A Quick Guide To Domains & Web Hosting

A couple of days ago I received an email from someone asking for some advice on domains and web hosting. This was following a quick post I added on Google+. The post basically mentions a domain name that I was emailed about, it’s availability and also it’s cost. So I replied to this person and explained some information about domains, web hosting & how it all works – but this got me thinking, most people who work with websites or in the IT industry take this kind of thing for granted, so I thought I would write an informational guide to try an help some people who are dipping their feet in the ocean of domains and web hosting for the first time. So let’s get started…

Domains

Let’s start with the basics. A domain is your identity on the internet – refugeeks.com, google.com, ubuntu.com & kevquirk.co.uk are all domains. Basically, anything you type into your address bar to go to a website is a domain name (unless you’re really clever and use the IP address, but that’s a different story).

Domain names were invented to make navigation around the internet simple. Computers don’t work like humans, they prefers numbers (binary to be exact) to words, so everything on the internet has an IP address. The IP address for RefuGeeks is 195.238.172.125 – I’m sure you will agree that refugeeks.com is much easier to remember than 195.238.172.125!

Domains are made up of two main parts – ‘A’ records and ‘MX’ records. An A record (which is short for address record) tells the world what the corresponding IP address is for a given domain. This can be changed at any time should you need to do so. Similarly, the MX (mail exchange) record is used to tell the world where to route email that is sent to a given domain.

All domains on the internet have to be unique, so this means that only one person can own a domain at any one time. You can use CheckDomain.com to see if a domain name you have in mind is already registered. Just type the domain name in the search field, for example refugeeks.com and it will tell you if the domain you have searched for is available or not.

Ok, so we’ve now picked out a domain that is available, what now? How do I actually buy a domain? Well, that’s were hosting comes in…

Hosting

There are many companies that you can use to purchase your domain from, these companies are called hosts. You see, you never actually own a domain as such, it’s more like a yearly rental agreement were you can buy your domain and have first refusal on whether or not you want to renew your agreement before the host will put the domain up as available again.

Some hosts that I have used in the past would be 1and1, 123-Reg, GoDaddy, Heart Internet & Compila. I’ve used more than just these companies, but they are the ones I would recommend. For all my domains & websites I am using Compila – mainly because there prices are very good for web hosting and so is their support.

A domain can cost anything from £2.99 per year for an available .co.uk domain right up to thousands or even millions of pounds for desirable domains like microsoft.com, google.com etc (these are obviously taken and won’t be available any time soon). A normal, available domain will costs around £3.00 a year for a localised domain (e.g. .co.uk, .me.uk, .co.au etc) or around £8.00 per year for an international domain (.com, .net etc). All you need to do is purchase the domain from a host like the companies listed above. The whole process takes around 24 hours to complete as your host needs to tell the internet that you now own this domain.

What will I get for my money?

Honestly, not a lot. For the prices listed above you will only own the domain name, some hosts may let you setup a couple of email address or maybe an email forwarder – so mail@domain.com would forward to a personal gmail address for example, but that’s about it. You won’t be able to host a website for this amount. For this, you need web hosting, confused yet?

Web Hosting is available form all of the companies listed above. If you are thinking about hosting a WordPress site (like this) then you will need the ability to setup SQL databases, normal HTML sites don’t require a database though. As I mentioned before, I’ve found Compila to be by far the most reasonably priced for hosting. Heart & 1and1 are also very competitively priced.

If you only intend on hosting a smaller website for an individual or small business then a package that offers around 2GB of space or so will be ample. What the hosts mean by space is the amount of storage you have to store all of your website files. To give you an idea of storage requirements, here is an example:

I get 10GB on my hosting package, on this package I host RefuGeeks, DroidHQ, my personal site and also duplicates of each site that I use for development (so I can test changes without the public seeing). I’ve just checked and my current disk usage is 1.25GB of my 10GB – so I’m hosting 5 websites all in all and I’ve not even used a quarter of my storage. This usage will obviously grow with time as I add more articles, images and develop the sites. But when that time comes, I can just upgrade my storage to a higher package, probably to one that has unlimited storage. Just to let you know, I pay around £50.00 per year for my web hosting.

With these web hosting packages, you also get mailboxes so that you can setup email address. However, if you only want your domain for emails (i.e. no website) then I would strongly suggest using Google Apps as it’s free for up to 10 email addresses and it is extremely powerful. It will blow 99.9% of email hosts out of the water for functionailty. For more information about Google apps, have a look here.

The final thing you need to be aware of is Bandwidth. This is the amount of traffic that is allowed to occur in a monthly period between your site and the rest of the internet. So, the more visitors you get, the more bandwidth you need. In my package, I have unlimited bandwidth so this doesn’t matter to me; but let’s say for example you get 1GB of bandwidth per month. If you are hosting an art website that has lots of high resolution images, this bandwidth will be quick eaten up by your visitors loading the content of your site. The general rule of thumb with bandwidth is get as much of it as you can.

Here is how quickly bandwidth can be eaten up - If you have 10 images that are 1MB in size each on your site (10MB in total) and you get 100 visitors to your site in one day that look at all 10 images, that is your 1GB of bandwidth gone and your website will go down for the rest of that month (unless you upgrade your bandwidth).

Finally…

I hope this not so quick guide to domains and hosting has helped answer at least some of the questions you may have about domain and web hosting. You can literally write books about this kind of thing, so I have tried to keep it as brief as I possibly can. If you do still have questions, post them in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer.

A Quick Guide To Domains & Web Hosting
User Rating: 0 (0 votes)
  • Andrew McGlashan

    Hosts are hosting providers (in your context), registrars are providers of domain names. Hosting companies can also be registrars, but hosts or hosting providers are not necessarily domain registrars. A registrar has different obligations to hosting companies.

    Anyone can be a host, you can self-host if you like. But being a registrar involves a great deal more consideration.

    Also, a domain name is nothing without name servers — you didn’t even mention them??? Usually at least 2 DNS servers are required for any domain name to be active for the world to see. Name servers are specially registered and provide the glue for the domain name for any other name server to be able to find the A and MX records (not to mention the other types of resource records that a “zone” will contain for a domain — or a sub domain for that matter).

    • http://www.refugeeks.com/ Kev Quirk

      This is a quick guide to domain and hosting, I didn’t want to go into to much detail. A person just starting out with domains is probably not going to need to change their NS. If they did, then this article wouldn’t really be applicable for them anyway.

      With regards to the matter of registrars vs hosts. That’s correct, you can self host and a registrar and host are technically different things. But for the purposes of this article and taking into account the example companies I have given (all of which are both registrars and hosts) I thought it best not to confuse things.

      As mentioned in the closing sentence, you can literally write a book on this stuff and this article only scratches the surface. It was never meant to be a detailed guide on how domains and DNS work – it’s merely a ‘beginners guide’ if you will.

  • Pingback: Quirk mix | Jbarjranch()

  • http://scrapstamper.blogspot.com Kasey Cachu

    I was able to find good information from your blog articles.

  • Pingback: Google()

  • Pingback: travel destinations()

  • Pingback: akupuntur kecantikan()

  • Pingback: magnetic messaging examples()

  • Pingback: cheap capsiplex()