NEW YORK – Once in a while I come across a person, customer or prospect that doesn’t understand what website hosting is and why they might have to pay for it. They seem to feel that hosting is some unknown, unexplained add-on which seems confusing at best or a rip-off at worst.
The particular people seem to think a website just ‘exists’ out there on the Inter-webs or are somehow part of the World Wide Web; they have trouble understanding what website hosting is and why the need it. To them it just sounds like some extra fee tacked onto their website presence which serves no purpose.
So let’s get into some details on what exactly website hosting is and why a business owner with a website would need to pay for a website hosting service.
There are two good analogies I like to use when explaining what web hosting is and why a website requires this added service and will go into the first one below.
- A website (a combination of computer files) needs to exist on a computer that is connected to the Internet. Just as files on a desktop computer reside in and/or are organized in particular folders, a web site needs to have all of its files, which make up its web pages, somewhere on a computer, in a folder, which is accessible through the Internet. Imagine that your website is a bunch of computer files sitting on a computer in a folder and you want to access it from somewhere else. First you need access to the computer which contains the files and then you need to find and access the particular folder where your files are; this is how a website works. The website is a bunch of files, that are sitting somewhere on someone’s computer, in a folder, with your website name on it. The Internet accesses this computer by your domain name address and requests access to that particular folder on that computer where your web site files are stored – and you need to pay the owner of that computer to allow you to store your files there and then allow the Internet – or anyone using it, to look on that computer in that particular folder and download your web pages – your files, which are all linked to together with hypertext-links. No one is going to provide that computer so that you can store your web files there for free. So unless you are going to manage your own web server (computer) which is turned on and hooked up the Internet at all times, which is also configured to allow public access to your website files, as well as special FTP access so you can update and change your files, you need a web hosting service provider to do it for you. The web hosting provider will take care of all this for you and ensure your website is ‘online’ and accessible at all times. A good web host helps with problems and experiences few interruptions while a bad web host provides a computer that runs slow or doesn’t work well or periodically shuts off. The better your host, the better your service.
The second analogy I like to use is a little different and may be easier for some people to understand as it utilizes real estate as the host.
- Think of a web hosting company as a landlord of an apartment complex. There are a limited number of apartments in the building and the landlord (the host) intends to rent them all out to tenants who can store in them whatever they desire as long as they are paying the rent and not causing any trouble for anyone else in the building. Your website rents a hosting space just like a tenant rents an apartment in a building with lots of other apartments. The tenant receives a key and a particular amount of space to put their belongings. The tenant can use the space and put pretty much whatever they want in there and they can come and go as they please and they can have guests visit if they want as long as the guests have the address. Provided the traffic in and out of the apartment doesn’t get too excessive they should be fine. The landlord is responsible for keeping the environment safe and accessible to everyone going in and out. The most important thing for the tenant is that the rent (hosting fee) is always paid. If the tenant wishes to go on vacation they still have to pay the rent because their things are in the apartment and they are still taking up space in the building and that space is still allotted to them regardless of how much it is being used or how much traffic is or isn’t going in or out. If for any reason the tenant does not pay their bill everyone that had been given access to the apartment will lose access. The host is the building and the hosting account is one of the apartments. As long as the space of that apartment is allotted, the tenant has to pay the fees for the space. The only the tenant does not have to pay the rent is if they give up the space and move out.
Usually once I go through one of these analogies the person has a better understanding of what web site hosting is and why they need it and why they pay for it on a recurring basis. I don’t remember every explaining it like this where someone remained stumped.
About The Author: John Colascione is Chief Executive Officer of Searchen Networks Inc. and Internet Advertising Inc. He specializes in Website Monetization, authored a ‘how to’ book called ‘‘Mastering Your Website’, and is a key player in several Internet related businesses through his search engine strategy company Searchen Networks®