Web Hosting for Beginners: 4 Easy Steps

Web hosting can seem intimidating at first. And yes, there’s a lot to get used to. However, once you understand that a website is nothing but digital real estate that needs an address and a place you can rent, everything’s simple. Here’s a complete beginner’s guide to web hosting.

Table of Contents

How Hosting Works

First, you need to understand how it works. The easiest way is to compare it to real estate. A website is nothing but digital real estate.

You can change web hosts without changing your address (domain name)

The apartment that you rent has two parts:

  1. The address to identify you
  2. The actual apartment

Unlike real estate, you can move your apartment without changing your address. Just like a phone number.

Similarly, your website also consists of two parts:

  1. The website name (or domain name) is the address
  2. Web hosting from a web hosting provider is the apartment you rent.

When you start a website, you typically buy the domain name and hosting service from the same company – just like you often get your telephone number and carrier service from the same place. But you don’t have to.

Steps to Host a Website of Your Own

Here’s a step-by-step process on how to host your own website from scratch.

Step 1: Buy a Domain Name

First, we need to purchase a domain name. You can typically purchase a domain name as part of the hosting package. It’s like choosing your telephone number when you sign up with AT&T for phone service.

A domain name is your website address without “www” or “http” or “https”. It looks like this:

example.com

It has two parts:

  1. The part before the dot (.) – in this case “example
  2. The part after the dot (.) – in this case, “com”

“2” is also called a Top Level Domain (TLD). These days, you can buy all kinds of TLDs – “.com”, “.net”, “.org”, “.biz”, “.edu” etc. Each TLD has a different price range.

Many providers offer a free domain with the initial purchase of web hosting.

Step 2: Choose Your Web Host

Purchasing web hosting is essentially buying space for your website on a server. Your website needs the following resources to work:

The more visitors you have, the more resources you need.

  1. Space to store all the website files, images, and information
  2. Bandwidth to show these images and files to your visitors
  3. Processing power to generate your website

Here’s a web hosting comparison of all the popular web hosts. The price of web hosting depends on how much of these three resources it delivers. As your site grows, it will need more and more processing power, space, and bandwidth. The cheapest web hosting plans are ideal for starting. Most web hosts allow you to slowly upgrade your service as your site grows.

Step 3: Choose Shared Hosting Over Other Types

Here’s a rule of thumb. If you consider yourself a “small” website, then you should go with shared hosting. If you consider yourself a large website, consider either managed or VPS hosting. There’s even cloud hosting – here’s a beginner’s guide on the difference between cloud and shared hosting.

As a beginner, you want to start with ordinary web hosting or a managed WordPress plan.

There is also separate WordPress hosting. This is when you’re sure that your entire site will run WordPress and nothing else. Most providers offer special packages for this – here’s a pricing comparison of WordPress plans. Unfortunately, most WordPress packages are reworked shared hosting products. You’ll still be sharing your server with hundreds of others.

A better option for beginners is to choose managed WordPress hosting. While not as cheap as normal plans, managed WordPress presents a simplified interface and takes care of all performance-related problems. A great example of a managed WordPress plan is Kinsta. Here’s the complete Kinsta pricing page to get you started.

Step 4: Get SSL or “HTTPS” for your Site

These days, it’s vitally important for your site to be accessible like this:

https://www.example.com

Instead of like this:

http://www.example.com

Note the extra “s” at the end of “http”. It means your site is “SSL Enabled”. If you’re going to host a website, then this is critical.

The reason why it’s so important is that Google has decided to mark all “http” sites as unsafe and will penalize you in the search results. Not only that, visiting a site with “http” from Chrome will show the user a big, dangerous, red warning sign. This will scare away your visitors and make them think your site is a scam. So it’s vitally important to ensure that you’ve enabled SSL.

Some providers take advantage of this and make you pay separately for expensive SSL certificates. However, I firmly believe that in today’s age, no one should have to pay for basic SSL. This is why you must choose a hosting company that provides free SSL.

Out of all the web hosts reviewed on this site, only GoDaddy still charges for SSL. Till that changes, I suggest you avoid them, even though they might look cheaper than the competition.

Best Features for Beginner’s Web Hosting

Web hosting can be complex, or it can be simple. Some features are specific for certain types of websites, and others are useful in general. Here are the features that I think are the most important for a beginner’s website.

Backups are Crucial for Beginner Web Hosting

It’s easy to screw something up on your website that causes it to crash when you’re a beginner. If you’re using WordPress, for example, editing the .htaccess file can easily cause your site to crash.

Beginners to web hosting need good backups.

A good web host will back up your site daily and weekly. In addition to this, it will allow you to take manual snapshots of your site and restore them with a single click without needing to contact customer support. A great example of a web host that provides this service is NameHero. Many web hosts will only provide backups to higher-tier plans. NameHero has free backups on all its plans. It’s one of the reasons why NameHero backups are so good.

So if you’re a beginner to web hosting, make sure you have a backup plan in place. Even better is if you have a 3rd party backup solution independent of your web host so that you can migrate back and forth easily between providers.

Beginners Benefit from Full Management – If they Can Afford it

As a beginner, you want the website setup process to be as easy as possible. For this reason, you might want a web host that manages everything for you.

A full managed web host is great for beginners. But it’s expensive.

Ordinary web hosting takes some time to get used to. You need to know about domains, FTP, or how to transfer files back and forth. You’ll need to learn about how to manage multiple sites, generate SSH keys, and more. There are excellent tutorials for all this, sure, but if you have a web host that makes it easy for you, that’s a fantastic bonus.

Unfortunately, this kind of management comes at a cost. The more “managed” a web host is, the more you have to pay. Kinsta is an excellent example of this. They are a completely managed WordPress solution that takes care of everything for you. Unfortunately, Kinsta pricing isn’t for everyone. Another example is Liquid Web’s Cloud Sites, which makes it easy to manage multiple sites in one location. But it’s super expensive. If price isn’t a problem for you, then I suggest you choose one of the above hosts to get started.

Low Cost Hosting is a Benefit for Beginners

In contrast to the above point, beginners will benefit from low-cost hosting since there’s not much to lose. Once you’re comfortable, you can migrate to something more “serious”.

As a beginner to web hosting, you might want to keep the stakes low and not commit a large number of resources to something that may not work out. So it makes sense to stick to low-cost hosts at first. Hostgator is a great example. The problem with this is that many providers cut too many corners and the website performance suffers. This leads to a bad experience with web hosting and can turn you off for good. That’s why I recommend Hostgator because, for the price, they provide acceptable quality.

Customer Support is Really Useful for Beginners

Some web hosts make it easier than others to obtain useful customer support. Everyone promises the moon, but only a few deliver.

As a beginner to web hosting, you should anticipate spending a lot of time with customer support.

Here’s a list of web hosting companies with the best customer support. Unfortunately, good-quality customer support isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s the most important component of cost and that’s why it’s so hard to find it in low-cost hosting. But as a beginner to web hosting, you should anticipate getting in touch with customer support all the time. Live chat is best in my opinion because it’s easier to communicate and have a written record of your complaint.

NameHero, in my opinion, walks a good line between affordability and support. I’ve used their support, both via live chat and through the ticketing system, many times. SiteGround has fantastic customer support, but unfortunately, they’ve become much too expensive. Liquid Web and Kinsta both have top-notch support, but again, the price might put you off.

Best Web Hosting for Beginners

Here are my recommendations for the best web hosting for beginners.

1. Hostgator is Cheap for Beginners

Here’s what makes Hostgator a good web host for beginners.

Cheap and Basic

As a beginner, you don’t want to spend a lot of money. At the same time, you don’t want to get cheated. Many web hosts use potent traps to make you pay more, and they’re particularly difficult for a beginner to see through.

Hostgator is cheap, but they’re reliable. No tricks.

Hostgator stays away from these tricks and just gives you basic web hosting. It’s one of the reasons why Hostgator pricing is the cheapest. Here’s a complete Hostgator review, where I compare all the features to other web hosts and give you the pros and cons of each.

And here’s the complete Hostgator coupon code 2022 list when you’re ready to start shopping. Along with the low pricing, Hostgator also gives you a free domain when you host for more than 12-months. So that’s a huge perk.

You Can Test Out Hostgator for 1 cent

For beginners, Hostgator lets you test out their service for one month using the following coupon code:

The catch is to use a throwaway account for this first month because you don’t want it to renew at full price. Once you’re satisfied with your experience, cancel your account and purchase a full 12-month or 36-month plan with a different credit card. This way, you get to keep the discount for a long time, saving you a ton of money in the future.

2. NameHero: Because it Keeps you Safe

Unlike Hostgator, NameHero has a different value proposition for beginners. Here’s why I like it.

NameHero Handles Backups and Security

As a beginner to web hosting, you should stay away from implementing your own backups and security. It’s too complicated and you should be familiarizing yourself with the basics of web hosting.

Backups and security are vital for a website.

However, having a backup of your website is crucial in the long term. Something can always go wrong – either because of what you did or due to an error in the environment. When that happens, you need to be able to restore your website with the click of a button. NameHero provides you with this buffer and lets you work on your website without worrying too much about it exploding.

Other web hosts also offer backups and security, but NameHero has these features on even their cheapest plans, which is very rare. Some hosts like A2 Hosting, for example, make you pay for higher-tier plans for backups. Hostgator makes your purchase a separate “CodeGuard” add-on for backups, whereas NameHero has all these features out of the box.

Here’s a complete NameHero review so you can see all their features. And here’s the NameHero coupon page where you can get the best deals.

3. Bluehost: Easy Web Host for Beginners

Bluehost is an easy web host for beginners because it has a custom administration panel in addition to cPanel.

Easy Management

If you don’t have any experience with web hosting, you’ll find Bluehost’s custom website management panel easy to use. cPanel is still available if you want to access advanced functionality, but in many cases, you can manage your software applications directly from the dashboard. This makes it ideal for beginners.

Resource Protection for BlueHost Improves Website Performance

As a beginner, you should always choose shared hosting. One downside of this, however, is that you share your server’s resources with dozens – or even more – other accounts. This means that if one of these accounts misbehaves by using up more than its fair share of resources, your site will suffer.

Bluehost’s resource protection ensures predictable performance.

Bluehost ameliorates this problem using resource protection. When Bluehost identifies an account as using excessive resources, it’s isolated into a separate environment where it doesn’t impact the other accounts on the server. This means that you have a more predictable performance curve at all times with Bluehost, when compared to other providers like say, Hostgator.

This is important for beginners because when you’re starting up, it’s important to have a smooth experience. A choppy website that’s affected by what someone else is doing can quickly turn you off hosting altogether.

Bluehost Pricing is Beginner Friendly

Bluehost is still on the cheap side when it comes to web hosting. Since it doesn’t come with free backups or website security and uses an ordinary Apache architecture, the cost is less than NameHero. But because of SSD drives and features like resource protection as seen above, it’s more expensive than Hostgator.

Bluehost’s renewal prices are rather high, though. So be sure to consider that when choosing based on cost.

What to Do After Purchasing Web Hosting?

Now that you know how to host a website, it’s time to build it up! WordPress is the most common site-building platform, so I suggest you get started with that.

Should I Use a Website Builder Like Wix?

No! Never use website builders. They lock you in to their service and can squeeze you for cash whenever they way. I’ve written a detailed post about why you shouldn’t use Wix. Instead, use a self-hosted platform like WordPress.

Why Do I Need a Website? Can’t I Just Use Facebook?

A website gives you something you can refer people to. You can’t just tell people to find you on Facebook, Instagram, or whatever. A website URL is easy and can be put onto a business card. Moreover, your website will tell visitors all the information they want to know right from the get-go. What is your address? How much do your services cost? And a lot more!

Above all this, a website is professional. Instagram or Etsy is not.

Do I Need TLD for My Own Country? Like .CA or .UK?

You don’t need to, but it can help. Particularly if your business is local. For digital services, it doesn’t make as much sense. But a country-based TLD will give you more cred both in the eyes of your visitors, as well as search engines. That being said, it’s not a huge deal either way.

Should I Purchase My Domain from My Web Host?

It’s not that big a deal either way. If you want the absolute lowest cost domains, you should check out Cloudflare’s domain registration service. They sell you domains “at cost”. Meaning they don’t make a profit and remit all the money directly to ICANN. It’s cheaper than any other domain provider. On the other hand, purchasing a domain from the same hosting provider allows you to manage them both at the same time.

How Easy is it To Migrate from Between Hosting Providers?

I’m not going to lie, it can be annoying. But most web hosts will transfer your website for free once you sign up, so that helps mitigate the pain. Changing web hosts isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, but you’re not locked into anything either. This is one reason why you should host your own website instead of using a website builder like Wix (see above).

How Much Should you Pay for a Website?

For a beginner, you shouldn’t be paying more than $2.64/m to host your own website. You can get better “per month” prices if you commit to hosting for a period of say 3-years. But then your initial cost will be higher since you have to pay for it in advance. On the other hand, if you choose to host for 1-year, your initial outlay will be lower, but you’ll end up paying more every month.

But still. $2-4 every month is a good range to aim for.

About Bhagwad Park

I've been writing about web hosting and WordPress tutorials since 2008. I also create tutorials on Linux server administration, and have a ton of experience with web hosting products. Contact me via e-mail!

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