What is Hosting?

I sent my hosting invoices out a few weeks ago and got a good question from a client: what is this bill?

The first inclination of my client was to say that she already paid for the domain name… the yearly GoDaddy bill.

Background: since all my clients choose to pay for their hosting on a yearly basis to save money and save me extra billing paperwork, this client has been happily running her site for a year, and this invoice seemed to come out of nowhere.

Here’s my response, and my summary of what hosting means:

GoDaddy is who you pay to buy (to lease or to rent, really) your domain name, and your domain name is where people find you on the ‘net: yourcompany.com or yourname.net etc. Hosting is the service that allows your site to exist on the web. Web sites need both.

All web sites need a computer somewhere — a “home” — to run on. Hosting is what this is called, and I lease a computer at a data center (big warehouse full of large noisy server computers) that runs your site, making it accessible on the internet.

Yes, sometimes hosting is free, examples are Apple’s .Mac service, or the occasional bundled add-in to services like Comcast high speed internet. The problem with these is twofold: they usually don’t allow you/your clients/the world to use your domain name to access them, making the world use an ugly URL like mattherrebout.mac.com. The second problem is I can’t do much with them because usually they disallow things like databases and scripting languages.

Don’t worry about what those are. They make your site way, way better.

So that’s what hosting is, and why you might want to pay for it instead of going with free hosting.

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