A web host is an ISP that has one or more servers on which you can upload files and view them on the Internet. You need one because it is not easy to operate a web server that serves files on the Internet, like installing an application and running it. You are likely to have your own domain name and for the domain to be visible on the Internet, it must be configured properly on domain name servers DNS that tells the rest of the Internet where the domain can be displayed. Its like a massive phone book except that instead of having peoples name and phone number, there are domain names and IP address numbers. If you plan to run any scripts like blog scripts, address books, etc., the web hosting server must also support it. I will not go into all the technical details, but enough to say that you can now see that web hosting is not like running your Microsoft Word program. It requires technical knowledge and expertise in several Internet protocols and procedures.
How about free web hosting?
Have you ever heard of TANSTAAFL? It says Theres no such thing as a free lunch. If you decide to place your site on a free host, keep in mind that you generally do not get any warranty regarding performance and your site will probably be beautified with advertisements placed there by the free host. Most free hosts make their money through the ads placed above, below or on your website. Its not a very professional look if you try to market a business. Its good for hobby or personal places, but how serious would you do if you could see that they were hosting a free web hosting?
So how do I find the right host for my site?
Most guides will tell you to look for things like at least 500 MB of hard disk space, a bit random amount of bandwidth and scroll, browse, browse! Lets break it down to the basics. There are basically two types of websites. Small and large. Yes, its so simple. Well, maybe we should also say little ones who hope to be big one day. If you only start then the chances are that your first site will be a little bit. Let me define little. Its a website driven by an individual or small business person who wants to sell some pieces or post some affiliate links, offer advice etc. Most of my websites would rank me as small. Little, in host terms, it can be a website with hundreds of pages, some videos and some downloads. Big, on the other hand, is a site with thousands of pages, archives on old pages etc. Sites like CNN, Microsoft, Apple are, for example, BIG websites. If you plan to go so big, you need to hire your own IT professional to oversee your team of webmasters and designers!
Anyway, enough ... the first thing to say is CPanel.
Why should I use CPanel?
Each host account has some form of control panel. Some are very good and some are very very bad. CPanel just happens to be one of the very good and used by many of the largest web hosting companies. Just like something, it has a learning curve, but the latest CPanel has many videos to show you how to do things like adding email addresses, password protecting any of your content and doing all you may need to do with your host account. There are also many good guides and videos elsewhere on the Internet. Another advantage of using a hosting company that has CPanel is that if you ever need to change hosts, you will probably be able to switch to another host that has CPanel and avoid the learning curve. On the other hand, if you use a host that has its own control panel then you are back on square one.
Unix is better than Windows
Bill Gates and some of his followers would tell you something else, but the reality is that there is much more support for Unix based web hosting than Windows hosting. Unix has been far beyond Windows and has always been the primary operating system that Internet servers have hosted. Most Internet protocols like TCP IP developed on Unix and Unix servers tend to be stable than Windows servers. The only time you want a Windows web hosting service would be if you would upload a script that was written specifically for a Windows server.