The Ultimate Web Hosting Guide and How to Host your Website
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The Ultimate Web Hosting Guide and How to Host Your Website
So you realize you need a website for your business or organization, but have no idea where to begin. We’ve all been there at some stage, and you’ve come to the right place.
It all starts with web hosting. Web hosting is the service of providing storage space and access to websites. Every website requires web hosting in one form or another.
At it’s core web hosting is a simple concept, but in practice not always straightforward, especially for newcomers. The ultimate web hosting guide will explain what web hosting is and help you find web hosting for your website. Not just any web hosting mind you, but the best web hosting.
I’ll guide you through all aspects of web hosting, including registering your domain. I’ll give you tips and show you what to look out for and what to avoid. After reading this article you’ll be equiped to find and order web hosting for your business or organization.
At Red Hippo we’re web hosting specialists. We also run many of our own websites and have learned by long experience the ins and outs of web hosting.
With that experience, I’ve carefully designed our web hosting to be the very best there is. Our web hosting is designed with real people in mind. It’s web hosting created to be simple for novice users yet powerful enough for seasoned developers.
Give our web hosting a try and see for yourself how powerful, fast, reliable and above all user-friendly it is. Without further ado, let’s get started.
Table of Contents
3. How to Find Good Web Hosting
3.1 What are my Hosting Needs?
3.2 Finding a Good Web Hosting Company
3.3 What You DON’T Want in a Web Hosting Company
3.4 What You DO Want in a Web Hosting Company
3.4.1 Solid Web Hosting Support 24 x 7
3.4.2 Solid Web Hosting Products
4. Our Web Hosting Features
4.1 Easily Create Mailboxes
4.2 Easily Login to Webmail
4.3 Additional Mailbox Functions
4.4 One-click Install Apps Likee WordPress, Joomla Drupal etc.
4.5 Easily Backup & Restore Your Website
4.6 Perform Additional Web Hosting Functions
4.7 Easily Manage Your Domain Name and DNS Settings
4.7.1 What is DNS?
4.7.2 DNS Management Functions
Web hosting is a service offered by a company to host your website on their web server. Typically this web server is a powerful computer (server) connected to the internet.
You are essentially renting space on their web server to house your website files and your mailboxes.
Your website files need to be visible on the internet, that’s where the second part, access comes in. Your web hosting account allows your website files to be visible on the internet. When your website files are visible to the internet, visitors can view your website.
Alongside the storage space your web hosting account will be allocated a quota of bandwidth or traffic. Each time a visitor views a page on your website, some of your traffic quota is consumed. Sending and receiving emails also uses bandwidth and counts towards your quota.
For a few years now companies have been offering “unlimited” web hosting. These unlimited web hosting accounts offer unlimited bandwidth and unlimited web space. Sometimes they also offer unlimited email accounts. The idea is your site bandwidth and disk space is not metered i.e. unlimited.
The concept of unlimited hosting is not strictly accurate as nothing is truly unlimited, but having un-metered bandwidth and quotas that are not strictly enforced is worthwhile. Having said this, I recommend unlimited hosting. More about this in the section below.
When your website receives a visitor, they view the web page/s stored or hosted on your hosting account. The web server will “serve” the pages to the visitors web browser. The most popular web browsers are Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer and Opera.
There are exceptions to unlimited web hosting, this is true for every hosting company. Nothing is infinite or truly unlimited. Therefore traffic and space is monitored by every web hosting company.
For ninety eight percent of users unlimited bandwidth and disk space will never be a perfect fit. For the other two percent abuse this unlimited status and it becomes a problem or no longer applies. This two percent use their web hosting account for purposes other than what it’s intended for. I know, that sounds like the web hosting companies are moving the goal posts, but it’s sometimes necessary. I’ll explain below.
Some will say it’s misleading to sell something as unlimited if it’s not. If you understand a little more about the nature of web hosting the picture becomes clearer. The vast majority of websites in the world are hosted on shared web hosting accounts. This simply means that they share space on a web server with other websites. Thus they are hosted on “shared hosting” or “web hosting” packages.
Even the newer cloud hosting although spread across multiple servers is ultimately constrained by bandwidth and disk space. I repeat, nothing is truly infinite. For the vast majority of websites, shared hosting is more than ample, especially with a reputable web hosting company.
It’s this sharing of resources that makes web hosting extremely affordable. Literally anyone can afford to host their website at low cost and expect good results. There are exceptions of course, but let’s not digress, back to the two percent.
Shared hosting is not designed for intense resource hungry applications. Examples would be large scale hosting of videos e.g. Youtube or Vimeo or file sharing like DropBox or Box. These IO (Input Output) intensive and resource hungry applications have an arsenal of powerful web servers to keep up with the excruciating demands placed on them.
These services will operate in a large scale enterprise environment. Shared hosting is not designed for these applications. The abusive two percent are thus trying to circumvent the system by using enterprise grade applications on shared hosting.
In other cases there is nothing nefarious going on, but a website has become so buy that it’s now consuming an exorbitant amount of server resources. With a servers resources being consumed by a single website, the other websites hosted on the server will start to suffer. The busy website has simply outgrown shared hosting, a good problem to have. Before this happens it’s time for the busy website to move to it’s own server like a VPS or dedicated server. The busy website then has the entire servers resources to itself.
This brings us back to web hosting. A regular website with perhaps a few videos on it, some audio files and other files and hundreds even thousands of pages will do just fine on regular web hosting, it’s the amount of visitors or traffic that will usually determine when and if to upgrade.
There are many solid hosting companies that will provide quality web hosting for your website. There are also many more hosting companies that provide awful web hosting. It pays to do a bit of research before signing up. Continue on with the ultimate web hosting guide and we’ll show you how to find good web hosting.
Commonly web hosting includes three main components:
- Domain name
- Web space or disk space
- Mail boxes
The domain name is the address of your website e.g. our domain name is redhippo.co.za. Naturally every website has a domain name. A domain literally is your address on the internet. It’s how visitors will find you.
A domain is the name you market on business cards, in advertising etc. You can search for and register a domain name using a tool like domain checker.
Your domain name is extremely important. Here are a few tips will help guide your decision when registering a domain name:
- Keep your domain name as short as possible. Or rather avoid long hard to spell (hard to remember) domain names.
- Try to avoid special characters in domain names e.g. “-” in a name e.g. johns-plumbers.com. Always try for johnsplumbers.com. This is cleaner and easier for visitors to remember.
- Avoid numbers in a domain name e.g. 1stplumbers.com. It adds complexity in that unless you also register firstplumbers.com and redirect one to the other, people can end up at the wrong website. That’s a disaster for you but I’ll bet the other guy is very grateful. 😉
Short domain names are hard (impossible) to come by. The traditional namespaces like .com .net .org etc. are saturated . The reason, they’ve been around for so long, every good name is already registered.
If your desired domain name is already registered, you can buy one. Domain marketplaces like Sedo, Above, Flippa and many others exist allowing you to purchase quality domain names. The problem, quality domain names come at a (sometimes huge) premium, they’re expensive.
There are bargains to be found but for most of us, these high domain prices are not feasible. There was a definite need and ICANN responded. ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the body managing the internet namespace root.
Thanks to ICANN releasing hundreds of new TLD’s or Top Level Domains, there is hope. Companies were invited to file submissions to ICANN for new Top Level Domains. ICANN received 1930 submissions from companies. These proposed new Top Level Domains service just about every sector imaginable.
The new TLD’s is the biggest thing to happen to the internet since sliced bread. Opportunities abound to find relevant domain names. I recommend taking advantage while there are relatively few domains registered, register your desired domain name. Here is a list of the proposed new TLD’s.
The new domains or TLD’s include descriptive sector and industry specific names. Examples already available to register include:
That’s a short sampling, there are many more already available and many more to come…
In broad terms there are three categories of TLD’s or top level domain names to consider. First the original TLD’s or Top Level Domains. Second the cc TLD’s or Country Code Top Level Domains. The third category are the new TLD’s mentioned above.
Original TLD’s – These include .com .net .org .int .edu .gov .mil. The first four are excellent extensions to consider with an audience in either the USA or internationally. Search engines will favor audiences in the USA and internationally when using these TLD’s.
Country Code TLD’s – These include .br .ca .cn .co.uk .de .us etc. Each country having their own TLD. Consider a CC TLD when your audience is country or region specific. Search engines will favor audiences in the specific country or region when using these TLD’s.
New TLD’s – These include hundreds of brank spanking new domain extensions. A small sampling are listed above. Most of these can be used for any audience or application. It’s still early days with respect to how search engines will treat these new TLD’s but things look extremely good. There are now more choices then ever. Most of the new domains are open to registration by anyone. The chances of finding a short memorable domain name to match your brand or organisation name have increased tremendously.
Use our domain name checker to search for your dream domain name.
An amount of space will be allocated to your hosting account on the hosting companies web server. Your website files will be stored here, for all intents and purposes your email too.
This is the business end of your web hosting account. If you are planning on using a CMS or content management system for your website, it will be installed here. Content management systems usually require a database, your web hosting account will include a number of databases.
Every web hosting account includes mailboxes. These mailboxes are personalized to your domain name. This means you can create personalized mailboxes for your organization e.g. email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org etc.
Personalized email is an extremely powerful way to promote your organization. Instantly increase professionalism by using your personalized domain. Using your personalized domain is free marketing for your organization. Each time you send an email to someone, your domain name and business are being promoted.
This is not so when using free email services like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo mail etc. And yes, there are still businesses and organizations out there using free email services.
These services are free and you can’t argue with the price. But ultimately your organization is not benefiting when using them. Personalized email trumps these free services hands down in every respect. If your business is not using personalized email, it’s time to start, as soon as possible.
When looking for web hosting, you’ll want to know your own needs first. Consider questions like:
- Do you have any special needs in mind e.g. Windows applications?
- Do you require special versions of software e.g. PHP?
- How much web space do you need?
- How much bandwidth do think you need?
- How many mailboxes do you need?
- What about a website?
- 1-click install of apps like WordPress etc.
- Your skill level i.e. who will manage your hosting?
Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers to some of these questions, know a few is still helpful. Once you’ve answered these questions, it’s time to look for web hosting that meets your needs.
In these tough economic times you may be tempted to look for the cheapest solution, or even one of the many free hosting solutions. Please don’t, you really do get what you pay for.
That doesn’t mean you need to find the most expensive either to get good web hosting. There is some very good web hosting to be found that’s affordable, it just takes some looking around.
Once you know what your needs are, it’s time to look for web hosting. There are many web hosting companies out there, ranging from awful to excellent. With the majority being somewhere in-between.
When it comes to your website, trust me, you don’t want awful, it will be painful and ultimately could even be costly. Painful because of the headaches you will suffer as a result of poor service, poor support and everything in between. Costly because you’ll decide to transfer your website and hosting to another company. Unless you know what you’re doing, you will have to pay someone to do this for you.
The point I always stress first, don’t look for cheapest! When it comes to web hosting, invariably you get what you pay for.
I’ve noticed many people assume a big company will offer the best service. Somehow because the company is big, it’s better. This is more often the exception rather than the rule. This assumption goes against logic, let’s consider a few points:
The bigger companies usually discount prices to attract customers. They work on economies of scale to make this work. This means more customers to support staff ratio. This means longer waiting times for customers to get support. Often their resources are also oversold i.e. they have too many websites on a single server. This all is bad news for your website.
Ultimately the customer becomes a mere number and is lost in the mix. Bigger is not automatically better.
Now it’s going to sound like I’m contradicting myself. Small is not necessarily better. Some web hosting companies are so small they can’t afford to continue doing sustainable business.
Your website may be here one day and gone the next. That is a complete disaster, not to mention the incredible hassle of trying to get everything setup again with another hosting company. Add to that, smaller hosting companies cannot always afford the best infrastructure.
I’ve seen smaller hosting companies oversell badly to try squeeze higher margins. This again means bad website performance.
Poorly trained staff is another common ailment. Poorly trained is not limited to poor technical skills, included are poor people skills. Poor people skills training reflects almost instantly in the quality of support a web hosting company provides.
Top management’s attitude is often reflected by it’s staff at grass roots level. If the most important member of the chain, the support person dealing with the client is rude, it doesn’t speak well of his or her supervisors. Stay away from companies with rude staff.
I’m not a big fan of using comparison sites to find web hosting companies. These comparisons are almost never unbiased. Usually web hosting comparisons will be either sponsored or will include comparisons between companies with referral links or affiliate ties. These comparisons are often complete nonsense and border on unethical.
When looking for a good web hosting company word of mouth is good. Ask friends and colleagues what experiences they have had with web hosting.
Good or bad, there is useful advice to be had from people around you. Best of all it’s free, no expensive painful school fees to be paid. The following are extremely important when looking for a good web hosting company.
Solid web hosting support is always my number one consideration when considering a web hosting company and in this web hosting guide, I want strongly emphasize this point.
After the honeymoon period is over, it’s excellent web hosting support that will sustain the loving relationship between you and your hosting company.
The flip-side of that coin is aggravation and grey hairs. Unfortunately problems can arise, when they do you need the best support possible.
Web hosting problems aren’t always kind enough to happen on workdays between nine to five. Problems often arise at weird hours of the day. And let’s face it, many of us will be working on our websites after hours.
If you run into problems at odd hours, you’ll need your web host’s support staff ready to help. Choose a web hosting company with 24 x 7 support AND quick support turnaround times. Don’t hesitate to ask a potential web hosting company about their response and turnaround time policies.
Know what your web hosting requirements are (see checklist further up this article). Then make sure the web hosting you’re considering meets your requirements. Easy product upgrades (or downgrades) can also be very useful. Let’s say your website gets really busy, how easily can your hosting be scaled up?
Up-time is another consideration. Up-time is simply the amount of time your website is actually visible and accessible to the internet. Low up-time means your website is down. That means people cannot access your website. Need I say more? 99.9% up-time is thrown around today by most hosting companies but it’s not always verifiable. Ask your web hosting company what their up-time policy is. Keep in mind that 100% up-time is not possible with even the best hosting companies. What you want is extremely high up-time and solid support when there are issues.
We’ve got good news: our web hosting is designed to not only meet but far exceed each of these requirements. Check out our web hosting plans and see for yourself. Our web hosting comes with premium features that are extremely user-friendly. We’ve carefully crafted our hosting to be the very best web hosting you’ll ever use.
- We offer both Linux web hosting and Windows web hosting. No matter what applications you need, we have a solution.
- Our hosting allows switching between PHP versions with the click of a button e.g. 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 7.0, 7.1 etc.
- Our web hosting comes with generous web space.
- Our web hosting comes with unlimited bandwidth*, it’s un-metered and subject to our acceptable usage policy.
- Our web hosting comes with generous mailboxes quotas.
- We offer 1-click install of 300+ free apps like WordPress and many more.
- Our web hosting is the most user-friendly, guaranteed! We’ve designed it that way.
We’ve designed our web hosting to be fast, reliable, affordable and extremely easy to use. Our web hosting control panel, cPanel is guaranteed the world’s most popular control panel. It’s also powerful with features seasoned developers love. Everything you need to manage your web hosting is right at your fingertips, ready to go. Here are some of our web hosting features.
Easily create mailboxes in seconds with the click of a button. Type in the name you want your new mailbox to be e.g. “yourname”@demo-account.co.za and click add.
You’ve just added a new mailbox. And as we offer unlimited mailboxes, you can give each person in your organization a mailbox.
Each mailbox comes with full webmail access. Access your email account from anywhere easily. Access webmail directly from any browser by visiting webmail.your-domain.com substituting “your-domain.com” with your actual domain name.
Webmail can also be accessed through the cPanel control panel. Login to cPanel control panel and click the “Access Webmail” icon.
Other cool mailbox functions you can perform from your cPanel control panel are easily accessible. Perform additional mailbox functions like:
- Set up mail forwarding
- Setup catch-all mail forwarding
- Create and manage mailing lists
- Setup autoresponders
- Manage junk mail filters
- Track email delivery
- Manage calendar and contacts
- and a whole lot more
As you can see from the image above, it’s point and click easy to control your mailbox.
Do you want to build your own website? You can using free applications like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Concrete5 etc. With Red Hippo web hosting there are over three hundred free apps available to one-click install.
You can use these apps to build a website to do just about anything. From simple blogs to business websites to eCommerce websites there’s so much more you can do. Installing WordPress is a matter of clicking a link as indicated below. Installing the many other free apps is just as simple.
Content Management Systems & Related Apps Available:
- Elgg Social Network System
- CMS Made Simple
- and many more
eCommerce Apps Available:
- CubeCart Shopping Cart
- AgoraCart Shopping Cart
- Zen Cart
- osCommerce Shopping Cart
- Simple Invoices
- and many more
Don’t forget, there are over seventy free apps available to one-click install.
Need to backup your website and database? No problem, you can backup your entire website in one-click straight to a zip file.
Need to create partial backups? No problem, backup specific folders and databases with the click of a button. No complicated menus and configurations, just quick and powerful backups.
You can do so much with your Red Hippo web hosting account. Easily perform literally hundreds of powerful functions. Here are a few:
- Easily create and manage MySQL databases.
- Easily password protect directories.
- Easily setup Cron Jobs.
- Setup sub domains with a click.
- Change control panel passwords.
- Block IP addresses.
- Index directories.
- Get SSH access to your web hosting account.
- Easily redirect your website to another website.
- Easily switch PHP versions selecting from multiple versions.
- Easily manage your php.ini settings with point and click ease.
- and lots more.
Most users will never have to worry about managing their domain name or DNS settings. Some power users may need to, our domain management interface allows this. It’s powerful but designed to be easy to use. From the “Zone Editor” you can manage every aspect of your domain name and DNS settings.
DNS stands for Domain Name Server or Domain Name System. DNS is the process of translating your domain name to an IP number. Each web server and thus website has an IP number.
Remembering these IP numbers for each website would be impossible. We type in a domain name into the web browser and the DNS system will translate the domain name to an IP number. You then view that website in your browser. It’s a clever system and happens transparently in the background while surfing the internet. Point and click and DNS takes care of the rest.
Our DNS management interface includes the following powerful tools:
DNS Wizards and Tools
- Add-on Domains
- Zone Editor
- Manage A/AAA/CNAME Records
- Manage MX Records
- Manage TXT Records
- Manage SRV Records
- Configure TTL
You’ll agree it all sounds good, and you want to get web hosting, but where do you start? It’s a simple process to order web hosting. As easy as purchasing an item from online store. I’ll demonstrate by walking you through the steps below.
Find the web hosting product you want, in this example, our ZA Business Hosting here. Click the “Signup” button or relevant call to action.
A) “Register a new domain” is selected by default. We’ll continue with this option as though we are going to register a brand new domain name. Other options are:
- “Transfer your domain from another registrar”. Use this option if you already have a domain name from another registrar. You can choose to transfer your domain to Red Hippo. Transferring your domain to Red Hippo is convenient for billing and management purposes. You receive billing notices and can manage your services from one place.
- “I will use my existing domain and update my nameservers”. This option allows you keep your existing domain at the other registrar. You’ll then update your name servers with the other registrar. The other registrar can help you do this if you choose this option.
B) In the box indicated above, type in your desired domain name and select a domain extension you prefer e.g. .com. Use the dropdown box to view our huge selection of domain names available to register. For our example I’ve used “order-demo” and selected the .com extension.
If the domain you typed in is available, it will be indicated as in the image below. Click the “Continue” button to continue, and/or the additional “Add” buttons for other domains that may also be available. You can add more than one domain to your cart.
If the domain name you want is already taken or registered, you’ll receive a message saying it’s already taken as show below. There will be alternates domains displayed further down for you to consider, or type another domain name to perform another search.
A) Select your billing cycle, options are monthly all the way to 3 years and everything in between.
B) Select your desired addons like Dedicated IP
C) Click the “Continue” button to continue.
Review your order and when you’re happy click the “Checkout” button to continue. If you have a promo code (discount code) you can enter it here to apply it.
If you’re a new client, complete the form details, if you’re an existing client click the “Already Registered?” button to continue.
- Enter your information in the fields that appear, as seen above.
- Select your payment method as seen below:
- Once all your information is inserted click “Complete Order” to continue.
You will now be directed to the payment gateway page to complete payment e.g. PayPal. Once payment is completed you’ll be redirected back to Red Hippo.
You’ll receive emails including a “New Account Info” email. This email includes all the info to get started with your brand new awesome hosting account.
The whole point of web hosting is for a website right? If you want a website you have two options: Build a website yourself or get someone to build it for you.
There are plenty of good web designers out there. Do some careful checking including looking at their portfolio before you choose a web designer. We offer custom website design services and turnkey website packages for business and eCommerce websites. A website like everything else in life needs maintenance and support, we’ve got you covered there with our website care plans.
Another option is DIY. Building your website yourself is increasingly common. One reason is the rise of (relatively) easy to use free tools like WordPress, Concrete5, Joomla, Drupal and the like. There are hundreds more but these are the most common.
My recommendation is WordPress. WordPress is by far the most popular website building platform. WordPress currently powers around twenty three percent (28%) of all websites on the internet. That’s tens of millions of websites. This means there is great support from many quarters.
Although easy to use, WordPress does require a little effort on your part to get acclimatized. A little effort and you’ll be able to build a stunning website using WordPress.
WordPress has tens of thousands of plugins to choose from, and most are free to use. Plugins extend the functionality of your website allowing you to do a lot more easily. A great example of a cool WordPress plugin is WooCommerce. By installing WooCommerce on your website, you add a complete shopping cart to your website. You can literally start selling in minutes. And WooCommerce is completely free to use. Some WooCommerce extensions are paid but out the box you can start selling in minutes.
If you’d like to build your own website we’ve got you covered there too. We offer the amazing BeaverBuilder PageBuilder and Theme free to use with this package. Join literally millions of people, build your own website and save money.
Great job on making it to the end of this web hosting guide. You now have everything you need to choose the right web hosting and domain.
If you need help or advice with your web hosting, we’re always happy to help, get in touch.