If you were building a house. You would want to be sure the land was good, solid, and strong. Then you would (hopefully) use a builder that had a good reputation for customer service. Building a website is no different- you want to build from a strong dependable foundation. That foundation is your hosting service. Choosing one can be overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with them and don’t know what to shop for. Many people go for best price and eventually realize they aren’t comparing ‘apples to apples’ when it comes to services they are paying for and may want down the road.
One of my first questions working with a new website client is “if you have already purchased a domain and hosting, where did you purchase them from?”. Sometimes they know, sometimes they had another designer handle this for them, and sometimes I get no answer. Before you make this purchase or let someone purchase this on your behalf, be sure you know what you are getting.
Whether you are in the market to build a new site or already have one setup- it is wise to review your hosting plan and additional amenities that may come with it. I am going to walk you through domains, hosting, and the services that I have come to rely on building websites for myself and my clients.
Your domain is the address where users can access your website. For example: KateWinter.com google.com facebook.com
Domains can be purchased from a variety of sources and are generally inexpensive. If someone has the domain you want and you try to purchase it from them, that can get pricey.
This can also be called URL which specifically refers to the entire address. For example: https://www.katewinter.com/about/. For simplicity’s sake- we will refer to domains only here.
Choosing a Domain
There is no need to get overly hung-up on your domain choice, but keep a few things in mind
- Relevancy: It needs to represent your business or organization
- Brief: Not too long- do you really want include something long and random in all of your marketing?
- Memorable: You don’t want your staff saying ‘what’s our website address again?’
Alternative endings are okay- with the number of sites in existence (1.7 BILLION as of January 1, 2020) your preferred domain as a .com may not be available. While .com is easier to remember, the number of sites utilizing alternatives is growing.
Try one of these options if your .com is not available. Remember: on a technical level, there is no difference.
Hosting is the service that contains your actual files and data that make your website. These are represented by a number called an IP number. Your hosting service is much more important than the service you use for your domain- but you can purchase them both from the same service and huzzah- life is easier!
Hosting services can provide you with amenities like free security tools, automated backups, and email services. The most important quality you can look for in a hosting service is customer service. How are they going to handle things if or when something goes wrong? Maybe you messed something up and can’t access your site, maybe a plugin went bad and you need some help, perhaps your site was infected with malware or the worst-case scenario- your site got hacked and instead of selling candles, your site now sells medication from Mexico, porn, or something worse.
Make this decision based on customer service versus price to save yourself headaches and money in the future.
How are Domains and Hosting Connected?
Since remembering long strings of numbers isn’t practical (or very fun from a branding perspective) domain names point to your hosting. Think of it like the contact list in your phone. Who types in numbers anymore? When you want to call your sister, you press her name in your contact list and a few seconds later you are chatting. Domain names are her entry in the contact app and her phone number is the hosting. You don’t have to put the phone number in (not since 2004).
Choosing a Domain and Hosting Provider
Purchasing your domain and hosting from the same provider has a number of advantages
- Automatically configuring your domain name to point towards your hosting
- Lower cost – sometimes they throw in a free domain with a yearly hosting agreement
- Single payment
- One login – who needs more of those?!
- One support number/chat function in the event of a problem
I’ve worked with every mainstream provider of domains and I definitely have my go-to’s where I know I’m getting a good value and good service for myself and my clients.
Here are my top 3:
Siteground has been one of my favorite domain and hosting platforms for the past two years. Excellent customer service and clean user portal. If you are looking for a platform that can grow with you, this is a great place to start.
WP Engine is unique- it caters to small businesses and agencies with WordPress sites. There is a higher price tag but the automated backups, included SSL, and customer service make it worth the investment. The only downfall is they do not have a domain service.
DreamHost is best for domain purchases – but they also offer hosting. Their customer portal is designed differently than most but this is an easy place to manage multiple domains if your business needs that functionality.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of hosting and domain services. Drop me a comment on social if you need any further help in demystifying these or any other tech tools for your business.