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A How-To Guide to WordPress Hosting from GruffyGoat: Part 1

Scott Marcley
Part 1 – What is web hosting and why do you need it?
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Hosting is often thought of as a “we’ll deal with that later” decision. As a result, some of the factors that might inform the design and development phases are overlooked.

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The design and development phases of your website project are only two-thirds of the process. The third major component you’ll need to launch your site to the Internet is a web host. Most organizations don’t have the IT resources and dedicated servers to host a site themselves, so they opt to partner with a third-party company that provides hosting services.

But what does a web host do, and how do you go about finding one to fit your website’s goals?

There are several important factors to consider as you move forward, which will impact both how your site functions and how it is maintained over the long-term. This article is the first in a series that will explore the topic of web hosting—specifically, WordPress hosting—and help you make some decisions about your hosting needs.

Part 1 of the series, which follows below, is an overview of web hosting: What is it? Why do you need it? What is WordPress Hosting? Part 2 will look at the different types of hosting services and give you some guidelines for determining which type best suits your specific needs. Part 3 will explain how to find a good web host and give you some tips on what to look for in a reliable hosting service.

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What Is Web Hosting?

In the simplest terms, a web host provides the technology and services needed for a website to be “live” on the Internet—that is, visible and usable by your intended audience.

Websites are hosted on specialized computer servers, where the software files that make up your site are stored and connected to the Internet. Each hosting server has a specific “address,” a series of numbers, letters, and symbols known in technical terms as the Uniform Resource Locater (URL), but which most people recognize as a site’s “www-dot” or “http” address.

When web users type your site’s URL into the address bar of their Internet browser, they go to the server address where your site is hosted and can then access your files, which display on their screens as your website’s design, navigation, and functionality features.

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Why Does a Website Need to Be Hosted?

Larger companies can sometimes afford the infrastructure and staff needed to run a web server, but most don’t or can’t do it themselves. Without someone hosting your website, however, it doesn’t actually exist.

At the beginning of a website project, a lot of attention is paid to the site’s design and development. Hosting is often thought of as a “we’ll deal with that later” decision. As a result, some of the factors that might inform the design and development phases are overlooked. Factors like:

  • How will your site’s underlying software be updated?
  • How will your site be optimized for search engine ranking?
  • What sort of bandwidth usage requirements will your site have?
  • What are your requirements for transmitting and securing site data?
  • How will your site’s content be refreshed?
  • How will your website needs (and costs) scale as your business grows?

If your website’s designers and developers know the answers to these questions, then they can provide better guidance as to how the site is built and interacted with by visitors. If your project partners don’t bring the topic up, then you should start the conversation, because the decisions you make are important to your site’s ultimate success.

Choosing the right web hosting partner for your needs can improve your site’s search engine rankings, increase sales, generate more contacts with your audience, and help secure your site against malware, hackers, and outages. You also want a stable and professional hosting partner because, unlike the design and development phases which mostly end once the site goes live, the web hosting phase continues for your site’s entire lifespan. Once hosting ends, the site is no longer accessible on the Internet.

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What Is WordPress Hosting?

Your GruffyGoat website is built in WordPress, which is a fairly simple programming script compatible with most web hosting companies. We recommend partnering with a web host provider who specifically offers WordPress hosting, which is optimized to WordPress’ high performance and security standards. A WordPress web host also typically offers one-click installs of the software, and many providers will automatically update your WordPress software as new versions are released.

There are a variety of WordPress hosting models, but the two most commonly employed are “shared hosting” and “managed hosting.” In a nutshell, shared hosting involves putting your website on a secure server alongside many other websites, who all share the server’s resources and connections. Your site’s speed and performance will vary by provider, as will your level of participation in operating and maintaining the site.

Managed hosting services are similar to shared hosting, but the hosting provider handles all of the back-end maintenance, including software and hardware updates, data backups, antivirus and malware protection, as well as a variety of physical and virtual security features. Your site’s speed and performance are typically better with a managed hosting solution.

Ultimately, the model of WordPress hosting that will work best for you depends on your organization’s requirements—including budgetary needs—as well as your tolerance for performing the maintenance tasks of a live WordPress site.

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Now that we’ve established some of the basics, we’ll get more into the WordPress hosting models in Part 2 of this series, and give you guidance on how each model addresses specific goals. Ideally, this will help you have a productive conversation with your site developers about your hosting needs.

If you have questions about WordPress websites and hosting services, then contact the GruffyGoat team. We’ll be happy to talk with you about your needs.

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