If you’re clear on the difference between a domain name and web hosting you may still want further clarification and ask the question: why do I have to pay for web hosting?
Without web hosting your site would not be visible to the outside world. When you pay for a hosting company to house your site you’re paying for space on one of their servers. A hosting company performs many important services. Here are their core functions:
As mentioned in the introduction one of the primary functions is to store the files that make up your web sites (web pages, images, PDFs, etc). However, there’s more to it that that; if you’re running a website that you can update yourself you’re also using the hoster’s database server and scripting language. Hosting companies also have special Internet access that allows them to transfer huge amounts of data at a time—unlike your domestic Internet connection.
You’ll also get use of the hosting company’s mail server—which will handle all your email. This also allows you to use spam/junk filtering systems. Most hosting companies will also offer webmail, which allows you to access your email from any computer with an Internet connection.
Hosting companies offer statistics as well. While they may not be as advanced as something like Google Analytics they’re still very useful as they show a different set of results such as data transfer. They also show the ‘raw’ statistics which shows the total amount of traffic you’re getting—including the search engine crawlers (which Google Analytics filters out).
Hosting companies backup your data in several ways. First all the data is written to two hard drives simultaneously. So if a hard drive fails (one of the most common causes of data loss) your site is still intact on the other drive. Then they back up to a separate server at regular intervals (e.g. hourly). Finally they store backups on a site separate to the main server.
Hosting companies store their servers in a very secure environment. They are housed in special anti–fire, anti–flood units. Additionally they protect your site from hackers via their firewall and anti–virus.
A hosting company does all this and more. Hosting is so inexpensive these days too so it’s something well worth paying for.