Lets talk about understanding domains and hosting, so you can make a well informed decision about these items.
First thing is first, every website needs a domain and a host. There is no way around it. Some companies, like Weebly and Wix, include the cost of the domain and hosting in their product, that might sound convenient but don’t forget the reason we stay far, far away from these companies.
The domain the URL or web address to get to your website. www.virtualwptraining.com is our domain name. Companies can easily give you an off-shoot of their domain name for free, they tend to do this if they are trying to rope you into their service, like those commercials that say “Try our product for free, just pay shipping and handling” and a month later they charge you for the next shipment because it said so in the fine print… Anyway, IF you decided to go with the free domain it would have the real owners domain name in it, like this: www.yourname.virtualwptraining.com (although we do not offer this, as it is not beneficial for you).
Purchasing your domain is important, not only do you get to decide what your URL should be, but YOU own it, not someone else. For about $15 per year, it is a wise investment. GoDaddy.com and Domain.com offer domain names, most hosting companies also offer domains. It does make life easier to have your hosting and domain name provided by the same company, but it is certainly not necessary. If you do not have a company name, or your company name is already taken, talk to a professional for good ideas, our experts in the “Ask an Expert” forum would be happy to assist. Remember, long web addresses can be hard for people to remember, try to keep it short and simple.
Next thing is hosting, kind of like the utilities for your place of residence, your host provides the server and technologies needed to run your website. There is an actual computer-like box (called a server) that stores and runs your files, it also utilizes the technology your website needs to run, like MySQL and PHP (among others). There are companies that offer FREE hosting, I won’t mention any of them specifically because they are all rubbish. Free hosting companies are not just going to float you forever, like real life where can you go live for free? I don’t know of any landlords or banks that will let me take up space in a home for free, so why would anyone offer free hosting?? We will tell you why, they are either going to try to get you to pay for their service at some point or they are getting paid by advertisers, so they offer free hosting, just to make a buck off you in the form of ads. Free hosts typically run ads on your website, limit software that you need, have lax security, and no support. A big risk you are running with a free host is loosing your website entirely. A free host can boot you whenever they want, no warnings, if you have your website all backed up this should not be too much of an inconvenience but for your users’ sake, you need a reliable host. We have also found, without fail, that ‘free’ hosting companies have lots of downtime, (that is time when your website is unavailable, usually because their server crashed, this is not only frustrating for your users but bad for SEO too)
There are many types of hosting and many companies that offer it; prices can range from $5 per month to several thousand per month. There are three basic types of hosting: Shared, Dedicated and Virtual Private. Shared hosting is the most popular and least expensive type of hosting available. There are typically different levels of shared hosting, depending on the number of domains you want to host, the number of databases you need and so on. You are sharing server space with other websites, that means each server has a maximum amount of traffic it can handle, and usually a maximum amount of space to house files. You have to share that traffic allotment and server space with all the other websites on that server. If you have a good host they will make sure everyone is playing nice and they should suspend accounts that hog too much of the traffic resources, so you do not suffer. Of course if it is you getting all that traffic, they may suspend you till you pay for a hosting plan that better fits your increased traffic needs… The next type of hosting is dedicated hosting, that is where you get the whole server all to yourself, no sharing with anyone else, perfect for large businesses with lots of traffic. This is also much more expensive than shared hosting, you can expect to pay several hundred or even thousand per month for a dedicated server. Finally we have Virtual Private Hosting, soft of like a happy medium, it is actually shared hosting, but the server is separated into several virtual sections, so you basically have your own ‘mini’ dedicated server. You can expect to pay between $20 and $200 per month for VPS hosting.
Most websites today run pretty well on the basic shared hosting services offered by companies like SiteGround and InMotionHosting. There is a sea of hosting companies to choose from, do your due diligence and research reviews and experiences people have had with that host before you sign up. Regardless of who hosts your website, if you have 1 website, and low to medium traffic, you do not need $100 per month hosting…. the $20-ish per month plans will work just fine for you, and if your host comes to you in a few years and tells you that you have too much traffic for the plan you are on, then you can upgrade at that time. Be weary of paying a developer for a domain and hosting, unless they are offering some sort of free support to go with it. The best thing you can do is own your “virtual real estate” (your domain and host), don’t let a middle man own it and up charge you for using it.
If you are still having a hard time understanding domains and hosting, or just want more information, consider taking our Pre-Wordpress course.