Websites are a common part of our modern world that almost everyone uses, whether they want to or not. However, when building a new site, it can get easy to confuse terms. A common question I have received revolves around a site’s domain and hosting. They may seem like the same thing, but in fact are very different. With using an analogy of a physical building, the two parts can be understood more clearly.
Every building has an address. Most often, it is assigned to a structure based on a city’s planning code. It might be something like 123 Main Street, Town, State. This allows customers to visit your location and, depending on zoning ordinances, may help distinguish what can be found. Generally, retail and general commerce businesses will be in downtown locations with industrial uses on city outskirts. These same characteristics apply to a website’s address, referred to as a domain.
Unlike an assigned building address, the site owner can pick what they want. When choosing a domain, it is best to have a few ideas in mind as your first choice may be taken. One example are three character addresses, such as abc.com. Most combinations are already in use and rarely become available, so a longer option is best. A good way to check a domain’s availability is to put it in a browser or search engine. If it doesn’t come up, then it is likely available, but not guaranteed.
When your initial address is considered, such as “companyname,” you want to determine what extension to use. The majority of businesses use .com for regular commerce. Another common extension, .org, fits well for non-profit organizations. However many other options are available, such as: .biz, .net, .info, .us, and more. Which one is best for your organization depends on availability and your type of business. See this list for all options and their meaning.
After you ave established your site’s address, it needs a place to live. If you were constructing a building, hosting is the equivalent to a property, or land. This is where your all the files for your site will be stored and presented to the public. When selecting a host, their are a few things to keep in mind.
- Location: Most websites are available to anyone in the world. However, unless you’re a large company, your target audience will generally be a certain area, such as a certain state or country. If your site’s host is based in a different continent than you, it will increase load times and reduce interest for visitors.
- Reliability: If a server is down, then your site is offline and may result in lost revenue. Almost every hosting provider claims 99.99% uptime, but it is a good practice to check customer reviews and history.
- Cost: Hosting expenses can vary widely from one provider to the next. It is very tempting to choose a low cost introductory price, but be sure to check on terms and extended rates. Some hosts offer discounts for multi-year plans, but you may also be locked in for that time period and unable to cancel. You also want to be careful that you don’t pay for services you are not using.