Your host is where your website ‘lives’. There are lots of different kinds, but in general, you can divide shared hosting into two categories. To put it in non-virtual terms, it’s similar to the difference between a mall and a flea market.
Flea Market. In the non-virtual world, if you want a place to house your new store, you may choose to start out in a flea market. The flea market owns the building, and rents you a small space. They provide much of what you’ll need in the area – walls, lighting, and the furnishings. They make it really easy for you to come in and set up shop. You own your merchandise, and you can bring some of your own things in, but the flea market owns the rest. The flea market can close or ask you to leave at any time. It’s pretty temporary.
Mall. If you choose to house your store in a mall, the mall also owns the building and rents space to you. In a mall, however, you’re much more responsible for the rest. The mall gives you a shell, and from there you have to do the rest. In addition to the merchandise, you need shelving, floor covering or tile, displays, decor, signage, and everything else that will make your store your own. Usually if you’re in a mall, your business is there for the long hall, and it feels permanent. The host can close or ask you to leave at any time, but if you go, you can take just about everything with you.
Websites. Like a flea market, sites like Weebly, Wix, and even Squarespace own space that they rent to you. They provide templates for you to work with. You own your content, but they own the environment. If you leave, you leave everything behind except for your words and pictures, and possibly your domain name.
On shared hosting, with companies like Hostgator, A2, or Bluehost, you also rent space from a company, but it’s a blank site that you must build. If you leave, you can usually pack up the whole website, and move it to another host, where it will look exactly the same.
Of course this is an oversimplification, but it gives a concrete example of the types of places that you can put your website.
If you’re in the market for a website, and need help choosing what platform or host you will choose, let us help! We pride ourselves on helping our clients understand abstract concepts so that they can make informed decisions that are best for their business and their budget.