#1 Q. What is the difference between a HOST and a DOMAIN?
#1 A. When a web user enters your domain name into a browser address bar, the browser is picking up your hosting server’s IP address to find and serve to that user your site files displayed as a web-page.
In the early stages of planning a website you will decide on what you want the address or URL to be – “mysite.com” – and purchase your ideal domain name (or the closest one to it that is still available). The company you purchase it from is referred to as your domain registrar. Some also call it the Domain host which is perhaps how these two terms are often confused.
If you are self hosting (Question #2 below) you will also need to decide on a reliable, cost comparative and robust hosting service – ideally one with good, always accessible, customer service. The hosting company is the place where the files that make up your site actually reside. Most commonly, it is space on a server shared by many other sites. The DNS (Domain Name Server) information assigned to the domain name at the registrar is what enables that particular space on the server to be accessed when a user enters your domain in the Browser address bar.
You can certainly purchase both domain and hosting from the same company but it is recommended for added security to have them in two different companies. Many purchase domain names long before a site is built anyway. You may also purchase many differnt domain name variations and consolidate them all to direct users to one web site.
Once you have decided on a hosting company and you want to direct your domain to the new site you are building, you just reset the DNS for your domain at the domain registrar. The DNS information for the hosting account should be provided clearly when you sign up for hosting. You can also call and ask the hosting company what the DNS (Domain Name Service) address is for your account if it is not clear in the initial information they send. For most average small business sites, Bluehost is my current preference for a reliable, competitively priced and robust hosting service with great customer service.
#2 Q. What is Self Hosting and Why Should I Care?
#2 A. This is a question of renting or owning. Self-hosting means you choose what platform the site is built on and where it is hosted and are in complete control of your site – not limited by using a proprietary template site someone else is hosting for free or for a “small” fee(s). By limited I mean most template sites have restrictions and/or charge extra for many things; total MB size of site, e-commerce limitations, options for customization, limited upgrades or plugins, no option to remove their advertising on your site and no options to monetize your site.
I am an advocate of Self Hosting. Your website is the hub of your business and should never be ‘rented’. With all of the time and energy you will put into creating and refining your hub why would you entrust that ongoing investment to another company’s whims of how to support it, what features to include or remove, how far you can expand or customize it and how much to charge you to make it more professional by removing ads or having a custom URL or simply how much to keep it in operation?
There is a small learning curve to managing it yourself but it is well worth it in the long run to have complete control over the heart of your business. In the case of WordPress.org, there are extensive tutorials, forums and video resources out there to help you DIY. As WordPress.org is completely open source it is also easy to find information and/or professionals like myself to help you get started an/or learn how to make the most of it.
The link below is a pretty good explanation of the pros and cons of Wordrpess.com vs. WordPress.org one of the most common examples of free hosted site (WordPress.com) vs. self hosted(wordpress.org). Both are excellent platforms. The .com version has similar tools and capabilities but also the limitations of customization etc. as mentioned above. The .org version on the other hand (also a free open source platform) is installed on your host of choice. Most reputable hosts also have easy, one-click installation tools for WordPress.org and great support. At less than $7 a month on average, this small hosting cost is the only significant difference between the limitations of a free template site and the unlimited flexibility, complete control, and expandability of a self-hosted site. Other hidden costs to improve the professional impression of a free site (removing credit, ads, etc.) can quickly add up to more than the monthly hosting cost.
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org — What’s the Difference?
There is so much more to say about this – fuel for a future post! If you are still not ready to start with a self hosted site I do strongly recommend WordPress.com as a starting place for ‘free’ hosted site. At least in this scenario you can migrate your site to WordPress.org self hosted when you start to experience the limitations and realize you need to move. Also the user interface for managing your site will be familiar when you do move over.
Please contact Boost if you would like more guidance in making this important decision or if you want some assistance getting up and running or learning more once you have started.
This is the first in a series of short, mystery solving FAQ posts.
BTW answering your most common customer questions in a post is a great way to write a post that follows all statutes of good blog content – relevant to your ideal audience, informative and helpful, and most likely including plenty of keyword phrases that are authentically appropriate to your site and business.