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Web Hosting for Dummies—Not That You’re a Dummy!

A common confusion about a website is web hosting and how it relates to a domain name. Even if you have someone doing your web hosting for you, it can still be good for you to know a little about how it works. Especially if you ever change web developers. The more educated you are about the subject, the less lost you’ll be when you try to explain your situation. The main two things you’ll need to understand are domain names and web hosting. But don’t worry. You just need to be familiar with them, not a pro at them.

What is a Domain Name?

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Before you host your website, you will need to purchase your own domain name. It has to be registered in order for you to own it. If you fail to register your domain name, someone else can steal it from you, and you’ll have to change your website’s name. A domain name is your website’s identity. Think of this as your address for people to find your website. As I’ll describe web hosting in a second, think of your host as your website’s home and the domain name as the address to find that home.

You can choose to either stick with the same company for both your host and domain name or choose from different companies. Just make sure to keep track of your logins for both to be able to pass them onto your web developer. Also, if you do choose to purchase your domain name from one company and decide to have it hosted by another, you’ll need to modify the DNS. If you need help with this, contact your web developer who can lead you through the process to make sure nothing gets lost in the process.

What is Web Hosting?

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Imagine web hosting as a literal host. If family were to come over to your home, you would be their host. You “store” them in your home and let them live there temporarily. Your web host is the same. It lets your website live in its home. A web host is a place where people store their websites as well as the files that go with it. It’s a company that rents you their space (like a self- storage unit). That company is the host who lets you borrow their space and lets other computers access your website’s files by typing in your web address.

Types of Web Hosting

There are 4 different types of web hosting based on the amount of control you want, how fast you want it to be, how reliable you want it, and how much control you will have. You can choose from either shared, virtual private server (VPS), dedicated, or cloud hosting.

  • Shared Web Hosting- Shared hosting is what it sounds like; you share the same server as other people’s websites. Most people choose this one because it is relatively cheap and is the entry level option for those who don’t know a lot of technical stuff. The downside is, however, that your website’s performance can be occasionally affected by other sites on that server.
  • VPS- A VPS is a virtual private server, meaning one website is on your own server rather than multiple websites, but multiple users can access it this server.
  • Dedicated- With this type of web hosting, you are renting an entire server for yourself and your website. This is one of the more expensive types of hosting, but it does give you the maximum amount of control as well as great website performance.
  • Cloud Hosting- With a cloud web host, you have unlimited ability to have high traffic and sudden spikes. It’s a team of servers that create a “cloud” host for a group of websites. This is multiple computers, multiple servers all working together to support one website.

How to Choose a Web Host Service

There are tons of web hosting services out there who will try to sell you different things. First, you need to look yup reviews on the company. Examples of these companies are Dreamhost, Bluehost, and Hostgator. Do some research to find other web hosts, type in their name followed by the word “reviews.” Before you ever look at what they have to offer, make sure people like them.

Then you’ll want to look at what they offer and choose based on what your needs are. Think about how much space and bandwidth allowance you’ll need for your traffic and data transfer. Do they have good technical support always available when you’ll need them? How secure is their server? Is it reliable?

These are just a few questions to get you started. Once you start doing the research, you’ll quickly discover what each web hosting service has to offer as well as pin down what’s important to you and your website. As long as you know what you want your website to be capable of, you should be fine. If you remember nothing else, remember that your domain name is your address and your web host is your website’s home. The rest can be left up to your developer (assuming you picked a good one).



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