higher price or park them and make money from ads. So, you can have a domain without having a website, but you can't have your own website unless you buy a domain name(exceptions are the free solutions like wordpress.org or blogger.com but there the site is not really yours). You can find more info on the subject in our Domain buying guide
And here is a visual representation on the difference between web hosting and domain name in this video from GoDaddy.
How much does web hosting cost per year?
It all depends on your needs. The less traffic and space you need, the less is the cost. If you are just starting your business online you can go for a cheap web hosting plan from one of the UK web host providers on that list. Make sure to use the link we have provided to you, since if you go trough our links you can get the special offers for plans as low as 1£/month. The more your needs grow in terms of visitors and space, the more your web hosting plan will cost.
How to get a free domain and website hosting?
A lot of the web host providers will give you a free domain name if you purchase hosting account from them. On our home page at top5hosting if you look in the chart under the domain column you can find the web hosting companies that we recommend and will give you a free domain name. As usual with anything free you should read the fine print. Some of the providers will only keep that free domain for you until you host your website with them. If you decide to change your hosting for some reason, you will still have to pay for it and some companies will even go further and keep the domain. So before you go for the free domain option, you might want to read our article on why you should keep your domain and hosting providers separate.
How to change your web hosting service?
If for some reason your are not happy with your current hosting provider you can easily change it. First use all the steps we have listed on our homepage.
Once you have chosen your new host company, the first thing you want to do is migrate all your data, files and databases to the new hosting. Make a backup of your current site and upload it to the new hosting.
Test it on a sandbox URL address (you can ask the support of your new hosting for the URL) and see if everything is up and running correctly. Then go to your domain registrar and change the domain DNS records with the address provided by your new website hosting company.
What is dedicated IP address in web hosting and do I need one?
First let's start by what is an IP address. It is a unique sequence of numbers separated by dots that identifies each device using the Internet to communicate over a network. The server where your website is hosted also have an IP address that identifies it and in the case of shared hosting, there can be many domain names connected to the same IP address.
Dedicated IP address in a web hosting means that the server will assign a specific number that will be used only by you and your domain name. An example how this works you can see in the image blow.
Do you need one? There are a few reasons that people might want a dedicated IP for their domain. One case is if you want to use an SSL certificate and it needs a separate layer to identify the identity of your site.
Another reason is if your website have a lot of traffic and you want to maintain it faster and reduce the chance of a crash and timeouts for your users. This is why a dedicated or cloud hosting is preferred when you expect high volume of visitors.
The third major case is for SEO reasons. If you are worried that there are a lot of spammy sites hosted on the same server and IP as yours and you want to separate yourself from them. More on the topic is explained in this video. And to check who else is hosting sites on your server, you can use service like www.my-ip-neighbors.com
How to check the web hosting company of a web site?
To check who is the host of a website, use tools like hostingchecker. Just type in the domain name that you want to check and it will display the hosting provider.
What are web hosting reviews and should I trust them?
That is another good question. The answer is you should be very careful when reading information from web hosting reviews sites and make your research well. Even though we have reviews based on tests and research, we still advise our readers to make a list for themselves and follow the steps we have listed on top5hosting to make the best decision for their business model.
The key here is that the majority of the website hosting reviews sites are generating their income based on affiliate commissions and rank the web host providers based solely on the amount of money the reward per sale. Our revenue is also generated this way, but you can make the difference. One example is if you go to a Best UK web hosting reviews site from google, most of them promote US companies with bad reputation like iPage, FatCow and so on.
The difference between top5hosting and the other host review sites out there is that we list only reputable hosting companies with data centers in UK or Europe that will deliver your content faster and with UK based support that can answer your needs in local time with technical admin staff.
How to set up/point DNS for web hosting?
Here is a step by step guide on how to point/connect your domain name to your web hosting by setting up the correct DNS address.
- Contact the support of your hosting and ask them what are your DNS addresses. They should be at least 2 and should look like: dns1.yourhostingcomany.com; dns2.yourhostingcomany.com
- Log in to your web hosting back end and add your domain name to your account.
- Contact your domain registrar and ask them where you should insert the DNS names or search their support database. Most registrars have a good help section.
- Log in your domain registrar account and set up your DNS records.
For a detailed example check the video below where we demonstrate how to connect a domain bought from GoDaddy on a web hosting plan from Siteground. Most of the other registrars and hostings are similar so if you follow the steps above and apply them for your case, you should be up and running fast.
Cheap and reliable web hosting providers?
You should always proceed with caution when buying something cheap, especially a web hosting. A lot of reputable companies have very good starter plans that are cheap, because they are for a small amount of visitors with limited resources but you will get the same good support and trust that you can expect for their larger plans and they are easy to scale. We have a list with cheap and reliable hosting plans for the UK.
Which is a good web hosting for beginners?
If you are just starting we would recommend a web hosting that has good and fast support and can help you along the way. In this case Siteground have a great advantage with their live chat support that you can get hold of a level 2 support in any major case where the current representative can't solve your issue. EUKhost and TSOhost are also two UK web hosting providers with very good support teams.
What is domain?
Domain is the name of your digital presence online and your most valuable digital asset. It is the address you type in your web browser. We have covered a big part of what is a domain in the previous question about the difference of domain and web hosting. Also, we have a domain buying guide for beginners that have the full information you might need when buying your domain name and choosing the right one.
Linux or Windows web hosting?
This depends entirely on the application you are about to start. If it is going to be one of the most common CMS systems like Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal or E-commerce platform, they are all PHP based so the answer is that you are looking for a Linux hosting. If it is going to be based on ASP, .NET or anything Microsoft related, it should be hosted on a Windows server. More information on the topic you can find in our Linux vs Windows hosting article.
What is bandwidth limit in web hosting?
Bandwidth = the total amount of data, typically measured in MegaBytes or GigaBytes, that may be downloaded or uploaded from a particular web site or web hosting account during a given month. We have a thorough article on what is bandwidth here.
Which is the best web hosting for Wordpress?
The short answer is that any hosting company that can serve PHP can host your Wordpress site. The best web hosting for Wordpress is a mix of the best general hosting plans and some specific Wordpress features like free themes, One click install, automatic core updates, one-click installs and migration and so on. We have a list with reputable website hosting companies that are specialized in Wordpress here.
What is cloud hosting?
Unlike shared or dedicated hosting services that are based on one machine(web server), the cloud hosting uses the latest cloud computing technologies to make use of the power of multiple web servers that are connected and act as one. When hosted on the cloud your site will have much less downtime due to server maintenance of malfunction and it is also much easier to scale or handle peaks in visitors, since it can combine the processing power, storage and RAM of multiple machines.
Cloud hosting is a next generation hosting service that can be on pay as you use plan. This can save you money if you expect your site visitors to be uneven with peaks or you expect high traffic that a single machine would not be able to handle. For more information check our list of selected UK cloud hosting companies.
What is CDN(Content Delivery Network)
CDN is a network of servers in different geographical points that deliver cached version of a website to the users based on their location. See the image below to see a scheme of how it works.
How exactly does the CDN work? Once you upload your site to your web hosting server it gets cached on other servers around the world that are part of the CDN. For example, if you serve your website content and images from a hosting company in the UK, the ping(delay) to users in Asia will be more than 400ms because of the distance. If you upload it to a CDN though, when the user requests the content he will be pointed to a server in Asia closer to his location and the ping will be tens of times lower.
The benefit of the Content Delivery Network is mostly speed. This can improve your user experience and SEO. Also, when you deliver the content from different servers it is much less likely to have a crash on a server due to heavy traffic since the users from different locations request the content from different servers.
Which is the best free web hosting plan
As anything free you should be very careful when looking for free web hosting. We advise you to use it only for tests and development and never for production. Most free hosting plans are very limited in resources, serve ads or insert unwanted content in your files. Also, you should read the fine print, since they can have clauses that they can terminate your account at any given time and also the copyright of your content.
In case you want to host a private blog or some other type of low cost site that you can't spend a few pounds a month, it is much more recommended to use one of the free public blogging platforms like wordpress, blogger or tumblr
How to start a web hosting company?
Nowadays it is relatively easy to start your own hosting company. All you need is a website and to buy a reseller hosting account from some of the top UK hosting companies. This way all you have to do is handle sales. All the tech support, hardware, software etc. is handled by the hosting company you partner with. This is the easiest solution with the lowest investment in terms of money and knowledge and it is suitable for any web design agency or internet marketing consulting service that already have clients.
If you want to take it on the next level, you can rent a dedicated server or colocate your own hardware in a data center and handle all the sysadmin work by yourself. This is a more advanced level though, so if you get to it you would know how to handle it.
We hope that you have enjoyed the article and if your questions were not answered, feel free to leave them in the comments and we'll get back to you!