You've got your domain name; now you need a web host. Web hosts are companies that, usually for a fee, place your website on their web-server computers and host it, looking after the networking and communications needed to properly display your web pages and ensuring that your website is in a secure environment, both physically (on a web server) and online. Unless you intend to purchase the necessary -- but somewhat expensive -- web servers and look after them yourself, you'll need to decide what kind of service you need and to investigate which web host provides this for an acceptable cost.
Your main considerations are what levels of control, security, space and support you need to run your website. Once you've made these decisions, you can choose from the different levels and types of web hosting services. While some web hosts will give you a small amount of space for free, most charge a monthly fee and provide features and tools in addition to the basic hosting service. Many small and medium-sized websites use shared web hosting, in which several websites are kept on the same web server. Those who need more control and security for their sites can choose to lease their own virtual or physical web server. Businesses that need very high levels of security for their websites can purchase their own web servers and place them in a secure data center that's maintained by the hosting service. Beyond the different types of web server arrangements are web hosting packages for specific website needs, including e-commerce and blogging.
Identifying the type of web host that you need is just the first step. Next, you'll have to consider bandwidth, disk space and uptime, along with tools and features to ease website design and maintenance, all of which are covered below. We've provided price ranges for the different types of web hosts, but note that prices vary widely between different companies.
See our related report on domain name registration, which you'll also need to get your website up and running (some web hosts can also manage your domain).