Website Hosting - why do we do it?

I recently reminded a client that his annual website hosting bill would soon be due, and he asked me "Hosting... what's that again?" Here's a long version of my explanation :) -- Simon In Chilli Chocolate Marketing's first year of operation we found ourselves handling a range of website maintenance tasks for many of our clients, since a company website is a key component of that company's marketing. The tasks we performed included things like:

  • maintaining content on an existing site
  • integrating new features into an existing site
  • building a new site from scratch

One of the biggest challenges we faced was that of taking on these tasks for a client when the client wasn't sure who had been responsible for them previously. Just as with domain registration details (read more) tracking down "the guy who did the website" and obtaining passwords and server addresses was often more of a challenge than the site administration itself!

Now, a bit of tech-talk: for a website to be viewable by a visitor, the images, words, and code that comprise the website have to exist somewhere on a computer connected to the Internet and running software that will serve up that content upon request by a visitor. The provision of disk space, resources, the software, and network connectivity are collectively known as website hosting.

To get back to our story, we soon found ourselves running a collection of websites hosted across different servers, connected through different Internet service providers, running different versions of different types of software, charging different (high) amounts, and even located in different countries. After investigation we found that some of our clients were paying astronomical hosting bills because that's what "the guy who did the website" had signed up for before moving on. Sometimes the client didn't have any room in the budget for marketing because they were paying so much for website hosting!

We soon realised that we'd be able to provide more efficient service if we were to run the hosting ourselves.

After soliciting quotes from some wholesale hosting providers and asking for opinions from people we trust, we selected a local computer networking centre (a datacentre), leased some server space and network traffic ("bandwidth"), and set up our own hosting service.

Telephone Exchange, 1892. From "De Electriciteit" by P. van Capelle 1893. Creative Commons.

We decided from day one to offer hosting not as a revenue-earner but simply as a way of making it easier for us and our clients to do business together. Some of you reading this might have heard me say "we are not a hosting company". Chilli Chocolate Marketing doesn't offer hosting to anyone other than our marketing clients - this saves our clients money and it saves us the time and hassle of chasing "the guy who did the website" when we need to do something. Joe Public can't just visit our website and sign up for a "Chilli Chocolate Hosting Plan" because there isn't one. We're able to offer some big savings to those clients who choose to use us for hosting as well.

So, to bring it back to the original question asked of me, think of website hosting as the lease on the server and network where your website lives... and think of your hosting bill as the the rent.

We try to be a nice landlord :)

If anyone out there has hosting stories to share, feel free to leave a comment!

(Image credit: "De Electriciteit" by P. van Capelle, 1893. Creative Commons.)