Web Hosting 101 – What it Is and How it Works (Explained in Plain English, no Worries)

Web hosting is an interesting term in the sense that nearly everyone has used it at one point or another. And yet, not many people truly understand what web hosting really is, let alone how it works

This is rather unfortunate, as web hosting is, quite literally, what holds our entire online world together. Knowing the ins and outs of it is certainly not a bad idea. 

Here’s the deal:

The text before you will ensure you become equipped with at least a basic understanding of what web hosting is and how it functions. We’ll also cover a few other aspects of web hosting (namely, the different kinds and how much you can expect to pay for each one), but, for now, let’s start at the most logical place we can think of – explaining precisely what web hosting is.

What Is Web Hosting?

Think about the files on your computer, like video games, pictures, word processing documents, programs, etc. All that data is safely stored on your computer’s hard drive, ready to be accessed whenever you wish to do something with it.

The same principle applies to websites, too, as web pages are, after all, nothing more than neatly organized collections of data. Files are stored somewhere and, when you give instructions, they are “called upon” and delivered to your screen.


Instead of being offline on a desktop or laptop machine, files needed to open a website are stored on what’s called a web server (more on that later). When you want to access a certain website, you give instructions through your browser. The browser then “fetches” the files needed from the server in order to show you the page. 

And the process of keeping files on a server, as well as making websites accessible at all times, is what’s called web hosting. 

How Does Web Hosting Work?

As we said, the data behind websites is hosted on servers. 

But what exactly are servers?

Usually stored in data centers, servers are very powerful computers that, despite their incredible capacity, can do only two fairly simple things: store website data and deliver it to people on the internet

Storing the data on а server functions exactly like storing files on a hard drive. As for delivering it to the users of the Web, here’s a general step-by-step process of how this works:

  • You click on a link, and the server receives the request for a page sent by your browser.
  • The browser connects to the server through an IP address.
  • The IP address is obtained by translating the domain name.
  • The server sends back the requested page written in HTML (Hypertext Markup Language).
  • The web browser renders the page according to the HTML code it received.
  • You get access to the web page, which (if everything works as it should), happens in mere seconds

And that’s it, really, at least in a nutshell. While some of the world’s greatest minds managed to make this work, we’ve boiled down the entire magic of the internet and web hosting to just a few steps.

Shared Hosting vs Virtual Private Server Hosting

While the general concept of web hosting doesn’t change, there are two distinct methods of storing web data on a server. Both have their pros and cons, and deciding which one is a better fit for your needs can be a little tricky.

The two variants of web hosting we’re talking about are shared hosting and virtual private server hosting (VPS hosting).


Shared hosting is the most affordable hosting option available. This is due to the simple fact you share server space with other website files. 

Shared hosting has its fair share of issues, as the case with the cheapest options usually is. The most notable problem is that, since you share web space and resources with multiple other websites on the same server, it’s quite common for an overload with another website causes to slow down your website

Needless to say: 

In this day and age, this can be detrimental to your website’s rankings.

However, while not without its flaws, shared hosting is a valid option for some. For instance, if you have a blog or a small business website that’s just starting to expand, shared hosting will do an adequate job without breaking a sweat. 

VPS hosting, on the other hand, is a pricier option, but you will be getting more value for your money.

Think of VPS hosting as a more advanced form of shared hosting. While you do share a server with other websites, you are assigned personal resources of your own. This means that, no matter how much data is being pulled from a server at any point, your website should not experience any loading time issues.

Keep in mind that: 

If you have a business that requires such a thing, you can also go with a third option – a dedicated server. As the name suggests, investing in a dedicated server means you don’t share the server hosting your website data with anyone. It has a single purpose in life, which is to host the data needed to run your website.

Of course, paying for a dedicated server will be significantly more expensive than the aforementioned options. But if you can afford it, it’s certainly the most effective form of web hosting there is.

How Much Does Web Hosting Cost?

Predicting the exact price of web hosting is not exactly the same as asking how much a can of soda costs. The bill will depend on your provider and the hosting plan you choose. The better the plan, the more money you’ll need to spend; the more reputable and reliable the provider, the higher the price.

In general: 

Decent shared hosting packages typically start from as little as $2 to $10 per month. For simple websites with little data, these will do just fine. If your website needs more shared hosting firepower, however, expect to pay about $100+ a month. 

If dedicated servers are what you go with, the pricing plans can go over $2,000 monthly, which is obviously a significant leap from the $2 to $10 price range. 

Sitting comfortably between shared and dedicated hosting, VPS packages will set you back between $20 and $50 a month.

Some of you may have heard that finding free web hosting is also an option. This is quite right. If you do go down that route, we recommend that you opt for a website builder (like Wix and Weebly) that has a free plan which includes web hosting. That way, you can have a hosted website online without ever paying a dime.

Scouting the internet for coupons and free offers is also an option, but, as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch

The thing is:

Going with a free web hosting plan will, at the very least, place adverts on your site so the providers can get something in return. Security issues are also something that can cause problems. If you’re not paying for the service, the provider has no real incentive to keep your data safe, does he?

Web Hosting – The Machinery Running the Internet Behind the Scenes

As you now know, web hosting is an integral part of how the online world functions. Without it, the entire internet as we know it would crumble in a matter of seconds. More people should have a clear picture of how web hosting works.

Luckily, we’ve armed you with the essential web hosting need-to-knows. The next time you load a website, do take a second to appreciate everything going on behind the scenes.