A lot of client confusion exists about how domain, web, and email hosting works and what the difference is between them. Most online services offer all these services but its necessary to understand the differences.
The first step in a new website is setting up a domain (registration). This is done through ICANN-accredited registrars, who collectively maintain the shared registration system (SRS). There are hundreds companies that offer these services. The larger ones are Network Solutions, Go Daddy, and Register.com. These registrars will let us know whether “examplewebsite.com” is available. If the site name is available we can purchase it for a set period of time. We never own the name, we nearly rent it. I always suggest to clients to “purchase” it for 5 years. This way you’re not having to renew every year.
Now that “examplewebsite.com” is reserved, the next step is to get the domain listed in the “Internet ” also known as the Domain Name Service (DNS). Domain names are a convenient way for humans to remember sites and email addresses. Computers only understand ones and zeros, so everything must eventually be translated into a number. Every computer on the Internet (both browsers and servers) has what is known as an IP address – it’s a unique number that identifies that particular machine on the network and works very much like a telephone number. Every time you type a domain name into your browser, the first thing your computer must do is to perform a DNS lookup to find the address of the server for which it’s looking.
Lets talk about web hosting. So far, all we’ve done is secured the domain name and pointed any browsers to a generic “Under Construction” type of page. The first question is, “Who should I use as a web host?” Selecting a web host should be the result of finding the best match between the requirements of your site and the hosting company. This is largely dependent upon the technology that will be used in developing your site. Here are two main considerations:
- Linux vs. Windows
Hosting packages are offered in either Windows or Linux based hosting environments. LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) is a commonly used collection of open source software that offers inexpensive web hosting. Windows hosting is generally a combination of Windows Server, Internet Information Server, SQL Server and ASP.NET technologies that are more expensive to license and, therefore, generally cost a little more for hosting.
- Add-On Applications
There is a growing list of applications that web hosting providers offer. Two of the more popular categories of add-ons are blogs and content management systems. If you plan on using on of these for your site, it’s important to choose a provider that specializes in hosting that particular application. The service and performance will typically surpass those of a provider that specializes in either something else or nothing else.
Email hosting is similar to web hosting in the sense that it needn’t necessarily be hosted by either your registrar or web host providers. This is where all your email traffic flows through and where the content of your email exists in “storage”. This is configured by making a change to the DNS records for your domain.
Wrapping it up
There are a couple of items to take away from this with regard to web and email hosting. The first item is to understand that you are not beholden to the registrar of your domain to also host your web site or email. The second point is that a web hosting provider should be chosen based on the requirements of your web site; not the other way around. Washington Graphic Services can set all these items up for you. Let our team of professionals select your domain, set up hosting, email and design you a great website that works!