What is the Difference Between a Web Hosting Provider and an ISP?

Distinguishing an ISP from a Web Hosting Provider can be confusing, since the services  they offer sometimes overlap. Below we break down the essential difference.

ISP stands for Internet Service Provider: Its primary function is to provide you with a connection to the Internet. Every Internet user accesses the ‘net through an ISP. On the other hand, a web hosting provider broadcasts a website to the rest of the world through a server (a fast, powerful computer dedicated to housing websites).

In the most basic terms, an ISP is the road that takes users to a web site. A web hosting provider is the building where the web site lives. If you want to run a website, you’ll need both: A hosting provider to house your site, and an ISP to connect to your web server and the rest of the Internet.


Hosting Through an ISP

Today, ISPs often provide additional services to their customers, such as e-mail accounts, remote storage of data files, and some even offer basic web hosting. Their main role, however, is providing Internet access. Though your ISP can also serve the role of a hosting provider, chances are that it’s better at one job than the other.

The High Cost of Low-Cost Web Hosting

Some ISPs offer “free” web hosting. It is not recommended for high traffic sites or for businesses. Technical support is often limited, as are options for site development. For example, the domain name is often provided for you:


This is hard to type, hard to remember, and not very professional. (Check out our blog on choosing a domain name for more on the subject.)

Cheap web hosting plans are largely supported by advertising: They place their own banners all over your site. These banners are designed to get your visitor to click out of your page and go some place else. Not what you want for your business, right?

When it comes to web hosting, you get what you pay for.


Checklist for choosing a Web Hosting Plan

Some of the most important considerations for a web hosting plan include:

  • Ample hard disk storage for your site
    Make sure there is room for your site to grow.
  • Generous data transfer amounts
    with the potential to upgrade if needs change
  • Is there an uptime guarantee?
    You should never have to worry about your site being “down.”
  • Frequent backups
    Redundancy is good: it keeps your data safe.
  • Support for popular dynamic programming languages
    PHP? ColdFusion? Dynamic websites require a host that supports a server-side language.

Your hosting choice will not only affect your budget, it will also affect every user’s experience with the website. Surf other sites on various servers to compare. When you choose the right hosting provider, your site will be secure and consistently accessible, load quickly, and look great.