Launching your website is a lot of work, especially if you need to learn the ins and outs of creating WordPress sites. How to host a website should be something other than an area where you fall on your sword. We're here to simplify the process and provide tips for completing it.
If you make mistakes initially, you might regret them for a long time. Changing your domain name or purchasing unreliable hosting can require much rework to rectify the situation.
Learning things along the way, making mistakes, and correcting them are great life lessons but if you've got a business to run, saving time and checking things off your to-do list is more important.
This article will instruct you on how to host a website and provide the tips and tools you need to get started. But before that, let's break down what hosting a website is and if it's easy or not.
Web hosting – is it easy?
Sometimes it would be nice to press the easy button and have things done for you. Hosting a website is one of those things if you prefer to avoid getting your hand's dirty learning and tinkering.
Website hosting companies manage and connect your website to the world. Web hosts keep your website in a space known as a ‘server.' You might share that web server with other website owners, known as shared hosting, or have the entire area yourself.
You can often apply upgrades and third-party add-ons to your website hosting to improve the functioning of your website.
Many hosting providers charge clients based on several things: storage needs, bandwidth, the volume of traffic the site sees, and the security needed. Sometimes, you'll also be able to scale the extent of their support, security, and management services.
It may sound technical, but acquiring website hosting is simple if you have good guidance. It doesn't require special skills, and anyone with a computer and a working Internet connection can set up their hosting in as little as 1-3 hours typically.
Following the steps outlined below, you'll be up and running and on your way to getting your website live.
#1 – Registering your domain name
The first step in getting a website launched is to register a domain. This article assumes you still need to register and park one. If you do, skip ahead.
A domain name works similarly to the address of your house. Your house (the web server) may exist, but only people will find it if they know its unique address (the domain name).
A domain name is a more professional approach to having a WordPress site and for marketing or building an online presence and brand.
Here are some steps within the process.
- Select a Domain Name: You'll want to use a domain name locater to find a suitable domain name. Hosting service platforms and domain registrars usually provide this tool for free. You will use the tool to search until you find an appropriate name. Instant Domain Search is one of our favorites.
- Choose a Registrar: You need a reputable domain registrar with the features you want. We've written a comprehensive article on the best domain registrars to assist your search. But we recommend some quick and easy options: GoDaddy, Namecheap, Bluehost, and Dreamhost. These are some of the most reliable domain name providers in the market.
- Register Your Domain: This step involves selecting the domain within your chosen registrar, adding it to your cart, and checking out, just like if you were purchasing a pair of jeans. Domain providers typically offer discounts only for the initial purchase, so ensure that you can afford the renewal price before registering a domain.
- Provide Relevant Information: Once you have purchased your domain name, you will receive access to a domain control panel within your account. Here you will add the information that defines ownership, including privacy protection if you were offered that or chose that as an add-on.
- Verify: You will likely receive several verification emails during the process. One to verify your email and one after the setup is complete. Verify your domain, and begin working!
You can host a website without purchasing a domain name. In those cases, you will use a ‘subdomain' that might look something like uniquename.yourwebhost.com.
Typically not considered appropriate for a professional website, a subdomain can be effective for personal sites or testing other websites. Weebly, Strikingly, and Ucraft are popular platforms that provide this setup.
#2 – Choose suitable website hosting
The next step is choosing a suitable hosting company. But for that, you need to know what kind of web hosting provider you want.
The type of web hosting company you choose significantly depends on the traffic you expect and the website you intend to host. Price is also an essential factor to consider. Below are the various hosting types and their benefits to make your choice easier.
Shared hosting is when multiple websites share a single web server. The hosting service provider determines the number of websites hosted on a single web server and manages the limited resources. Shared hosting solutions are the cheapest and do not include dedicated resources.
You may experience slower website speed when you opt for a shared hosting service if another website consumes too many resources. So, only choose this option if you expect a smaller volume of website traffic.
A Virtual Private Server is a balanced solution between shared and dedicated server hosting.
A VPS hosting provider gives you access to a virtually separate but physically fragmented server. In other words, you enjoy the benefits of a dedicated private server without being on one.
Websites on a VPS server cannot hoard entire server resources and allow the clients to make configurations and customizations just like they do on a dedicated server hosting.
From a price perspective, VPS is cheaper than a dedicated server. It is an excellent choice if your company has an interactive WordPress site with animations, videos, and image files.
Dedicated hosting falls on the other side of the spectrum. With dedicated hosting, you can expect to have an entire dedicated server. So, your WordPress website enjoys the exceptional performance of your server but at a price.
Hosting providers charge a three-digit amount, and if you find less, you might get scammed.
However, the most significant benefit of having a dedicated server as an enterprise is the amount of control and flexibility. You can make custom changes, integrate third-party apps, and fulfill your requirements.
Furthermore, you get excellent security, especially if your high-traffic websites carry sensitive information. Hence, the cost may be worth the benefits.
Enterprises and business owners expecting 100,000 or more people to visit their website should opt for dedicated servers.
At this point, it is crucial to mention that you can learn how to host a website on a dedicated web server yourself. However, that would involve managing the installations and updates and dealing with server issues and errors.
Self-hosting can be all-consuming, and delays can significantly affect your site performance. So, it is better to contact a professional hosting provider for this job.
Other types of web hosting
Apart from the three main categories, here are other hosting types you may encounter:
Cloud hosting services scatter your data on multiple dedicated servers, each with reliable operations. If one server is down, there are many alternatives available.
Cloud hosting options are the most reliable type of hosting. Plus, it is easily scalable, and you get the most value for your money. A Cloud website hosting plan is perfect for businesses expecting a dynamic website due to rapid growth.
WTA recommends Cloudways for the best cloud hosting solutions.
Reseller hosting is similar to buying and renting a house to your clients. It is entirely legal but requires effort to become a good income source. If you don't plan to manage more than ten websites at a time, don't go for it.
Web designers, website builders, and agencies can benefit from reseller hosting. It can prolong their relationships with clients and lead to continuous work.
People divide web hosting services into many other categories, for instance, managed hosting. The name depicts the extent of services provided by the hosting company.
For instance, in managed hosting, the service provider takes care of everything: customizing your dashboard, handling bugs, and catering to updates. On the other hand, unmanaged hosting means the entire workload falls on the website owner.
You might be surprised to learn that all-popular WordPress also provides website hosting plans, but there's a catch! WordPress.com provides excellent managed hosting, but these deals come with lesser flexibility.
How to choose a website host?
To choose a suitable web host:
- Understand what hosting service meets your requirements: shared, VPS, dedicated, etc.
- Narrow down the companies that provide the required services.
- Weigh the packages of each company against your allocated budget.
- Pay close attention to the configuration: flexibility, add-ons, customer support, and security they offer.
- Sign up for the plan and duration that best meets your needs.
#3 – Connect a domain to your hosting provider
Your domain and web hosting company are separate entities unless you purchase both services from a single provider. If you keep them separate, the steps to “connect” the two are relatively straightforward.
Your options are to update the DNS records at your domain registrar to the ones your web host provider provides. The process is easy, but it can take 24-72 hours for the propagation of the domain to finalize. Here are the steps to do it:
- Log in to your web host and find the DNS names they use for domain hosting. Copy each of those records.
- Now login to your domain registrar account and find the DNS settings for your domain name.
- Edit these records by placing the copied records from the web host.
- Press save and wait for propagation. You can test propagation by going to a site like DNS Checker.
An alternative approach is to point the IP using an A record. This approach keeps the domain name at your registrar but enables viewing your website on the web host.
The steps to accomplish adding an A-record are similar. We've outlined them below.
- Log in to your web host and find the IP address they've provided for your website. Copy the IP address.
- Now login to your domain registrar account and find the advanced DNS settings for your domain name.
- Add an A-record by placing the copied IP address from the web host.
- Press save and wait for propagation. You can test propagation by going to a site like DNS Checker.
Propagation for an A-record typically takes 1-3 hours but can be immediate or 24 hours, depending on routing and your server location.
#4 – Web hosting essentials
Once you've accomplished the above steps, you can set up your web hosting to receive a website. Once your website is moved, uploaded, or created, you can fine-tune it within the server settings using a control panel and within the content management system admin panel.
To create a website, you'll need to install the CMS and a theme and get started. That process is not covered in this article.
Moving or uploading your website
The process is similar whether you are moving a website or uploading a website. The most logical method for uploading website files is to use a file transfer protocol or FTP client.
Here is a step-by-step approach:
- Obtain FTP information from your hosting account. You will typically find this information within your control panel. If an FTP account is not already set up for you, you can set one up using the appropriate control panel tool.
- Choose an FTP client if you still need to install one on your laptop. We recommend FileZilla, which is a free FTP client.
- Open FileZilla and use the shortcut CTRL+Z to access the site manager.
- Choose New Site and fill in all the information the web host provides. Ensure that your domain name is pointing to your hosting first.
- Once done, click connect. FileZilla should now be ready to upload the files.
- Select public_html as the destination, then right-click on the website files from the local panel and click upload.
Once the required files are uploaded, ensure you can see the sub-structure in the public_html directory on the remote server. If you do, the upload process is complete.
Setting Up a CDN
A content delivery network or CDN comprises geographically located servers to transfer information quickly. CDN does not replace the hosting servers but provides a separate entity to store large files such as videos and images to improve the website's response time.
Acquiring an SSL Certificate
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. To enable SSL, you purchase a certificate that ensures the safety of visitors' information on a website. It protects your hosted website against breaches and ensures that it does not leak customer information. SSL encryption strength is 128-bit and 256-bit.
In technical terms, the SSL creates an “encrypted link” between the server and an internet browser that shows that data is transferred safely.
Need help getting an SSL certificate?
Depending on the type of SSL certificate you require, you should have up-to-date WHOIS database information. Use an ICANN Lookup tool to ensure your website's information is updated.
Generate a certificate signing request (CSR) through your cPanel or control panel issued by your web host or through an online generator.
Submit the CSR to the SSL provider who you are purchasing it from. They will then provide you with the final files needing to be either handed off to your web host or installed on your server for your domain.
Install it. You can install it in the control panel of your chosen hosting provider under the security settings.
If you purchase an SSL certificate from your hosting provider, it will get automatically installed on your website hosting.
Domain Name Email
Most domain name providers offer free domain-matching emails with your hosting purchase.
With a domain name email, you will need to set up an email client like Outlook or Thunderbird to administer and check your email. Otherwise, you will need to forward it to an email client like Gmail or Hotmail.
To set up email forwarding:
- Go to the hosting control panel, and find the email accounts tool.
- Select the domain name that you want to create an email for. Fill in the other information required, including email handle, password, and storage limits.
- Once you have set up your email, you'll want to move to the email forwarder tool in the control panel.
- Add a personal email, Gmail, or Hotmail, to have your @domain.com emails forwarded to your personal account.
You may need to go into your personal email client and complete the setup process. If your provider is Gmail and you want more email control or the ability to send from Gmail using your domain, follow the steps below.
- Click on the cog in the upper right within Gmail. Then click All Settings.
- Navigate to Accounts and Import. To send email as your domain, you'll need to go to the Send mail section and Add another email address. Then you'll need to add the information for the outgoing SMTP server. Obtain this info from your web host within the control panel email setup tool.
- Once you've obtained that info, you'll add it to Google, complete the setup, and test both receiving and sending an email.
#5 – Create a backup for your website
Backups prevent data loss in case of a hack, data breach, or server crash. Having your website files saved somewhere other than your website hosting is good. Fortunately, you can do this through an FTP client.
Additionally, you will find that many website hosts create automated daily backups or allow you to create full site backups from your control panel.
You already know how to connect to your FileZilla. Let's see where to go from there:
- In your local directory files, select the location on your computer where you want to back up your files.
- Create a folder inside this directory.
- From the server side, move public_html to the directory you created.
- Wait for the process to complete.
- Check your local directory to ensure all files have been copied successfully.
Now your entire website has been backed up to your computer. If not provided with another means to back up your site, perform these steps regularly to ensure that your website can always be restored.
Website monitoring and security
After launching your website, you should monitor it to keep track of your site and hosting performance, security, uptime, and user experience.
Monitoring your website can help provide a better overall experience for its users. Monitoring a website from one or more of these perspectives is critical for ensuring website growth.
Monitoring tools tackle different metrics, and each business has its specific requirements. Here are some of the most important ones you should watch:
The performance of your website matters. Slow loading speed significantly impacts the audience and the site's ability to rank organically. You can monitor different loading levels of a webpage using the monitoring tools.
Metrics to be concerned about include anything in Google's algorithm, which includes the Largest Contentful Paint, First Input Delay, and Cumulative Layout Shift. Others of importance are Time To First Byte (TTBT), indicating the time it takes to load the first element of content on the site, and FPLT (Full Page Load Time), which measures the time it takes to load the complete webpage with all content.
By monitoring website performance, you can ensure that users receive an excellent first impression and stay on the website or return.
Uptime monitoring is another vital metric since it tells you about the availability of your site in different regions across the world. It will alert you if your site is down at any location so that you can act accordingly. If there is uptime monitoring, you will know if your site is working, leading you to gain audience and business from that location.
Monitoring your website's performance can include several things. This article has already mentioned factors like loading speed, but there are several other metrics, such as errors or missing content, timeouts, execution of CSS and scripts, etc. You can improve your site's SEO and user experience with performance monitoring, translating to increased conversion rates!
SSL and DNS Monitoring
SSL is essential for the security of your site. You can check if the SSL has expired or corrupted with SSL monitoring. DNS monitoring is also crucial for protection since it tracks whether or not the communication between the user and the website stays secure.
Website monitoring helps to provide a good user experience to the audience. It assists you in enhancing the security of your website for the users. It can lead to better search engine rankings, improved website authority in the eyes of the people, and more conversions for businesses.
User Experience Monitoring
Monitoring the user experience and satisfaction of your website is a much larger topic than this article can cover. What we can say on this is there are great tools that allow you to track user behavior and patterns of use on a website and to discover your users' pain points, as well as offer tools to test user intent and user sentiment.
Keep in mind that most of these tools mentioned above are multi-purpose. This means you can use them for multiple monitoring services and other important types of data analysis.
Important web hosting add-ons
With the essentials covered, it is time to focus on some added-value extras!
Almost all popular hosting companies offer add-ons that they consider vital for performance. These add-ons, although optional, can benefit your website.
Automated Backups – CodeGuard
CodeGuard backs up your site and its content automatically. Since it is automatic, you won't have to worry about losing your website, even if some data is erased or lost.
With the help of CodeGuard, you will always have an up-to-date copy of your website for emergency purposes.
Website Security – Sucuri
If you run a website, you understand the importance of security and preventing a data breach or hack from occurring. There is no better service than Sucuri for protecting your web property.
The best thing about Sucuri, outside of its always-on monitoring and quick ability to clean a hacked site, is it works across multiple content management systems and not just for WordPress, like other plugin solutions.
Each of the add-ons mentioned above has its purpose. Selecting the right add-on can save you from unwanted downtime and risk, whether it is the users' confidence that you want to improve or site performance and security.
What is the cost of hosting a website?
The costs of hosting a website vary greatly depending upon the web hosting type you have and the extent of features and support you are getting.
However, the cheapest plans can range from $2-$14 per month and the most expensive plans can range from $80-over $1000 per month.
You will incur additional costs if you plan to purchase automatic backup add-ons, an SSL certificate, CDN, and other performance-enhancing features unless the plan comes with these.
For more information and a complete breakdown of website costs, read our article: Website Hosting Costs – Tips for Finding Affordable Solutions.
How to Host a Website Wrap-up
Hosting a website can be a simple process. It is easy to do if you have the correct information and web hosting setup. Here is a simple breakdown to follow in a pinch.
- Register a domain name with an accredited provider.
- Determine the hosting service you need (shared hosting, managed WordPress, cloud hosting, dedicated hosting, VPS hosting).
- Select from the list of hosting providers that best suit your hosting budget, hosting needs, flexibility demands, and security needs.
- Update the A-record of your domain at the registrar to point to your web hosting IP.
- Purchase an SSL certificate to ensure the security of your website if the web host does not provide one.
- Build your website or transfer an existing website to your hosting server.
- Set up a CDN and other third-party services for enhanced site speed and responsiveness.
- Set up your email address with your domain name utilizing your web host service or a service like Google Workspace.
- Create a backup of your website or purchase automatic backup add-ons for an extra layer of redundancy.
There is a way to build a custom self-hosted website. You need to understand a slightly revised setup process to accomplish self-hosting, but many savvy web developers do that using their servers or a cloud server environment.