There are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to building a website, but perhaps none are more foundational than the decision of whether to host your site locally or with a web hosting provider.
If this question has you stumped, you might want to take a look at some of the reasons why people choose to host locally or why they might choose hosting with a provider instead.
Summary: Hosting locally vs. using a web hosting provider
- There are pros and cons to hosting locally and to using a web hosting provider.
- Hosting locally on your PC or Mac puts the ultimate control in your hands but requires a lot of expertise, plus a pretty significant investment of time and money.
- Using a web host is by far the easier, smoother option, but you’ll have less control over customization and upgrades.
First of all, what does it mean to host your website locally? Well, a web host is basically the “house” where your website lives.
Local hosting means your website is hosted on your own server network, and you’ll have to set up your own server.
In a sense, the difference between local hosting and using a hosting provider is similar to building your own house vs. hiring a contractor.
There may be a lot of good reasons to build your own house, but it requires a lot of time and technical expertise.
So why do some people choose to host locally?
If you have the technical know-how to do it successfully, this option gives you ultimate control over your own website.
It’s a super hands-on approach, meaning any customizations, upgrades, or improvements you want to make are yours to implement at any time without having to contact customer service or ask for permission.
However, local hosting is not a good idea for anyone who doesn’t already have a fairly high level of computer expertise.
And even if you are a computer whiz, you’ll likely need to hire at least a few team members to keep your network up and running.
This – plus all the hardware you’ll need to invest in – means that you’re going to have pretty steep monetary costs, especially in the beginning.
Hosting With a Web Hosting Provider
Using a professional web hosting provider to host your website is by far the easier option and is thus what most people go for when building a website.
Although you do compromise a bit in terms of control over your website, what you get in return is the option to sit back and let the professionals handle the technical aspects of hosting a website.
This frees up your time (and money) and allows you to focus on all the other (frankly more fun) aspects of your website, such as design, content, and marketing.
How to Host a Website Locally
Now that you know the pros and cons of both hosting options, let’s get into the details of how these hosting options work.
Since hosting locally is much more technically complicated, we’ll go over the basics here.
To put it simply, you have two options for hosting a website locally: you can set up a local server or use a virtual host.
To host locally, you’ll need a local server. This is a computer with software installed on it, the purpose of which is to serve a client within the local network.
One way you can set up a local web server is to run a web server application on your computer, which will allow you to host your website locally and access it from any computer on your network.
|Supported platforms||Cross-platform support, Linux, Windows, and Mac OS||Supports Windows OS||Supports Mac OS|
|Programming languages||HTML, CSS, PHP, Perl||HTML, CSS, PHP||HTML, CSS, PHP|
|Installation||Easy to download, install and configure||Easy to download, install and configure||Easy to download, install and configure|
These may sound like Doctor Seuss characters, but to put it simply, they’re both different types of software that you can run to create a local server to host your website.
The easiest and most user-friendly of these is XAMPP, a cross-platform application that can be run on Windows, Linux, and iOS.
Although there will still be a pretty steep learning curve for beginners, XAMPP is easier to set up than most other local server software options while still giving you advanced control over apache configurations and other optimizations.
WAMP is another option that works similarly but is only compatible with Windows.
Another potential option is to use a Python simple server.
This is a great choice if you need to set up a server quickly, as all you need to do is install Python and implement one single line command to establish a simple HTTP server.
All of these options allow you to access your website from any device in your network.
Amazon and Google both offer unmanaged cloud hosting, which is sort of a hybrid option between hosting your own website and using a web host provider.
You’ll still have a lot of control over the customizations of your server, but you won’t have to invest in the physical hardware or software required to set up a local server.
One of the great benefits of cloud hosting is that your website won’t depend on a physical server.
Instead, it will be hosted in the cloud, meaning you can access it from anywhere – no need to be tethered to your network.
If you want to host your website locally, another option is to use a virtual host.
Virtual hosting is a way to host multiple, independent domains on a single server or connected group of servers.
Virtual hosting is primarily used by individuals or companies who want to use a single server to support more than one domain.
But it can also be a way to host your own website (or websites) on a single computer without using a web hosting provider.
There are three main ways in which a virtual host can be configured:
- IP-based. This one is the simplest, as it uses different IP addresses to send directives to each website hosted on the server.
- Port-based. This works similarly to IP-based virtual hosting, but virtual hosts are configured using ports to respond to multiple websites and differentiate which websites should receive which directives.
- Name-based. This is the most common type of virtual host configuration today. It uses one single IP address for all websites on the server and differentiates websites based on their domain names.
This is all highly technical, but if you want to do the work and set up a virtual server, you’ll need to first choose which server application you want to use.
Apache is the most popular one, but there are other options out there as well.
How to Host a Website With a Hosting Provider
If hosting your website locally seems overwhelming, you’re not alone. Most people (particularly website building beginners) don’t have the time and resources to devote to hosting their own site.
Fortunately, a huge industry of web hosting providers has been developed to solve this problem and make your life easier.
Web hosting providers take care of the technical side of hosting a website, freeing you up to focus on the other aspects of running a website.
1. Choose a Web Hosting Provider
There are a ton of great web hosting providers on the market today, and most of them offer different types of web hosting at different price tiers.
Choosing the right type of hosting for you can be a bit confusing, so to clear things up, let’s break down the different types of web hosting offered by most web hosting providers.
Most web hosting providers will offer shared hosting as their most economically-friendly option.
Shared hosting means that your website will share a server with other websites. This keeps more money in your pocket and is a great option for websites that are just starting out and don’t anticipate an immediately high amount of traffic.
One of the most popular shared web hosting providers is SiteGround, which guarantees great security, speed, and performance at a very reasonable price.
However, sharing resources with other sites does mean that there will be fewer allocated to your website.
If you do anticipate a large amount of traffic (or just don’t like the idea of sharing), then dedicated hosting may be a better option for you.
With dedicated hosting, your website gets its own dedicated server and doesn’t share resources with other sites.
Understandably, this is a more expensive option since you’re essentially leasing an entire server. As such, it’s generally best for mid to large-sized websites with a high load of traffic.
You may see web hosting providers offering managed dedicated hosting. What this means is that they will take care of the management and maintenance of the server (as opposed to it being your responsibility).
Virtual private server (VPS) hosting is another option offered by many web hosting providers.
VPS hosting uses virtualization to give your site access to dedicated resources even though you are still technically sharing a server with other websites.
In this way, it’s sort of a middle ground between shared and dedicated web hosting.
You get the best of both worlds, usually for a slightly higher price than shared hosting and a slightly lower price than dedicated hosting.
Cloud VPS Hosting
Another option for hosting is to use a cloud-based web hosting service.
This is a newer option that hosts your website in the cloud, enabling you to access it from anywhere in the world – no need to be physically close to your server.
I mentioned cloud hosting briefly earlier as a method for hosting your own website. The difference here is that cloud hosting provided by a web host is managed externally.
They set it up for you, handle all the configurations, and are there to help if anything goes wrong or if you want to make any changes.
If you choose to go with managed cloud hosting, it’s important to do the research and choose a provider that offers airtight security features.
Fortunately, there are a few great cloud hosting providers on the market today.
One of these is Scala Hosting, which offers managed cloud VPS hosting (a hybrid between cloud and VPS hosting) with strong security and performance at a remarkably low price.
2. Register A Domain
Once you’ve chosen a web hosting provider, you need to register a domain name for your website.
Many of the plans offered by web hosting providers include free domain registration, making it simple and easy to set up your domain name.
However, if your web hosting plan doesn’t come with free domain registration, you’ll need to register it with a reliable, trusted domain registrar.
All domains are governed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), so when you’re looking for a domain registrar, you’ll want to make sure that you choose one that’s accredited by ICANN.
One of the most popular domain registrars is GoDaddy, but there are also a lot of trustworthy alternative domain registrars, such as Bluehost and Namecheap.
Once you’ve found an accredited domain registrar, you can use a domain checker tool to see if your domain name has already been taken or not. If it’s available, then it’s time to purchase it!
Make sure you follow the purchasing instructions provided by your domain registrar carefully and don’t let monthly payments lapse, or you might lose your domain name to someone else!
3. Start Building Your Website
Phew! Now that you’ve done the work and figured out where and how to host your website, it’s time to start building the actual site.
The good news is, that some web hosts come with built-in website builders. SiteGround, for example, includes the awesome drag-and-drop site-building tool Weebly with all of its plans.
SiteGround and many other web hosts also offer WordPress hosting so that you can build your website using WordPress.
However, if the web host you’ve chosen doesn’t include a website builder with its plans (or if you’ve decided to host your website locally), then you’ll need to choose a website builder.
Ultimately, the website builder that’s right for you will depend on what kind of website you’re trying to make.
You may want a more hands-on approach, but if ease and speed are your priorities, then a no-code website builder might be the right option for you.
Ultimately, only you can decide whether hosting your own website or using a web hosting provider is better for you.
In general, hosting your site locally gives you way more control over your website’s security, customizations, and upgrades.
However, it requires pretty advanced knowledge of computer configurations, not to mention a significant investment of time and money.
With a web hosting provider, you’re giving up the freedom and start-to-finish independence that local hosting provides.
However, what you get in return is the ease of letting someone else do the work of hosting your site.
And even if you don’t get the same level of control, website hosting providers do offer an impressive range of options when it comes to how and where your website will be hosted.
Particularly if your budget isn’t a concern, you can get a ton of flexibility and great benefits from using a professional web host.
List of web hosting services we have tested and reviewed: