While many people have a fairly good understanding of what a website is, there is often confusion about where a website 'lives'. This is called hosting.
A host is the company or individual who supplies and maintains a web server to house a website. While what goes into a web server may be complicated, it simply starts out as a computer, like the one in your home or office. It is stripped down to the bare essentials necessary for running as a web server, and then outfitted with appropriate software. Servers are usually custom built to host various websites and applications. For example, a site built with Active Server Pages (ASP) would likely be hosted on a server installed with a Microsoft Operating System and SQL Server software. An Anttix Drupal software website would be hosted on a Linux server with MySQL and PHP software.
The hosting company not only houses the server on a dedicated, high-speed internet connection (such as a T1 line), but they also maintain that server to ensure that downtime is as avoidable as possible. A host must maintain the server’s temperature, keep its software up-to-date, and replace any faulty equipment as needed. They should make frequent data backup too, for worst-case scenarios.
When it comes to choosing a host, research their reputation and cost. Some companies keep hosting costs low by capping CPU speeds and packing far too many websites onto a single server. Capping the CPU speed means that if any site on that server gets too much activity or traffic, the entire server will slow down and sometimes become unresponsive. Almost all servers host multiple sites, however there is a limit to how many one should hold. When cheaper hosting companies ignore that fact, their customers suffer. Good hosting companies have competitive pricing without sacrificing quality and service.