How Website Domains and Hosting Work

When it comes to the technical side of buying a domain name and hosting a website, how it all works can be a bit confusing. Often times business owners just want someone to take care of it all for them, which I totally get.

If you’ve ever wondered how it’s all wired together behind the scenes though, I’ve found this quick analogy really helps people get what’s happening. Here’s how things work:

There are two major components to having a website:

1. Your Domain Name

You domain name is simply your name. In my case ‘matt-steele.com’ or ‘westerncode.com’. It differs from real life only in that you need to pay to keep your name, roughly $11 a year. As long as I renew that name though, I can take it with me wherever I go in life.

Once you purchase your name, the domain registrar acts as the post office. Over the course of your life, you’ll live at many different homes. When you move, you’ll need to tell the post office where you moved to. My name will always be Matt Steele, but I’ve lived in San Francisco, Minneapolis, and now Denver. Each time I moved, I let the post office now about my new location.

2. Your Host

Your host, in this analogy, is your current home. This is where you currently keep all your stuff. In this case, it’s where the files that make up your website are located. You can move around during the course of your life to many different homes. You can upgrade or downgrade, but for now, this is where you live.

Separation of Concerns

I always recommend purchasing your domain and hosting from different companies. Why? It allows you the freedom to pick up and move whenever you want. Nothing is tied together. It’s also a mental separation. Not happy with your current home? Simply point your name to your new home.

Where I buy from

Domain Names

For domains names, I’ve always used name.com. This is more of a personal preference, because most domain registrars charge about the same. What I like about name.com though, is that I never feel like I’m being up-sold. They sell me domain names, and that’s it.

I login and out of many other domain providers every day and see that they’re always trying to up-sell me on domain a myriad of other things I don’t want. GoDaddy is notorious for this.

Name.com also has the added benefit for being local to me. I used them long before I lived in Denver, but I do like the peace of mind that if I really wanted to, I could show up at their offices to ask questions about my account.

Hosting

The housing analogy fits perfectly here. Hosting runs the gambit on what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’, very much like houses. The bottom line on hosting is that you get what you pay for.

If you’re using a cheap $10/month plan, it’s great for a starter home, but once you make a little bit of money, you’ll want to move to a better neighborhood. You’ll be safer and if your business is online, you’ll want to be as safe as possible.

I’ve been happy with A Small Orange, RackSpace and SiteGround. Other trusted Companies out there are Flywheel, WPEngine and Pagely, although I haven’t used them directly.

Wrap up

That’s really all there is to the basics of how web domains and hosting works. Of course, if you’d rather have someone else take care of it all for you, I can certainly help, but there really isn’t much to it.

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