No, it's not elegantly sashaying through swathes of guests, artfully balancing a tray of Prosecco and dainty blinis, while making scintillating small talk against a background of candlelight and jazz. That's waaay more exciting.
... eh, what is it?!
Put simply, the files that make up your site must be stored (hosted) on a computer which is connected to the infrastructure of the internet. Web hosting companies have hundreds or even thousands of these computers; each one is a web server.
and how much does hosting cost?
Web hosting packages vary significantly in features and cost. A package can costanything from £10 per year up to over £1000 per month. Hosting packages are generally charged by the month, although some companies invoice annually (like us). You should receive notifications towards the end of the hosting period, at which time you can extend your hosting, normally by paying online with a credit/debit card. If you don't pay before the hosting period expires, your website will usually be suspended pending payment (meaning anyone going to it will only see a horrible sign like 'this site has been SUSPENDED' and a great big warning triangle).
what's in a hosting package?
The most expensive packages are geared towards large, complicated websites that include lots of sophisticated technology for running websites with all the bells and whistles. These packages also provide higher reliability and expert support on demand.
At the other end of the spectrum, packages will only support fairly basic websites and lack the features necessary for running interactive elements such as blogs, forums and online shops. Reliability might be lower (with greater ‘downtime’ - periods when your website is unavailable) and support might also be slower or less comprehensive.
When you buy web hosting, you’re essentially leasing the use of part of one of those web servers. Your website shares the resources of the web server with lots of other websites, and depending on the hostingpackage, you might get a greater or lesser proportion of the server’s available resources. This can impact on the speed of your website. If your website is very complex or receives huge numbers of visitors, you might be better leasing an entire server which will be dedicated to just your website.
how is it used?
Once the web developer has built your website, they’ll transfer it to the area on the web server that you lease. Often work will still need to be done before the website is fully ready to be viewed by the public, which is why the website will often be set up on the web server initially as a demo that only you and the developer can see. This allows any problems to be fixed or tweaks to be made before the website goes live to the world.
Once everything has been checked and the site is ready, the developer will flick the switch and put the site 'live', at which point it'll be viewable by anyone, anywhere on the t'interweb.