“Web hosting? What’s that?” This is probably the question I hear most from people I meet – sadly even people who have, or need, web hosting.
It seems like, with the march of technology, there’s always something new we need to learn: Myspace, YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, blogging, Instagram . . . the list goes on and on.
Thankfully, most of these services do all of the behind-the-scenes stuff automatically, leaving us to just work out how to do the fun stuff like creating content and laughing at the latest memes.
But one of these social media services requires something a little more. Blogging requires you to understand that behind-the-scenes stuff so many other platforms take care of for you – even if it’s just to know the difference between a self-hosted blog and a hosted blog.
The Key to Blogging: Always Be Learning
Anyone who has had a blog for any length of time knows there’s always something to tinker with, something to fix, something to make better – and there’s always pressure to go “self-hosted”.
Self-hosted blogs do have some advantages over free (or hosted) blogs (e.g. blogger.com or wordpress.com), but self-hosted blogs also bring with them another new technology to learn: Web Hosting.
Fortunately, most of the technical aspects of web hosting is automated and, for the most part, you don’t NEED to dig in to your hosting account and mess with it. However, web hosting accounts have some fantastic features which can really help with improving your site – and your brand.
There is way too much to go into everything a hosting plan provides right here, but for now, here’s an overview of some key benefits you get from going self-hosted, which many people don’t know about: email, statistics, and password protection.
Creating an Email with Your Own Domain
Having a web hosting account means you can have email addresses @yourdomain. So, if your domain is www.myawesomeblog.com, you could have an email address of firstname.lastname@example.org. (Substituting myname for your name or whatever you wanted). And you don’t just get one email address either, so any contributors to your blog could have their own addresses. Using your domain name in your email address adds some legitimacy to your ‘brand’ and helps you promote your blog to anyone who sees your email address.
Another benefit of using your web hosting email is that you can create mailing lists, automatically forward emails to another address, and add in automatic responders to reply to emails for you.
Here is a guide to setting up an email address
Using Your Web Host Statistics
Your hosting account includes the facility to provide you with all kinds of statistics that external packages like Google Analytics don’t give. For example, if one page or image on your blog or website is particularly big, it can slow down your whole site. The statistics packages in your hosting account can help you identify which are the slower parts of your blog so you can fix them and create a better user experience.
Sometimes stats and knowing what to do with them can be overwhelming even for experienced bloggers.
Using Password Protection for Your Website
You can easily password protect your site (or certain areas of your site), using the built-in password protection from your web host. No need for plugins or anything like that, it’s already included with your account.
These are just a few of the features your hosting account comes with. Every host has its own special features, so log on to your hosting control panel today (you should have been sent login details when you signed up) and see what there is on offer.
Shared, VPS, Dedicated & Cloud Hosting Comparison
There are lots of different types of hosting (update: see hosting reviews here) available and depending upon your own requirements it can often be difficult to find the right host for you. I personally use and recommend Hostgator for beginner bloggers and this infographic will show you where to find the right type of hosting for your needs.
Quick update (2016): I recently found a legitimate web hosting review site.
Another update (2017): Here’s another great comparison of top WordPress hosts (according to speed & uptime).