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Web Hosting Services Explained

by Christine Anderssen

What is hosting, and why do you need it, and what is the difference between Hosting, Internet Services and a Website?

Let's start at the beginning and look at all the concepts around the Internet, websites and web hosting.

Let's look at Internet Access first, since this is the most basic service that you will need to access the Internet.

In real life, this can be compared to getting your licence to drive a car. You can drive through the neighbourhood and look at all the houses and shops. Every now and again you can stop and buy something. Then you get into your car again and drive to the next stop.

On the Internet when we are talking about Internet Access, we are talking about the fact that you have dial-up or leased line access to the internet through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). You can get onto the Internet and browse different web sites. You can even buy products on-line. You also have access to email, but your email address is normally linked to that of your service provider. In other words, your email address may be something like johnd@telecomscompany.com where 'telecomscompany' is the name of the ISP provider.

Domain Name Registration
In comparison with real life, Domain Name Registration can be compared to you deciding to get your own business. Let's say we are talking of the days before the Internet. The first thing you would have done was to create a company, with its own name and identity, not so? Your Domain Name that you register can be compared to having a business name, or identity, through which you want to conduct business.

Website Hosting
Compared to real life, Website Hosting can be compared to you wanting to set up your own shop or office building. In the real world you have to rent office space, or rent space in a shopping center or retail complex somewhere if you want to establish a shop or an office, not so? In the same way, in cyberspace you have to rent space. The only difference is that you will not be signing a shop-lease, you will sign a hosting contract to rent hard disk space. This is therefore an ongoing, monthly cost.

Website design.
In real life once you have signed a lease for an office or shop, you will get interior decorators, shopfitters and marketers involved to design your shop front or decorate your offices. In the same way, on the Internet, a website designer will design your shop for you and interior decorators will make your office pretty!

Website maintenance
In the real world your office or shop must be maintained in different ways. First there is the basic maintenance, like cleaning and making sure the lifts still work. Then there is the stocking of new products, getting new products on the shop floor and positioning them so that they catch the eye of the client. In the same way, your website must be maintained. Information on your website must be kept current. There is nothing worse than a potential customer taking a look at your website and finding information that is dated. You need to display new products, or offer potential customers current and updated information about the company

Website Marketing
So..In real life you have set up your shop. It looks nice. Colour coordinated with a eye-catching shopfront display board. Your products are displayed to perfection. But nobody comes around to buy!

Why not? Because nobody knows about you!

You need to tell people about yourself, followed up by impeccable service and strategies to ensure customer satisfaction, so that they return, again and again.

In the same you, once your site is up and running, people are not automatically going to know about it. Just as in the real world, you need to market your site. This is normally called Internet Marketing and Search Engine Optimization. There are very specific strategies to do this and it also needs specialised skills and intensive effort.

Some more explanations: An Internet Service Provider may, or may not, provide hosting services as well.

A web hosting service provider may, or may not, provide Internet Services (e.g. dial up, DSL) as well.

You do get companies that provide all services - Getting access to the Internet, providing hosting space, AND providing web designers to design your website.

The most common scenario however is that you get companies that specializes in Internet Service Provision, you get companies that specialize in Web Hosting services, and you get companies that specialize in Website Design services.

A last note about email. An email address can either be linked to your ISP (in which case you get an email address in the form "john@telecomcompany.com") or linked to your domain name, in the form "john@yourwebsite.com" once you have a domain name registered and a web hosting contract set up. You do not need to give up your email address that you have with your ISP provider since it can operate independently and in parallel with your email address linked to your website. In fact, it is always a good idea to have a backup email address in case your website is down - implying therefore that your email address linked to your domain name is also dependent on your website and your web hosting provider.

Thursday, Jan 11th, 2007