Web Host vs ISP: What is the Difference?

web host vs isp
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As you begin the planning of your new online business, there will be lots of terms that seem to mean the same thing.

One of the most common that causes confusion is understanding the difference between a Web host and ISP (internet service provider). Though completely different things, these are both critical services you'll need when it comes to starting an online business.

The primary difference is that web host is the place where you will upload your website files and an ISP is the service you'll use to connect to the Internet. Let's take a look at each of these in a little more depth.

Web Host

Your web host is where your website is going to live. Although it seems like so much more, your website really is just a bunch of files. When your site goes ‘live’ these files are copied to a server at your web host’s offices, and becomes accessible to the masses, as your website.

Think of your web host as the place where you actually upload your pages, pictures, videos, and everything else you would include on your website. You create the pages, pictures, video files, etc. on your local computer then upload them to your web host; and your web host makes it available to the world.

Your web host can be located anywhere in the world. Most web hosting plans are pretty competitive these days as most allow you to upload an unlimited number of files and get an unlimited amount of traffic. Better web hosts (such as Blue Host and GoDaddy) will also offer 24/7 customer support.

ISP (Internet Service Provider)

In order to view your site (and use email and online services) you’re going to need internet access. This is where your ISP (internet service provider) comes in. You will connect to the internet via a cable modem, or a wireless router. Either way, this connection is provided by an ISP.

Unlike your web host which can be located anywhere in the world, your ISP must be a company that provides service in your geographic region. It can be access at an internet café, via a wireless modem connection or a cabled internet connection. Some business people who travel a lot and "lifestyle entrepreneurs" don't ever pay for an ISP as such. They make use of free internet access points in airports, shopping malls, hotels and libraries (note: their are safety and security implications you should be aware of whenever connecting to an unsecured network, such as using public WIFI).

As long as you can access high enough speeds to do your business, the provider itself isn't of much importance.

Your choice of an ISP isn’t that important (as long as you have enough speed) because the connection simply opens the doors to the internet. Your web host choice is much more crucial.

Most people use their local cable/phone company as their ISP provider; as these things are typically bundled together.

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Note: This article was updated by Online Business/Hosting Expert Brian T. Edmondson