By Stacy Clifford
In simple terms, web hosting is renting space on a web server. A website is not simply a domain name, it is a collection of files linked together by HTML code to display text and graphics on a computer.
In order for anybody to see this collection of files you've created, it has to be housed on a computer somewhere that has access to the internet. Not just any computer will do, of course. A web server is a computer set up with special software that allows it to receive requests from the internet for the website files it has stored on it and to send those files out over the internet so that the requesting computer can display them. It is very much like a waiter in a restaurant taking your order and bringing the food that you ask for from the kitchen, hence the name "server."
Along with making sure your files can be seen by internet users around the world, a web server provides other important services as well. First and foremost is the ability to create email addresses based on your domain name and to send and receive email with them. The web server also has various types of software installed on it that allow your website to run programs, create and manage databases, display video, and many other functions you might find useful. Almost any type of computer can function as a web server, but it's the software that's on it that makes it a server.
When you buy webhosting, the monthly fee you pay goes to the continued maintenance and upgrading of the server's hardware and software, the cost of keeping it online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a secure data center with a fast and powerful internet connection, and to pay for the expertise of the people who do all that work. It is completely possible to turn your own home or office computer into a web server if you really want to, but in most cases it is far more economical to pay someone else who is dedicated to providing this service in a properly reliable manner than it is to try and do it yourself.