How to host a website

man looking at website on laptop with notepad to the side
(Image credit: Pexels)

So, want to know how to host a website? When it comes to hosting your small business website, you have several options. You can use the best website builder, get managed hosting from the best web hosting services, or self-host your website.

Your business website is critical to interacting with your customers and selling your products. Top web hosting services offer the speed and reliability you need—providing fast, available web browsing for every visitor.

In this guide, we’ll cover these three options, explore the features of each, and explain how to get your hosting in place. The right type of web hosting will ensure your website is there when your customers need it—whether that’s running an ecommerce store, building trust in your small business, or simply providing information.

The three main ways to host your small business website

Web hosting companies provide the technological infrastructure that runs your website. You decide on your website framework, structure your website, build it out, and add content. The hosting provider ensures your website runs on their servers and networks, so that people can access your content via their web browser.

Broadly, web hosting comes in several varieties:

  • As part of a website building platform like Squarespace, Wix, or Shopify
  • As a managed service from a hosting provider, where they take care of all website hosting needs
  • As a self-hosted service from a hosting provider, where you do the heavy lifting

Let’s dig into each of these.

How to host a website on a website building platform

Wix logo

Wix is just one of many website builder platforms available, which all host your site for you once published (Image credit: Wix)

Website building platforms offer an all-in-one solution for your small business website needs. They feature premade templates together with drag-and-drop editors that make it easy to create a professional-looking site. Web hosting comes as standard—once you’ve designed and published your site, these services take care of all the infrastructure, so your website just works.

Features of website building platforms for web hosting include:

  • Fast, simple, and easy-to-use
  • No need for a separate service for web hosting
  • Everything is included in the website subscription price
  • Can handle low-to-medium numbers of concurrent visitors
  • Perfect for businesses that only need standard website functionality
  • May not work for businesses with highly technical needs
  • Subscription prices can be challenging for businesses on a tight budget

Here are the steps you need to follow.

Step one: Choose a website building platform

You have plenty of choices on the right platform for your needs. You’ll find our guide to the best website builders useful, and we've given further insight into the best small business website builders and the best ecommerce website builders.

Step two: Design and build your website

All of the website building platforms have in-depth tutorials and training to put your website together. You can start with a professional template, add in the pages you want, create navigation, add content and images, then test everything out.

Step three: Get a domain name and subscription plan

You can often buy a domain name through the website building platform, or buy one separately and link it to the website builder. Once you’ve done that, choose the right subscription plan for your site —each platform offers multiple pricing tiers, depending on the functions you need.

Step four: Publish and enjoy worry-free hosting

Once you’ve built your website, just hit publish. The website building platform takes care of all your hosting needs, so all you need to do is add content and keep your website updated.

How to host a website using a managed hosting provider

two men working and walking through a data centre

Managed hosting means that everything hosting-related is dealt with for you by the provider (Image credit: Getty Images)

Managed hosting providers offer the servers you need to publish your website, plus a range of other services to keep your website fast, safe, secure, and reliable. These extra features do vary between managed hosting companies, but often include:

  • One-click installation for many website frameworks including WordPress, WooCommerce, Drupal, and similar content management systems
  • Background security functions, like installing patches and updates and protecting against denial of service attacks or malware
  • Balancing loads and traffic across the network and server infrastructure, so your website is resilient and responsive
  • Backing up and restoring data so your information and content is protected
  • Other services, depending on the website host

Why you might choose managed web hosting:

  • Relatively easy to set up and install your website framework and content management system
  • Provides a range of services out-of-the-box with minimal configuration required
  • Can handle medium-to-high numbers of concurrent visitors depending on your hosting plan
  • Great for businesses that may need more complex functionality
  • Subscription prices vary substantially between hosts and the add-on services you need, but can be a challenge for budget-conscious businesses

Here are the steps you need to follow.

Step one: Choose a managed website hosting provider

We have a complete guide to the best web hosting services, with a breakdown of their prices, features, and add-on services. These providers offer a range of plans, from complete, managed services through to self-hosting.

Step two: Install your website framework and build your website

Once you’ve chosen a provider, you can install your website framework and content management system. WordPress is a great choice—it’s fairly easy to learn the basics, there are a ton of tutorials available, and plugins let you customise WordPress to do exactly what you need.

Step three: Get a domain name and choose your add-on services

Some managed hosting providers will offer a domain name purchase service, otherwise you can buy one separately and update the relevant settings. After you choose a domain name, look at the add-on services you get with each plan and choose the right level for your needs.

Step four: Publish and be aware of your website hosting

Your publishing options will vary depending on the website framework you’re using. Once you’ve published, sign into your hosting control panel every couple of weeks to ensure everything is running smoothly.

How to self-host your website

two men and a woman working on computers in a data centre

Self-hosting means that while the provider is still in charge of the servers, you are in charge of updates and other services (Image credit: Getty Images)

Many hosting providers also give you the option to self-host your website. They still provide the servers and networks that your website runs on, but you’ll need to take care of anything other than these basic services. This means you’ll be responsible for:

  • Installing website frameworks
  • Patching and updating security and software
  • Backing up and restoring data
  • Other areas, depending on the web host

Why you might choose self-hosting:

  • It's the most inexpensive option for budget-conscious businesses
  • It can handle low-to-medium numbers of visitors depending on your hosting plan
  • You may have bandwidth speed and capacity limitations
  • It may require additional engineering expertise and configuration

The steps you need to follow to set up self-hosting are very similar to managed hosting, with one exception. During step three, you will need to review all of the services you need and what’s provided on your hosting plan. If a service isn’t listed, then you’ll need to arrange for it.

A quick summary of how to host a website

Let’s bring it all together:

  1. Decide on the hosting option you want—through a website builder, via managed hosting, or a self-hosting package
  2. Use a website framework to design and build your website
  3. Get a domain name and understand if you need extra, add-on services
  4. Pay your subscription, and publish

For a business without complex website needs, a website building platform is a great choice—you get design, simplicity, and speed in one convenient package. For more complex websites, managed hosting is a good option, as it will take care of background tasks and security. Self-hosting is a choice for businesses on a strict budget, so long as you’re aware of the limitations.

It’s time to go build that website!

Further reading on web hosting

Check out our guide to the best WordPress hosting to find more platforms like WP Engine. We also offer a closer look at managed WordPress hosting and compare web hosting vs WordPress hosting to help you decide whether WordPress hosting is right for you. It's also worth learning how your web hosting impacts security, and if you're looking for a domain, find out how to choose a domain name for your website and what to consider when choosing a domain name.

Paul Maplesden

Paul is a highly experienced professional writer who creates extensively researched, expert, in-depth guides across business, finance, and technology.

Boasting over 20 years of business experience working across large corporations, Paul started his own business in 2006. This gives him a unique, first-hand understanding of the challenges businesses and entrepreneurs face. 

Paul loves the challenge of taking complex subjects and breaking them down so they are easily understood. He specializes in creating content spanning a variety of formats, including website copy, blogs, knowledge bases, white papers, support guides, tutorials, and in-depth articles.