The Beginner’s Guide to Domain Names and Web Hosting
Getting started online has become easier than ever. You can get started via social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. or start your blog on WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger. If you are a creative artisan, you can sell your products on Etsy or Big Cartel. Similarly, you can start your drop shipping business or become a seller on Amazon, eBay or other e-commerce giants.
However, eventually, you need to get serious about your brand and start your own website. During your research, you’ll come across terms such as web hosting, domain names, domain registrar, CMS, etc. It might all leave you confused, but don’t worry. In this article, we will understand what are domain names and web hosting in depth and help you with how to go about choosing the right place to buy both.
Let’s get started!
What Is a Domain Name?
Wikipedia defines a domain name as,
A domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet.
That’s a bit of mouthful, isn’t it? Let’s look at a simpler explanation:
Your domain name is the string of alphanumeric (numbers and letters) characters that users type in the address bar of a browser to land on your website.
For example, the domain name for Cyber Chimps is: https://cyberchimps.com.
Domain names are the addresses of websites. Computers use IP addresses for each website, which looks like 188.8.131.52. Since it is humanly impossible to remember IP addresses for all the websites, domain names were introduced.
Similar to usernames or email IDs, domain names are also unique. No two websites can have the same domain name.
What Is a Top-level Domain (TLD)?
A top-level domain (TLD) is the last part of a domain name. It is situated to the right of the domain name and comes immediately after the dot.
TLDs are broadly divided into 2 categories, viz. Generic TLDs and country-code TLDs (ccTLD).
Some of the generic TLDs are, .com, .org, .net, .info, .biz, .edu etc.
ccTLDs are the representatives of specific geographic locations. Some of the ccTLDs are, .us (United States), .in (India), .ae (United Arab Emirates), .ca (Canada) etc.
How to Buy a Domain Name?
Buying a domain name is a fairly straightforward process. Here are the 4 steps involved in purchasing a domain name:
Step 1: Think of a Domain Name
The domain name is the unique online identity of your business. Make sure it’s catchy and easy to recall. Avoid any terms that are copyright protected. Also, go for a .com TLD if possible.
Step 2: Check the Availability of the Domain Name
Step 3: Choose a Domain Registrar
Once the domain name you’re looking for is available, choose a domain registrar from where you can buy it. Here are some of the most widely used domain registrars:
Step 4: Complete the Registration
Once you finalize the registrar, follow the set procedure to buy the domain name to complete the registration. Upon completion, you will receive a confirmation email or it will reflect in the dashboard of the domain registrar after which you technically own the domain name.
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the location of your website. It is the place where all your website files are stored.
Web hosts provide the infrastructure necessary to host the website. Websites are usually hosted on servers. When someone types in the domain name of your site, it is converted into its respective IP address. The web host fetches all your website files from the server and sends them to the user’s browser which allows them to access your website.
Web hosting service providers offer different types of hosting catering to different requirements. Some of the key types are as follows:
- Dedicated server hosting
- Shared hosting
- VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting
- Cloud hosting
- WordPress hosting
The Difference Between Domain Names and Web Hosting
The terms domain names and web hosting are often used interchangeably by newbies. But they are two distinct entities.
A domain name is the address of your website whereas web hosting is a space where all the files of your website are stored.
To give an analogy of a house, the domain name is the address of the house, and the house itself is the web hosting consisting of furniture and other material (i.e., website files).
To set up and run a website, you need both the services as, without a domain name, people won’t be able to locate your website, and without web hosting, you don’t have a place to contain the website files.
WordPress Hosting Requirements
WordPress is so well-adopted across the world because it is a nifty CMS platform and requires very little technical expertise to work on it.
If you are looking for a web host for your WordPress website, here are the requirements that your web host must provide:
- PHP 7.3 or above
- MySQL 5.6 or above OR MariaDB version 10.0 or above
- HTTPS support
- DDoS protection
Qualities of a Good Web Host
Along with the above hosting requirements, it is necessary to ensure that your web host has following attributes as well:
1. Higher Uptime Rate
Everytime your site goes down, you lose a chunk of visitors. Therefore it is crucial to choose a host that has a higher uptime rate. Before zeroing down on a web host, check the reliability of their service, number of clients they are serving and their reputation on web forums. Also, inquire about their planned maintenance and promised an uptime of their services.
With data leaks becoming rampant in recent times, make sure that the web host has placed the necessary security measures in place to avoid security crashes.
Find out the storage space they provide for each plan and speak with their customer reps to figure out how much you’ll require. Always go for the higher plan than required, especially for WordPress sites.
If you exceed the allocated bandwidth, your website might crash, or you might be charged more depending on the plan. If your website requires heavy usage of rich media, make sure to prioritize this aspect.
When your website runs into some problem, you’d require someone to troubleshoot the issue on a priority. Check how easy it is to connect with the customer service department and their availability schedule as well.
Top 3 WordPress Web Hosting Service Providers
After looking at the WordPress hosting requirements and the qualities of a web host, we can infer that a good web host can make or break the success of a website. To make it easy for you, we have shortlisted top 3 WordPress web hosts to choose from. Let’s look at each of them in detail:
Founded in 2003, Bluehost is among the few web hosts that are recommended by WordPress. Bluehost currently hosts over 2 million websites along with its sister concerns – HostMonster, FastDomain, and iPage. Bluehost has a well-established relationship with WordPress since 2005.
Pros of Bluehost:
Here are some reasons why you may want to choose Bluehost:
- Their shared and managed WordPress hosting plans are reasonably priced. For beginners, shared hosting plans starting at $3.95/month is a steal!
- Free domain and SSL certificate included with all plans
- You also get a marketing dashboard, SEO, email marketing and social media tools with their managed hosting plans
- Bluehost is known to provide a reliable service with a minimal server downtime
Cons of Bluehost:
With these pros, Bluehost also comes with a few price-related cons:
- The domain renewal prices are a bit higher
- Bluehost tries to monetize site by placing ads on your 404 pages (These ads can be disabled)
- You would be charged around $150 for migrating your website to Bluehost
Update 14-Jul 2020: We want to add GreenGeeks to this list based on a number of reviews by delighted customer reviews raving about their prompt and helpful support. Besides, of course they have a strong focus on making sure they stay eco-friendly. While we are not sure they are quite # 2 yet, in terms of market share, they are definitely making their way there quickly. So we’ve reserved a spot here for them!
GreenGeeks provides a fast and scalable WordPress hosting platform, without comprising on performance. The company has sponsored a number of WordCamp events over the past few years, taken the feedback they’ve received and have invested in making a better WordPress hosting platform.
GreenGeeks’s plans start at $2.95 per month and scale up, based on your performance needs.
Trusted by over 1.9 million domains, SiteGround is another web host recommended by WordPress. SiteGround is well-known for its round-the-clock customer support. The company uses solid state drives (SSDs) for storage which are approximately a thousand times faster than standard drives.
SiteGround’s plans start at $11.95 per month, and they go up to $34.95 per month
Pros of SiteGround:
- SiteGround promises a 99.99% uptime
- SiteGround offers a free CDN, and a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate with each account
- Users have the freedom to choose a data centre from data centres located in Amsterdam, Chicago, London, Milan, Singapore to store their data
- Websites hosted on SiteGround have an average load time of 1.3 seconds
Cons of SiteGround:
- SiteGround offers a fairly limited amount of storage space for its different plans
- Features such as 1-click WordPress staging, SG-Git for WordPress repo creation can be available for their higher-end plans only
- Site transfer is not free for their basic plan users
Powered by Google Cloud Platform, Kinsta was established in 2013 by WordPress developers. One of the reasons Kinsta has suddenly appeared on the radar is because of the brands and companies that trust Kinsta. Ubisoft, Buffer, Intuit, GE, FreshBooks, etc. are some of the clients of the said web hosting provider.
The basic plan of Kinsta starts at $30 per month and goes up to $900 per month. You can get a customized quote if you’re looking for enterprise-level plans.
Pros of Kinsta:
- Kinsta is powered by GCP, which means it uses the same infrastructure as the one used by Google. Additionally, you can choose from one of the 18 data centers to store your data
- Kinsta does uptime checks every 2 minutes and is reputed to have a 100% uptime
- Kinsta also offers a free CDN and free SSL certificates with every plan
- Kinsta’s usage of services such as Nginx, LXD containers, PHP7 and MariaDB along with GCP ensures fast website performance
Cons of Kinsta:
- Kinsta’s basic plan starts at $30 per month which is very pricey for beginners
- Kinsta doesn’t offer domain registration services. That means you need to find another registrar to register your domain name
- Kinsta doesn’t provide email hosting either
WordPress Hosting FAQs
1. What Does WordPress Hosting Mean?
You’d often see WordPress.com and WordPress.org used interchangeably. WordPress.com is a commonly used blogging platform which is free of cost, but comes with certain restrictions. WordPress.org is a platform that allows you to host your website via a third-party web host.
WordPress hosting is a type of hosting that is configured for WordPress websites. It also offers a 1-click install which makes it easy for non-technical users to get started with using WordPress.
2. What Are the Pros of WordPress Hosting?
Below are some common benefits of WordPress hosting:
- Since the hosting is tailored specifically for WordPress websites, the performance is enhanced drastically
- The security protocols are configured around WordPress websites, so better security can be expected
- WordPress comes pre-installed, so no hassles there. Also, the updates are pretty easy to install, and you’re notified everytime a new update is released.
- Web hosting companies keep a dedicated team of WordPress experts. So, whenever you run into a problem, troubleshooting is often a cakewalk
3. What Are the Cons of WordPress Hosting?
With that being said, WordPress hosting has following shortcomings as well:
- WordPress is ideal for mid to high-traffic websites. So, if you’re just starting out, WordPress hosting would be an expensive solution in the beginning
- If you are using managed WordPress hosting, then you can host only WordPress sites
- You have less technical control in terms of website customizations depending on the web host
4. Do I Need Domain Name and Web Hosting Both to Setup My Website?
In short, yes. As seen earlier, a domain name is the address of your website and web hosting the location where all the website files are stored. So, you need both to set up and run your site
5. What Is the Difference Between Shared and Managed WordPress Hosting?
In shared hosting, the web host maintains multiple websites on the same server. Shared WordPress hosting is the most cost-effective web hosting solution. If you’re on a shoestring budget, shared WordPress hosting is ideal for you.
On the other hand, in managed WordPress hosting, the web hosts keep only WordPress powered websites on the server. It offers additional features for your site such as site upgrades, backups, virus scans, etc.
6. Do I Have to Buy the Domain Name and Web Hosting Together?
There’s no such requirement. You can buy both separately and from different vendors. If the need be, you can change the domain name registrar or the web host without impacting the domain name or anything on your website.
Domain name and web hosting are the fundamental building blocks of a website. Hope this introductory article has helped you understand the basics of it.
We also hope this guide will help you decide how to choose a domain name and how to go about choosing a good web host.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below!