Hosted vs Non Hosted Websites

Hosted vs non hosted websites

Hosted vs Non-Hosted (or self-hosted)

When you begin to research building a new website, it can be overwhelming. There is a lot to grasp in terms of technology and all of the language used.

In order to make a website and have it live on the Internet, you need 3 things.

  1. An address that you type into your web browser.  Most of the time this is a domain name.
  2. A computer that is connected to the Internet.  This is called a web server. This computer is where you put all of your website code.  You can buy space on a web server from a web hosting company.
  3. Web Pages – Your website code, content and images to display when your domain name is typed into a web browser.

Domain names, web hosting service and the actual website (software/code) are all independent products that can be purchase from different companies or from the same one if they offer them.

Since they are independent products, not all companies offer all of them. While it can be convenient to purchase them from the same company, it’s not required. There are some good reasons to buy them separately too.

There are many different types of web hosting services.  Depending on the type of service you use, there are different types of websites you can build on them.

You may have heard the terms hosted vs self hosted websites, or even non hosted websites.  I’m going to explain the difference and the pros and cons to each.

Self-Hosted (or Non-Hosted) Websites

When a website is self hosted, your website is not directly connected to the  web hosting service. You decide what web hosting company you want to use to host your website. You can then add any code you want, to build and customize your website.

These types of websites are also called non hosted websites, because they are not dependent on the hosting service that you use.  You can buy hosting service from any company and load your website on it to run.  You – your “self” decides what host to use and are responsible for paying for the service, getting support related to the service and potential updates needed.

Examples of self-hosted websites:

Hosted Websites

Hosted websites are part of a packaged service of the software, web hosting and support. When you buy a hosted website, you are buying a service that packages the web hosting service and access to website builder software.

You log into a dashboard through a browser to add content and images to  build web pages. You can make a simple website with no technical knowledge through their proprietary software. When you have built it, you publish it with a click of a button and your website will be live on the Internet.

Most commercials and ads you see are promoting website solutions for their website builder software. They are promoting a quick and simple solution so “you can have a new website set up in 10 minutes with a few clicks. Anyone can DIY”.

Website builder software services like what GoDaddy,  Squarespace, Wix and  WordPress com are hosted website solutions. (WordPress can also be classified as a hosted website – it can also be non-hosted too though. I explain more below.)   They provide browser based software that enables you to log into their web hosting service, and use their software to build web pages by selecting a premade design and page template to add your content to build web pages.

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For a DIYer, a website builder packaged with hosting can be a quick and relatively simple way to put a few pages on the Internet.  Simple is still a relative term.

  • You still need to purchase a domain name and connect it to the service.
  • You still need to learn how to use their software service.
  • You still need to figure out an email solution.  Most of these services focus on a website only. So to have an associated [email protected] email, you need to buy it through a separate service and connect it.

While it may be a quick solution to get a website up and running “in 10 min”, (Think again, just trying to get through to support you will be on hold longer than that.), it may not be the best solution for your longer term goals.

To summarize, there are few positive and negative points for both hosted and self hosted websites.

Hosted vs Non Hosted (or self hosted)

Hosted Websites
  • Low startup costs and monthly fees
  • You don’t need to hire a web developer
  • Pick from premade designs
  • You can build web pages without much effort
  • Support included (this could be a con, depending on how responsive the support service is)
  • You do not own your website. If you decide to leave their service, you can not take the website code with you to run on another host. (you need to rebuild)
  • You are stuck with only the features they offer. This means you can not add a database or custom code or functionality.
  • You are limited in how you can grow your site over time as the purpose fo your website evolves.
  • You are limited to the web designs they offer
  • Not good for search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Live support is very limited, you need to search their knowledge base and community forums
  • If the company decides to stop supporting the service, you are stuck with being forced to rebuild from the beginning.
Self Hosted Websites
  • You own the website and can do anything you want with it.
  • Full control over the web design
  • You can add a database and custom programming
  •  If you want to change web hosts, you can move the code easily.
  • Your web developer acts as live support for issues, updates, upgrades that you need help with.
  • Higher up front costs
  • You need to hire a professional web developer to design and code the website
  • You are responsible for website maintenance and security. If you do not maintain your code, your site will be vulnerable to getting hacked and break as technology evolves and the code is not updated.  So you need to learn to do this, or buy a website maintenance plan to have it done for you.
The big difference between the two.You have full control of the website CODE & CONTENT with a self hosted website.With a web page builder + hosting service you only own the website CONTENT, NOT the code .

So what's best - a self-hosted website or hosted?

Like I mentioned above with hosted vs self hosted WordPress, it really depends on the following factors

  1. Your budget
  2. if you want to make it your self or hire a web developer to build and maintain it
  3. How complex the web design and website functionality will be (You may have to hire a designer/developer)
  4. Your long term goal for your site.
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If you need a really basic site, want to DIY and have a small budget, a hosted website builder service may be an acceptable solution for you.

If you want complete control of your website with the ability to customize the design and or features/functionality, a self-hosted website is the better choice. If you plan to develop and expand your website over time, a self-hosted website is a better choice.

Self Hosted WordPress & Hosted

Another Variation of Hosted vs. Self Hosted Websites

WordPress is the most popular CMS on the Internet. The most confusing thing for people starting to research using WordPress for a new website is that there are 2 completely separate types of WordPress websites.

  1. – this is open source software that you download and install on your web hosting service. This fits the definition of a self hosted website.
  2. – this is a website services that provides the code for you to use on their web hosting service. This fits the definition of a hosted website service.


Which is better- WordPress com vs WordPress org

Again, it depends on the what you need and can afford.

  • The purpose of your site. i.e share information, sell something, create a unique idea.
  • The size of your budget
  • If you want to build it yourself, or hire a WordPress developer to do the work
  • How small (or large) the website will be
  • The features and functionality that you need to incorporate
  • How specific/custom the design needs to be

WordPress com is intended for the DIY non-technical user, where WordPress org is for more technical users.  It is much more powerful in terms of design, feature and functionality that can be built into it. So which is better depends on what you need. If you have a small budget and want to create a personal blog, WordPress com may be the best solution for you.  If you want to build an online store with custom payment options then WordPress org would be the best choice for you. 

When to hire a web developer

Mentioned earlier, hosted websites are targeting non developers – DIY customers that need a quick and simple website online quickly.

Since hosted website services target non developers and simple websites, I do not work with any of these services. I am a web programmer and develop software solutions. Because of this I only build self hosted websites where I have full control over the code to implement custom web programming and databases to create custom websites. If you still have questions about a new website you are going to build, feel free to contact me.


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