This article is part of a larger series on Small Business Websites.
Web hosting is an online content storage service that enables websites to be accessed on the internet. If you use a site builder to create your website, it will most likely be included in your plan, but if you build a site using WordPress, you will need to purchase web hosting separately. We’ll help explain what web hosting is in greater detail, why it’s needed, and share tips to help to choose the best hosting option for your small business’ needs.
Pro tip: If you are planning to build a website with WordPress, purchase a web hosting plan before doing any other step toward building your small business website as many plans come with a free domain name, a free SSL certificate, and one-click WordPress installation. Not sure what’s involved with building a site? Learn more about website costs to get a better idea of what to expect.
Why Businesses Need Web Hosting & How It Works
If a business wanted to be accessible to customers in a physical location, it could rent a commercial space and then open its doors to the public. Similarly, websites need to be connected to internet-accessible servers in order to be accessed by the public.
As a simple web hosting definition, think of it as a service where you can rent space on a web hosting company’s server in order to give customers access to your company’s virtual storefront. It’s like renting virtual commercial space on the World Wide Web.
How web hosting works is through services that store web pages (which collectively are websites) on servers where they are then uploaded to the internet, making them accessible on the web. In more technical terms, servers not only store web pages, but they also communicate with and respond to requests. When a user types in a web address, also known as a URL, these servers locate and display the corresponding website page.
As complex as it may sound, the best web hosting companies make it simple and affordable for anyone to get and connect web hosting to their website. On the other hand, all-in-one website builders, like Squarespace and Wix, include it with all of their sites, so there is no need for you to purchase a separate web hosting plan or manually connect it to your domain.
How to Choose the Right Web Hosting Service
When choosing a provider for small business website hosting, there are many factors to take into consideration, from overall cost and add-on services to security, reliability, speed, uptime guarantees, contract length, hosting package specifics like storage and bandwidth, and extras such as a domain name and business email.
With so many different web hosting companies and plans, it can be difficult to find the best one to host your business website. Here are 10 areas to explore to find the right web hosting provider for your business website:
- What types of plans are offered and how much do they cost?
- Do plans include a free domain and how much will additional domains cost?
- Is a free SSL certificate included or available for purchase as an add-on?
- How long are the contracts, is there a discount for annual prepayment, and what happens if I need to change providers or terminate my contract?
- How much storage and bandwidth does it include?
- Does it have an uptime guarantee?
- Is there a customer satisfaction or money-back guarantee?
- How can I get in touch with support if I need it and what type of support is available?
- Do plans include free business email addresses or the ability to purchase business email services as an add-on?
- What do current users say about it?
Why Choosing the Right Web Host Matters
While it may sound as though all web hosting is the same, plans vary widely from provider to provider. Choosing the wrong web host can cost you time and money, give you or your site visitors a bad user experience, harm your site’s search engine optimization (SEO), and put your site and its visitors’ security at risk.
Here are a few reasons why you should take the time to choose the right web host:
- Speed: Slow load times cause a poor user experience and high bounce rates, both of which are detrimental to your site’s SEO.
- Features and inclusions: Not all hosts include extras like a free domain, SSL certificate, or business email, so it will cost you more money if you choose one that doesn’t.
- Convenience: In addition to money, it will cost you extra time if you have to connect your own domain, get your own SSL certificate, and manually connect your host.
- Security: You’re likely to experience increased security risks with low-quality hosting providers.
- Uptime: If your hosting service isn’t reliable, your website could experience downtime, effectively closing your business’ doors online as customers won’t be able to access your site.
Did you know? Site builders like Squarespace take the pain out of choosing a web hosting provider as it’s included in their plans, as are a free domain name and SSL certificate for site security. Learn more about Squarespace and the other providers that we rank as the best site builders for small businesses.
Most Popular Types of Web Hosting
When choosing a web hosting plan, you’ll generally find these three common options: shared, virtual private server (VPS), and dedicated. If you’re like most small business owners, you’ll likely have questions. Are the low-cost shared plans a great value or too good to be true? What exactly is VPS and is dedicated hosting worth it or an unnecessary splurge?
To help you answer those questions, let’s take a closer look at the three primary types of web hosting small businesses will most likely opt to use:
Three Primary Types of Web Hosting Compared
Average Cost per Month
$3 to $10
$3 to $10
$70 to $250
Shared with other websites
Shared with other websites
The average small business
The average small business
Large companies that need the utmost in storage space or security
While shared, VPS, and dedicated are the primary options for hosting small business websites, you’ll also notice other types of web hosting, such as reseller hosting and cloud hosting. HostGator, one of the companies that made our list of the best hosting options, explains what reseller hosting is, or you can get an in-depth look at how the three main options compare by reading these articles:
Small businesses will generally find shared and VPS hosting plans sufficient for their needs and well within their budget, given pricing as low as $3 per month with top providers such as Bluehost. Get the full breakdown of the best web hosting companies for small businesses including features, pricing and plans, and customer reviews.
On a tight budget? Check out the best free website builders and learn why they may be a better choice than setting up web hosting and building a site using WordPress.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I set up web hosting?
It’s surprisingly simple to set up web hosting. Decide which type of web hosting plan you need and then choose a provider. Select the plan that best matches your needs and purchase it. If you don’t already own a domain name, choose one through your web host and then connect web hosting to your website using your web host’s installation tools.
Building a WordPress website? Follow these step-by-step instructions for WordPress users on how to host a website.
Is Bluehost the best web host for bloggers?
Bluehost is frequently promoted by bloggers for its low-cost, feature-rich plans, and while it is one of the best web hosting providers for bloggers, it’s not solely used to host blogs. Bluehost is a top choice for many small businesses as well as it offers a number of month-to-month web hosting plans that help you easily scale your hosting as your business and its website traffic grows. Learn more by reading our expert Bluehost review.
What’s the difference between a domain & web hosting?
If you’re just getting started building a website for your business, you’ve probably heard that you need a domain and web hosting. While they are often provided by the same company, understanding the difference between the two may be confusing when they’re talked about in conjunction. A domain is your web address (e.g., “yourbusiness.com”), whereas web hosting is the service that enables your site to be accessed via the web.
Web hosting is an essential part of building and maintaining a website or blog. Though generally affordable, not all web hosting is created equal, and choosing a high-quality host makes a difference. For example, for as little as $2.95 per month, you can get secure, reliable hosting that comes packed with extras to save you money, such as a free domain name, business email, and more. Get started with Bluehost.