(Jump to Part 1)
By the end of the last article, I had explained the first two necessary ingredients for a website: a domain name and the content. But those ingredients are not enough. Once your web designer has put together the content for a basic website, it is simply a bunch of files. On their own, they are not much use. You need to add the third ingredient, hosting, before you really do have a website.
So that people can access your website, the website files need to be copied to a web server.
A web server is really just a fancy name for a computer that stores your website files on its hard disk, and allows strangers to open those files using their web browser. Think of the web browser (for example Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox or Safari) as being like Microsoft Word, and your website files like Word documents. There are some significant technical differences, but the concepts are the same. You open your web browser or Word, tell it to open a document or website. Your web browser or Word goes to where the website or document is stored, fetches the file, and displays it.
In theory you could store the files on your computer, make your computer accessible to anyone on the Internet, and have a website.
In practice, this is a very bad idea for several reasons. One of those reasons is that letting anyone on the Internet see the files on your computer should be avoided for security. Therefore we use a web server instead.
So that many people can quickly and easily view your website, the web server needs to have a very fast and reliable connection to the Internet. This connection should be much faster, and more reliable, than the Internet connection at a typical office or home. To set up and maintain such a computer can cost a lot of money, so rather than doing all that yourself, you can pay someone to "host" your website.
A web hosting company owns computers configured as web servers, so they have the necessary fast and reliable Internet connections. For a relatively small fee, they will allow you to put your website files on their web server. Many of their customers will each rent a little space on one web server.
Although the cost of the web server is high, each customer is using and paying for only a small part. So the cost is low for each customer. The drawback is you are sharing one computer with many people, but for most situations this really does not matter.
Now we know the identities of the three necessary website ingredients, we need to combine them so that we end up with a working website. We will do so in the next article, The 3 Necessary Ingredients for a Website Part 4.