The Ultimate Guide to Domain Names, Website Building and Web Hosting
We all know that the internet is so broad that it seems infinite in our eyes. Nobody knows where it begins and where it ends, but we do know how the parts most essential to us are built. The ability to freely browse websites and explore all they have in store for us is what keeps us going. All of us are curious enough to keep digging deeper into the internet and gather knowledge about how we can navigate through this massive digital jungle. But rarely do people know where all the contents of the internet is actually stored, how a website is built up and how you could have your own website sooner than you think. In this article, we’re going to dive into the fundamentals of building a website and launching it so that everyone in the world can see. Without further ado, let’s get down to it!
What Is a Website?
A website is an accumulation of files organized with code such as HTML, CSS, PHP or ASP. People can build their websites from the ground up by using some of these languages. The code we write with these languages will define how various elements of the website will be arranged and rendered on your display. HTML (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) provides a frame for your website, which will define where the buttons, links, images and the rest of the website content is placed. CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) will define what colors the text and all the other elements of the website will have, and stylistic effects it will use. PHP and ASP are more complex codes and they are used to give commands to the web-server where our website is stored. We use PHP or ASP to create custom functionalities for our website, like the ability to calculate prices, show the time or run a calendar, which would turn it into a dynamic webpage.
Depending on the website’s level of complexity and the amount of functionality it will have, we use these codes on the appropriate level. If we want to create a dynamic webpage that also works with user data, we’ll have to have a database in place and some PHP or ASP code written, which will carry out our functions. If all we want is a simple portfolio website or a website we can use as our online business card, we’ll only have to use HTML and CSS.
How to Build a Website?
Building a website isn’t as scary as it may seem right now. Not because anyone can or should learn to code. But because you no longer have to be an IT nerd and spend half your day in your basement in order to create a good looking website. In fact, even today’s IT professionals use website building platforms and frameworks to make their jobs easier.
Coding a website from scratch isn’t something people often do anymore. They instead use complex systems with simple interfaces or frameworks which already have the most important elements of a website laid out.
Even if you have nothing to do with IT, you can use one of these systems or a simple website building platforms. There are plenty of them that were developed with first-time users in mind. WordPress is a good example of this, because it allows even a newbie to create a website within less than an hour. It’s a system that was able to leverage the thousands of hours developers from all around the world spent with improving it.
The steps for launching a website was made as simple as possible. They go like this:
- Get a Domain Name (I’ll go into what that is in a bit)
- Buy a hosting plan (I’ll go into this as well)
- Install WordPress
- Choose a Theme
- Customize the Theme (Rewrite texts, buttons, etc.)
It’s as simple as it should be and now anyone can do it! WordPress is a content management system that makes this and a lot of other amazing things possible without the need to understand a bit of coding. You can use other content management systems such as Joomla or Drupal, or even more comprehensive website building platforms like Weebly.
What is a Domain Name?
The domain name is the address you write into your browser when you know the exact website you want to visit, like www.facebook.com. The domain name points to an IP address, a line of numbers that represent the server where the website is stored on. An IP address is like a phone number, you can type that in too and dial up the server or website you want to view on your computer. But because domain names are more user friendly and easier to remember, we use them for web browsing instead.
If you’re looking to launch a website, you’ll first have to register a domain name at a domain registrar. Once you’ve come up with a catchy name that easily sticks in people’s heads. Once you have yourself a catchy domain name, you can set the IP address you want it to point to, by editing the DNS information. So you can easily change where your website is stored or the website that your domain name points to.
You can buy a domain name at domain registrar like GoDaddy.com or NameCheap.com.
What is Web Hosting?
Everything you see on the internet is stored somewhere on a physical server computer. We know the internet as the system of interconnected computers, but websites are rarely stored on a user’s PC. It is definitely possible to store it on someone’s personal computer, but it wouldn’t be a solid solution. If the PC is turned off, then nobody can access the website and the same goes if it has any other technical difficulty. Not to mention that your PC is by no means optimized to be used as a server for extended periods of time, which would be a problem eventually. A lot of other hazardous issues could pose a threat too, even though the PC is only sitting in your apartment. Which is why a hosting service is your best option for hosting your website.
Hosting companies have huge data centers that are filled with server computers, which are optimized to be able to operate 24/7/365. Even the temperature is on optimal levels within those data centers, so that the servers can function at their best without overheating. They also have numerous professionals monitoring the servers and making sure that all of them are functioning properly.
Most hosting companies have a decent customer support team waiting for their users’ calls, so you can reach out to them whenever you experience something problematic with your website. Making sure that the company has a good support team is one of the most important aspects of a web hosting service. Otherwise you’re bound to end up with a lot of frustrating events. Which is why it’s also important that you make sure that the company whose service you are buying actually owns the servers your website will be stored upon.
Large companies offer reseller hosting services, which means that anyone or any smaller company can subscribe to them and sell it as their own. It can work, but if they don’t have physical access to your particular server when a problem emerges, it can end up being quite problematic. So play it safe and go with a larger and more reputable company that actually owns its servers.
There are numerous different types of hosting plans available, because every website and business has different needs. I’m going to go into those in more detail.
What Kind Of Hosting Services are Available
Every company offers around 5 different hosting types, each offering a different amount of server resources and expert cooperation. Prices vary accordingly as well. Depending on what kind of website, application or service you’re launching, you’ll have to choose from the following:
- Shared Hosting
- VPS Hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- Cloud Hosting
- Managed Hosting
Shared hosting is the option most beginners and bloggers use. It is the most inexpensive type of hosting plan you can have, because it’s easy for the company to maintain. It is called shared hosting because the client shares space with other clients who use the same server to store their websites. This hosting type has limitations such as the amount of resources, storage space, bandwidth, email accounts and features you are allowed to use. This isn’t necessarily problematic if you’re just starting out but you’ll want to upgrade to something more powerful once your site made you more profit and has a high number of visitors every month.
Virtual Private Server hosting is the second hosting type on the scale. It is the type of hosting people use once they have outgrown their initial shared hosting plan. It’s also a choice for those who run websites with a lot of traffic, large eCommerce sites or applications that require dedicated resources. Since it is a virtual private server, it is isolated from other users on a software level. You will still share the same physical server but you’ll have access to a fixed amount of resources that nobody else can touch. You can also dynamically add more resources to your plan when you require it. VPS hosting also gives you more control over the server you’re running and requires a certain level of technical knowledge to operate. It often costs three or four times as much as shared hosting plans do, but offer three times the value as well.
When you need to go all out and have to have an entire physical server dedicated to your organization or website, then it’s time to choose dedicated hosting. With dedicated hosting, you’ll rent an entire physical server that you’ll be in complete charge of. The price of dedicated hosting plans go way above $100 per month, but that includes all the software licensing fees and more. The sheer amount of resources and the price is why larger companies are the ones to use a dedicated hosting server. It offers the most security, flexibility and the most power. They are even safer on a physical level. Hosting companies often employ security guards who patrol the area where your dedicated server is stored.
Cloud hosting is a new and popular hosting technology that doesn’t rely on a single server, rather an interconnected network of servers. This network serves as a pool of resources to which every account has access to. It is much safer, faster and reliable than shared hosting or even VPS hosting. It can prove to be a lot less inexpensive than any other hosting plan, because you can use it on a pay what you use basis. It’s faster and more reliable because if you have an unexpected traffic spike, you’ll have a virtually infinite amount of resources at your website’s disposal to handle it. You wouldn’t even have to pay more if it happens and it can be handled without any difficulty. Also, if one server shuts down within the network, it won’t be a problem because the cloud system will only apply more resources to your site or wherever else it is needed. You don’t even have to pay too much for cloud hosting, since there are some awesome plans from $3 per month.
Managed hosting is often a good choice for those who don’t have the technical skills necessary for managing a webserver. There are different varieties of managed hosting. You can have managed shared hosting, managed VPS hosting or even managed dedicated hosting. It costs more but it frees you or your employees up from a lot of responsibility. They can instead have their valuable employee work on something else within the company.
With managed hosting, the cPanel is managed by the company whose service you’re using. They often take full responsibility for your website as well and make sure that it functions at its best at all times.
How To Choose The Right Hosting Service For Yourself?
It’s fairly easy to determine which of the above mentioned hosting services you need. It depends mostly on what kind of website you will be building.
When Do You Need Shared Hosting?
If you’re on a tight budget and you are just starting out with your blog, small eCommerce website a basic commercial website, shared hosting is one of the best solutions for you. As long as you don’t have something like 100,000 visitors per month, you should be alright with most shared plans. So if you’re just starting out, you can have yourself a decent shared hosting plan from $3 – $6 per month.
When Do You Need VPS?
VPS hosting is for those who are looking to dive into a more serious business or mission. If you have a website that’s already successful or you know that you’ll have a huge surge of traffic within a short amount of time, VPS hosting might be a good choice. If your business relies completely on your website and it’s important that you keep it as secure as possible, VPS is the solution. Most large eCommerce sites use VPS as their foundation. It’s also a great choice, if you’re looking to run a forum, social media website or a large online community. It’s a solid option if you’re dealing with a large amount of sensitive data that you want to keep as secure as possible.
When Do You Need a Dedicated Server?
If you already have a medium size business with a couple of employees and there is a lot of money on the table, you’ll want to have the most reliable solution possible. Not that the others aren’t, but with dedicated servers, you have absolute control and can take extra security measures. The larger your business and your website’s audience grows, the closer you get to a point where a dedicated server is required. It is also the best option if your website or business deals with a lot of sensitive data like credit card numbers and personal information.
When Do You Need Cloud Hosting?
If you’re constantly producing content for a worldwide audience and don’t know when one of your pieces will go viral, leading to a large traffic spike, cloud hosting is a good solution. Your visitors will be able to browse your website no matter what the circumstances are. Cloud hosting is also much better when you don’t know which part of the world your audience will visit your site from. With shared hosting or any other hosting type, if the server is too far away from their physical location, it will take a lot more time for them to load your site. But not with cloud hosting.
Since your website will be uploaded to a large pool of servers it will also be much safer and much easier to recover all of its data if something bad happens to it. Yet I wouldn’t recommend using cloud hosting if you’re dealing with sensitive data like credit card numbers and personal information. Use VPS or dedicated hosting in that case.
When Do You Need Managed Hosting?
With every hosting plan you purchase, you have a control panel through which you can manage your server. You’ll also have to install an operating system and configure the server if you’re using VPS hosting or dedicated hosting. This is too much of a task for a lot of people because they either don’t have the time or the knowledge to do it but they still need the extra processing power. So the company offers to do it for them in the form of a managed dedicated or VPS hosting plan. It’s a rock solid solution to get your server on track as quickly as possible and it will spare you a great deal of time.
Important Things To Consider When You’re Choosing a Company
There are a few things that are important to research when you are considering to buy a hosting company’s plan. I’m going to outline what these are.
Website Loading Speed
Every hosting company says that they are fast as hell, but you want to make your decisions based on actual numbers. Because a lot of companies are tricky and lure you in to buy their hosting plan, only for you to find out that it’s incredibly slow. So the best thing you can do is to find a review about them and see how their performed on speed tests. If you want the best, they should offer about 500 – 800 millisecond loading times. Ignore any company that offers a loading time that’s more 1200 milliseconds.
Servers theoretically work 24/7/365, but that’s not always the case. There might be technical difficulties or might shut down from time to time. You don’t want your site to be down because something’s happening within the company’s data center and you certainly shouldn’t have to care about it. So do some research and see what their uptime is. Don’t believe that their uptime is 99.99% right off the bat. Read a few reviews and then make your decision. If it’s something like 99.80% or 99.60%, it’s very much decent.
One of the most important things a company can offer is their customer support. You’ll need a team of helpful humans who are polite and are willing to talk to you and help you fix any problem that might come up with your server. There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re left with an issue and you have to wait days until someone responds with a generic answer. You’ll want people who you can actually rely on when you most need it.
So once again, do your research and read through a couple of reviews and honest user submitted comments. You’ll want to know what kind of experience other users had with the company’s customer support. You’ll find everything you need to know within the comment sections.
Be Vary of Upsells
A lot of times, hosting providers use clever pricing tricks to lure their customers in and surprise them later on, once they have subscribed to their services. Even good, reputable companies have upsells. In fact, it’s a miracle if you find the few that doesn’t. Basically, they attract people with very low introductory prices that only last for their first period which is a year or two. Also, the low introductory price ($2 – $3) often means that you’ll have to pay for at least a 2 or 3 year subscription. Otherwise the price will go up by at least 30% per month. So it’s very important that you read everything you need to know and see a couple of reviews about what kind upsells a company has.
Also, make sure that you thoroughly test a hosting company’s services within their trial period. If you cancel your plan after it’s over, you’ll be often charged with something like a $30 cancellation fee.
Some companies are really awesome and they go out of their way to give a good deal to their clients. They offer free services such as website migration, automated backups, premium software, security features and more. Each of these are paid services at some companies while others are awesome enough to give it all for free, like InMotion for example. So it’s really important to make sure that the only free thing you get isn’t just the ability to use Google apps on your server.
That’s plenty enough to help you make a reasonable decision when you’re looking for a new hosting provider. The most important thing to do is to research them and dive into comment sections to get an overall view of what experiences other people have with them. Once you have figured out your budget and the level of service you need, choosing a hosting provider is a picnic.
I hope you have enjoyed reading through this article and that we have helped you learn something new today!