For many people building their first website one of the most confusing aspects of getting started is understanding the relationship between domain names and hosting. In his blog, I’m going to provide you a sure-fire way for you to understand that relationship and how it is the basic building block for creating a space for yourself online, so that you can truly be a master of your domain.
The first thing anyone will ask you when they find out you have a website is what is the address? Nowadays depending on what you do they might just ask right away. Kind of like asking if you are on facebook or twitter. Your website address is www.yourdomainname.com/.net/ .org/ .news ( or whatever new extension they can convince people they need) You purchase this name and can lease it for a certain # of years. There a literally hundreds of companies you can buy a domain name from. The important thing is to buy it from an established company and that you retain control of your domain.
Pro Tip – When you purchase your domain name check to see if they have domain privacy. This is important because if you do not have it, all of the personal information you use sign up with will be available for all to see on the internet. Including your address and phone number.
You do not want to have a domain name that is tied to any particular hosting. Because if you do decide to change hosting you want to be able to move your domain without any hassle or extra fees. Think of your domain name as your car and hosting as a parking lot. You want to be able to drive your car to a new parking lot whenever you want. Maybe you are tired of having to wash the bird doo doo off it, or you want to upgrade to a secure underground lot. Whatever the reason you should be able to move your car if you want. Ditto for your domain name. I have found smaller local domain registrars offer better deals than the big names that draw you in with their low offers and the service with mine superwebhost.com has been particularly great.
There are just as many hosting companies as domain name registrars. But whereas you only have the option to buy or not buy your domain name, hosting comes with a nearly endless supply of options and optimizations. Complicated more by the fact that many are tied to these same domain name registrars. These are the ones that come up first when you do a search for web hosting.
These are the same ones that draw you in with the cheapest hosting option. I think it’s important to point out at this point with hosting you often do get what you pay for. Hosting at the cheapest level with these big companies gets you the gravel parking lot. This level is often referred to as shared hosting. Several domains are parked on the same server and are all using the same resources. So they can be slower depending on the time of day or how busy the server is at any particular point. At this, no frills level you also will have to figure out how to get your finished website to your domain. So if you don’t know how to do this you will have to figure it out with very little help or hire someone to do it for you. In the longrun it could actually end up costing you a lot more than you think you are saving. It is often referred to as entry level. Great for a hobby site but this being your business probably not the best choice.
The next step up the ladder is VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting. It is called this because even though it is a shared server, you have your own private space. Think of it as the paved lot with lines drawn to demarcate the boundaries. There are less cars parked in this lot but still you can face slow down at peak times. The other thing to know at this level you are responsible to maintain your own space, and if you do not know how or have someone to do it for you. This would not be a good option. In parking space terms, do you want to have to shovel the snow off your own spot?
Specifically, for WordPress hosting there is managed hosting. What this means if you have a WordPress site they do all the constant WordPress updates and security patches. This hosting option is more expensive and often they restrict which plugins you can use. Which actually is a good thing since plug-ins are the security hole in WordPress’ platform. Back to the parking lot terms, in this space your car is washed, snow is shovelled and the lines are repainted as needed. If you are going the WordPress route the managed WordPress hosting is by far the way to go. It is not one hundred percent fool proof though because you are responsible for maintaining everything inside your car and if you get an oil leak or fail to update your plugins that can affect your parking space.
The most common and popular hosting though is cloud based hosting. With this type of hosting. There are several servers spread out all over that access your information online. This is popular because it is very fast and one of the most secure hosting options. One of the reasons for it’s popularity is because sites like Squarespace and Webflow use this technology to host their sites. Unlike WordPress which is open source. This hosting is often in a closed system. Think of this hosting as a secured underground parking lot. There are restrictions on the types of cars or accessories on them. Only approved templates and plug-ins are allowed and even some data transfer is restricted. This ensures the highest level of security and not only is the outside of your car maintained, you get frequent oil changes and upgrades built into the service. Cost of cloud based hosting is often comparable to managed WordPress hosting.
The combinations are endless especially as the technology changes. Sites like Squarespace, Weebly, and Wix, and Webflow among others that use cloud based hosting have their databases tied to the online programs or platform. Some of these allow the code or some of the information to be exported so you can move your site easily from one place to another. And others are tied to the platform so you can’t move your website at all or you will have to start from scratch in the design. Which is not really a problem if you like the program or platform. But you should be aware of any limitations.
The last and most expensive hosting is the DPS or dedicated private server. All your information is managed on your own private server and the space is not shared with anyone else. Think of it as a parking space for a Semi Truck. Unless you have a Semi you probably don’t need this.
So of all the choices what should you use for hosting? Really that depends on what you want to do and the platforms or programs you are using, your budget and the functionality you require. A single page simple static site (one that doesn’t change) will require different hosting requirements than a dynamic e-commerce website.
The takeaway is this. Domain Names and hosting are not the same thing. And regardless of your hosting choice you should ensure that you keep control of your domain name so that if you are not happy with your hosting or want to upgrade it you can easily move it to a new host or parking spot. Hosting is not a one size fits all and often you do get what you pay for. The higher the price tag often is couple with faster service, more options and ease of use.
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