A web host (website host) is a company that offers a place for your website to live, making it visible to the world. They offer space on what is called a server, a powerful computer configured to run websites and web applications.
An easy way to think of a web host is like a land owner. Your house is your website, and the land owner is the web host. Without the land the land owner has, your house has no where to exist. The same is true for a web host.
A web host will typically offer web hosting in a variety of types, with the most common being shared hosting. Some web hosts offer hosting services for free, while most charge a fee. To explain the typical differences between free and fee based web hosts, we’ve created a small list below:
Pros of Typical Free Web Hosts
Simple to moderately advanced web builder
Free site templates
Free site tools (guestbooks, contact forms)
Paid hosting upgrades
Cons of Typical Web Hosts
[xlist]Include advertising on your site
May not allow personal domain names (your own .com)
May not offer programming engines like PHP, Java or Ruby
May not offer databases
Do not allow DNS editing
Do not allow your own SSL
Hugely limited storage
Hugely limited bandwidth
Free URL is branded with the host’s name
No support for popular web applications like WordPress, Joomla, or Magento.
No ecommerce support[/xlist]
Pros of Typical Paid Web Hosts
Supports PHP, MySQL, Python, and Perl. Some also support Java and Ruby
Supports multiple (sometimes unlimited) email accounts, MySQL databases, addon domains, parked domains, and subdomains.
Huge bandwidth (unlimited in many cases)
Auto installers to provide installation of popular web applications
Allows SSL Certificates
Allows DNS editing
Greater upgrade possibilities[/checklist]
Cons of Typical Paid Web Hosts
Often requires domain name without option for free URLs[/xlist]
As you can see from the list, a paid web host is going to offer a lot more than a free host. It also won’t negatively affect your web presence as much as a free host. You don’t want your design impacted by forced advertisements or your URL showing off your web host.
No matter which web host you choose, make sure they can support your site in it’s current form and as it grows. Moving from one host to another is a hassle that is better left avoided if possible.