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datacenter - web hosting

How Website Hosting Works:

All Your Web Hosting Questions Answered.

Let’s say you have a company, or you have an idea for a company and want to launch a website. There are a myriad of questions that come after it. How do you register a domain name? Once you register a domain, does that mean you have a website? Can I register a domain and purchase web hosting from different companies?

Our goal with this one post is to give you a clear picture of what it means to create a website for your company.

What is a Domain Name?

Google.com is a domain name. It’s not the company, but instead it’s an address for the Google website. A domain name is sometimes called a url. You can use the names interchangeably. And yes, it’s easiest to think of a domain name as an address for your website.
When you register your company’s domain name (which usually costs $14/year), you have an address, and that’s it. You don’t have a website yet. For that, you need to purchase web hosting.

What is Web Hosting?

When you buy website hosting, you are essentially buying a plot of land for your website. And by ‘plot of land’, we mean space on a server. A website is made up of files: images, pages, words that make up your website are stored on a server somewhere (your hosting company owns and maintains that server).

Web hosting starts at $12/year, although it can grow up to $300/month depending on the type of website hosting you choose. You can also lock in hosting discounts by purchasing multiple years upfront.
Before we move on, we should go over what kinds of web hosting there are so you know you made the right decision.

What’s the difference between shared, VPS, and Dedicated web hosting?

You’ve probably heard these terms before when describing websites. Let’s go over them and see what you need:

Shared – The cheapest option by far. You essentially buy space on a server with hundreds, or even thousands, of other websites. This is ideal for websites that are just starting out and don’t expect to be pulling in tens of thousands of visitors per day.
The downside of shared hosting is that it’s less secure, because if hackers hack into any one of those websites you share a server with, they can destroy your website. If another website becomes hugely popular and crashes the server, then all the other websites will go down as well.

VPS – This stands for “Virtual Private Server”. Instead of having an entire server to yourself, hosting companies will virtually ‘partition’ a server. It’s like carving up a plot of land and putting up fences in between these spaces. It means your website is more likely to be safe (although not completely). If your website becomes hugely popular, you can easily increase your VPS’s hosting plan to handle the traffic without having to migrate your entire site.

The downside is cost. VPS plans typically start at $30/month.

Dedicated – This is exactly what it sounds like: you have a whole server dedicated to your website. Sites like Rackspace and Singlehop cater to these kinds of customers, which tend to be large enterprise websites with lots of traffic and features (i.e. employee logins). These kinds of hosting plans cost upwards of $200/month.
The benefits of this kind of hosting are security and attention. Most of the time you will have a representative from the hosting company in charge of ensuring that your website runs smoothly.

Can I Register a Domain Name and Buy Web Hosting From Different Companies?

Yes. This is something that web hosting companies like to pretend you can’t do, but it’s very simple and easy to do.

Let’s say you register a domain with GoDaddy, because they have a 99 cent sale going on. Then you buy hosting from another company. Let’s say….Dreamhost.

All you need are Dreamhost’s nameservers. You don’t need to know what nameservers are, just find something in Dreamhost’s control panel that looks like this: ns1.dreamhost.com. That may not be exactly it, but most nameservers look like that.

Then go into your GoDaddy dashboard. Go to ‘Manage Domains’, select your domain name, click on ‘edit nameservers’, and add that Dreamhost nameserver in there. That’s it, and now you don’t have to worry about it ever again.