A Simple Guide To Domain Names & Website Hosting

When you’re looking to set up a new blog or website, you’ll probably come across all sorts of techy jargon that leaves you pulling your hair out. What do you need? What do you not need? And what the hell does it all mean?

Don’t worry you’re not the only one. Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients who struggle to understand the ins and outs of having a website or all the terms involved. And there’s nothing wrong with that – that’s why you hire people like me, we help you navigate through the jargon and make getting you online easy.

Today I’m going to talk about two terms that you will come across when setting up a blog or website as they are essential to getting you online.

Domain Names

What is a domain name?

Domain names are a unique identifier for a website; it is basically like an address for your online home. A domain name can never be the same as another, there can be variations by adding a .com, .co.uk or even a hyphen between words, but each domain must be completely unique.

The internet is made up of numbers; known as IP addresses and computers use these to communicate with each other. IP addresses are assigned to every website usually in the form of 123.456.789.101 – not very user-friendly are they?

Domain names provide a better way of directing people to your website. Can you imagine telling people your website when it’s an IP address? It would be difficult to remember and look incredibly unprofessional. Whereas a domain name is in a pretty format and much easier for people to recall.

Will my domain name always belong to me?

Domain names need to be renewed after a certain period; which depends on the option you choose when registering. Typically domain names are up for renewal after 1, 2, 5 or 10 years. Please make sure you keep a note of your renewal date or even better have it set to auto-renew. The number of people who either don’t realise that their domain names need to be renewed or forget to renew is extremely common.

When domain names are due for renewal, you will normally be notified in advance. I encourage you to ensure you renew straight away, because if you let it lapse your website and email will go offline. A disaster for a small business and something that can be easily avoided. So save yourself a headache and set your domain to ‘auto-renew’.

Is a URL the same as a domain name?

Yes and no. The URL or Uniform Resource Locator is made up of the domain name but also links to the pages, images or resources on your website.

For example, my domain name is www.wildflowersandpixels.co.uk but the URL for my work with me page is www.wildflowersandpixels.co.uk/work-with-me. The ‘work-with-me’ part forms the URL and links to more information on my services. When you add images, PDFs and pages to your website each one will have a unique URL to identify it and allow it to be accessed.

Where can I register a domain name?

There are literally thousands of domain name registrars where you can register your domain. I’ll list a few below (please note that I haven’t used all of these providers but are ones known to me)

Website Hosting

What is website hosting?

Without hosting your website can’t be accessed or viewable online. If a domain name is your address then hosting is the home where you keep all your possessions. Basically, website hosting is the place all your files, pages, databases and photos are stored and accessed when someone visits your website.

The files for your website are stored on a server that is connected to the internet 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. This allows anyone, anywhere in the world access to your website at any time – day or night.

When someone visits your site, they are connected to the server which then transfers your website pages back to their computer.

How much does hosting cost?

Website hosting is one of the ongoing costs of having a website and most website hosts have packages on a month-to-month basis. The costs vary depending on the service provider you choose but as always you get what you pay for. I recommend that you do research into different hosting companies to see which one is the best fit for you. Personally, I prefer smaller hosting providers who don’t oversell their servers as this prevents slow or disrupted service from other websites hogging the resources.

It is also worth keeping in mind that cheap isn’t always the best option. Cheap hosting can sometimes become a burden for a small business as the support and service tend to be sacrificed. Downtime is to be expected from time to time but cheap hosting providers tend to have this occur more often in my experience.

I fully recommend Clook* or Siteground* as a website hosts, I use Clook for my own hosting and suggest Siteground to website clients.

What does website hosting include? 

Most website hosting packages come with a control panel that lets you manage your website and email.  You can set up, delete and access your domain email accounts and manage any databases that your website uses.  There is usually some form of web statistics that lets you monitor the website visitors.   One-click install features are also commonly available which allow you to easily install WordPress, Joomla and other services with little technical knowledge.

Again the features of the control panel depend on the website hosting provider you use so make sure you research what you get before signing up.


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