Domain Names and Web Hosting
As a website designer and developer, the first questions I ask are “Do you have a domain name, web hosting provider, and SSL.” The clients’ initial reaction is a puzzled look. Many people don’t realize there are several different pieces that, together, make up the way your website works. In fact, many think that the domain name is the hosting service. If you are one of those people, let me help you understand the parts that make up your website.
Part 1: The Domain Name
The domain name is your website address, the yourbiz.com, mycompany.net, or the mygroup.org part of your online presence. You “purchase” (known as registering) your domain name using one of the many companies on the internet offering this service. This provider is often referred to as the domain registrar.
Domain name registration fees vary greatly depending on the registrar – from only $10-$100 per year. What’s the difference? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! This fee only covers your registration – your ownership – of www.yourbiz.com for the period of time specified. You’ll find that in some cases, hosting companies offer the best prices for domain name registration – sometimes even free – if you purchase other services from them. If you agree to have your website designer register your domain name, it is wise to have a representative from your company as the administrative email contact for the account. This way, if you should ever need or want to transfer your domain name, you have a way to access it. It is your domain name, after all.
Part 2: The Web Hosting Service
The web hosting service is the company who provides the actual server (computer space) on which all of your web pages reside. When visitors type in www.yourbiz.com, the host server takes them to your designated web pages. All the pages, graphics, design styles, and databases are stored on the server and stored for you and your visitors to view.
You’ve probably seen banner advertisements for web hosting all over the internet. There are thousands of them – large and small. Like the domain name registration, fees vary greatly, ranging from $5 per month to hundreds per month. However, unlike domain name registration, there are BIG differences in hosting companies.
The most obvious difference in web hosting services that I have seen is the CUSTOMER SERVICE. Sometimes, nothing beats the personal attention and quick response of a smaller business. Sure, GoDaddy and others appear to offer what you may need at a super low introductory price, but when you run in to trouble, do the owners personally work you through it?
Two other very important differences are server speed and security. Large companies tend to overload their servers, making your website run slow. No one wants to wait more than a few seconds for a page to load. And of course we want to make sure the host company has appropriate security measures in place. Some companies make you pay extra for these security measures, to show wisely.
A good web hosting service will offer a several packages with varying storage space, control panel access to your files, email management (firstname.lastname@example.org) and forwarding capabilities, multi-program compatibility, and a multitude of other services you may or may not need. Most website designers and developers know that web hosting has become extremely competitive and know the specifications, server up-times, and have likely found the best price for the product. They have already experienced the good, the bad, and the truly UGLY in the word of web hosting companies, so you don’t have to.
Part 3: The SSL
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. An SSL is a digital certificate that verifies your website is owned by you and allow encrypted information to pass through. When a website is secure, it will have a lock icon in the url like the image to the above. Every website should spend that little extra to ensure a secure website for their visitors. And it will give your website a boost in Search Engine Optimization, too.
The cost of an SSL is usually around $70/year and can be purchased from your web hosting company.
Shop around! All domain registrars and web hosting companies are not alike. Watch out for those introductory prices, because usually by year 2 or 3, they are more expensive than other companies. When in doubt, ask your website designer. Because they’ve done the research for you.