Ask ten people what web hosting is and you’ll likely get ten answers. There are a lot of factors at play, including what type of packages are available (basic shared, virtual private server/VPS hosting and dedicated are examples), the amount of management required, and many web hosts specialize in niches. However, looking at the many definitions can help you put together a comprehensive picture of this tech-laden industry. Just remember that as technology and best practices evolve, so does web hosting and its definition. Who knows what “web hosting” may include just a few months from now?
According to the Tech Terms website, a web host “stores all the pages of your website and makes them available to computers connected to the internet.” That’s a very basic and foundational definition of what a web host does—and while it’s accurate, it’s far from thorough. You can also store all the pages of your website yourself, and in fact it’s highly recommended that you do! The real crux here is that the host “makes them available.” They’re “hosting” your content.
Can You Use It In a Sentence?
Webopedia has a different definition, stating that a “web host is in the business of providing server space, Web services and file maintenance for Web sites controlled by individuals or companies that do not have their own Web servers.” That’s a more complex definition, and encompasses more of what many hosts do on a daily basis. Having your own web servers, or having dedicated servers, is not the norm. It’s very expensive, and only massive enterprises can 1) afford it and 2) make it worthwhile. Fortunately, now that VPS hosting is the same price as basic shared plans, you can get all the benefits of having your own server without the cost and hassle.
Then there’s the Urban Dictionary’s definition of a web host (yes, not authoritative at all, but it’s worth noting since some people may take UD’s definition as gospel!). According to the sarcasm-rich site, a web host is “A sorry excuse for an internet blocking system…used by schools and companies to block a web site when there is really nothing wrong with the site. Schools and companies like to use this excuse to censor web sites when they can’t think of a good excuse to block a site.”
These kinds of parental controls are indeed often utilized in schools and in companies, but it’s not the web host making this decision. It’s the school, company, or whoever else is paying for internet capabilities. In fact, the web host doesn’t care one way or the other if a school or other entity allows this content (for example sites like Facebook). This is an instance of what happens when definitions get confused.
It’s common to get confused because the web hosting industry, and complementary industries, is brimming with jargon and lingo. Confusing hosting with domains, parental controls, responsive design, social media platforms, and search engine optimization? You’re not alone. However, knowing exactly what a web host does (and doesn’t do!) can help keep you on track.