A question we hear again and again from clients, friends, fellow network-event attendees, and their moms, is “what is hosting”?
It is another one of those words that you hear around a lot, but if you’re new to the whole “having a website” thing, you may have no idea of what it is, only that you somehow need it for a website. So, let’s talk about hosting, what it is, what it isn’t, and if you need it—and all in a way that is not too techy and that covers what you as a business owner need to know.
What Is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the leasing of internet space, it’s where you can place a website.
Let’s try an analogy: if you’re opening a brick and mortar store, you either own or rent a location, and you place your store there, so people can come and visit.
Now apply that same concept to the world wide web. For you to put a website out on the internet, you need space somewhere that hosts that website. Some people create their own space through their own servers, but as a business owner with already enough on our plates, that’s not the route we recommend. Instead, we can easily lease space from someone that already has all that space in their servers. And that’s what we call buying or leasing hosting.
What is a Domain?
Back to the brick and mortar analogy, imagine that space you got to put your store is a big building with a lot of doors and hallways. You got a space behind a closed door, you set up your store, decorate it, have sale signs and everything—it looks great! But no one can find it. You can tell people that you have a store in that huge building, but with all the hallways and doors, they can’t find you unless you tell them your specific address and unit number.
That’s your domain. It’s the coordinates to find your website in the world wide web! It’s what we usually start with “http:/www” and finish with “.com” or “.net” or “.co”. You get what we mean, right?
So, Hosting vs Domain—Do I need both?
The terms can be a bit confusing, which is why some people think of them as “hosting vs domain”, but both things actually work together and in a way or another, you need both.
You very much want a domain, so you can user your name or your business name on it and make it easy and memorable for people.
But the hosting depends very much on what platform you want to use for your website.
What kind of website do you have? If you’re using a standard blogging platform, like Blogspot or Tumblr, then you definitely don’t need hosting, they have you covered.
Then there’s services who provide you with hosting space and a website builder for more customized website, like SquareSpace or ShowIt—you don’t need hosting there either.
But if you want the freedom to grow you website into something bigger, or you want to have more control of every aspect of your website, or you just want one same space where you can build multiple websites for multiple projects, then you want to purchase hosting. Once you have your hosting space, you can install a content management system like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla, to help you create your website. Or you can be hard-core and code your own website, but this article is meant for business owners, right? So, we probably don’t want to do that when there’s solutions that are way easier and way more efficient, we have to make the smart choices!
So many options—how do I choose?
Luckily for you, nowadays everything that can be reviewed has been reviewed. So, you can find lots of pros and cons lists out there telling you what option would be best for you. But we will tell you about what we use and why, and it might be insightful for some of you.
Website Platforms: You Don’t Worry about Hosting
This platforms are highly professional, work well for SEO, have a good reputation, and have communities where you can get support if you face any issues.
We don’t provide design services for these platforms, but we have some amazing recommendations if you are looking for a designer to help you there:
- Present Moment Media for SquareSpace
- Lemon and the Sea for SquareSpace
- Studio Crescent for ShowIt
- LenaDesigns Studio for ShowIt
Self-Hosting: You host, but you have more freedom
If you decide to host your own website for the sake of budget, flexibility, or future growth, then this info is for you.
Systems like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal are content management systems that can be installed in hosting spaces you purchase, and you can do whatever you want with them. WordPress is probably the most popular one from these ones, as it is open-source (meaning, free), has a gigantic community of people that have been using it for over a decade, and it provides as much flexibility as you want it to.
(Note that there is a platform called WordPress.Com — this platform is not self-hosted and flexible, it’s more like SquareSpace and Showit, where it’s a platform taking care of the system for you, but it is very limited and pricey if you want to expand your website and have more than just a basic blog.)
Hosting can be paid monthly or yearly. We pay yearly because it’s usually a better price! For most services, you receive a discount for the very first invoice, so they more months or years you pay for on your first invoice, the bigger the discount; after the time period you pay on that first invoice, the price goes up. So when you are looking at quotes for hosting services, make sure to read how much they charge after the first year! It’s usually 2-3 times more than the first year.
At Stargazed Studio we use and recommend Siteground. If you decide to buy hosting from them, get their “StartUp” package, which is their basic package, with 10 GB Web Space and suitable for about 10,000 visits per month. That is generally a great fit for most small business websites!
Price: 2.99 USD / month, and after the first year 14.95 USD / month
Want the options of flexibility and growth that WordPress offers, but don’t want to worry about self-hosting? At Stargazed Studio we now offer hosting to our web design clients, so they don’t have to worry about another thing to deal with, monthly updates, and more. Learn more about our design service!
The company we recommended above, Siteground, sells domains for an additional fee with their hosting packages, although sometimes there are deals where you get a free domain for a year with your hosting. This is a good option is you want to be able to manage it all in one same place. The cost is around 12 USD / year for the domain, and additional 12 USD / year for domain privacy.
But we actually purchase our domains from Namecheap. Domain prices there are in average between 8-12 USD / year, but they already include domain privacy, no extra fees.
Domain Privacy: When you buy and register a domain, your information (name, email, phone, etc) is listed along with the domain in a public database. That results in a lot of spam, since telemarketers, scammers, and pretty much anyone has quick, easy access to your information. You can purchase a Domain Privacy plan, and that protects your information by having the listings showcase your Domain Privacy Company information, instead of your own information. Domain Privacy is usually about 12 USD / year, but some companies include it in their price already.
After we recommend people to use Siteground, the next question is usually “how do I do that?”. Here is a straight forward, step-by-step guide on signing up for Siteground:
- Visit Siteground here.
- Go to the “See Plans” page, and look for the “StartUp” package. This package usually covers everything you need for a basic website. Click on “Get Plan” under that package.
- Choose whether you already have a domain or not, and fill out the corresponding information.
- This last tab requires all the information they need to set up your account: name, email, address, payment, etc.
- In the “Purchase Information” box, we recommend you buy at least 12 months of hosting, since what you buy now is what will receive the introductory price, the price goes up when you renew.
- In the Extra Services section, there is a “Site Scanner” option. If you have someone doing regular maintenance checks on your website, you may not need this. But if you want to get it, it’s never bad to have another set of eyes taking care of your website.
And that’s how you purchase your hosting!
And with SiteGround, after purchasing, they will actually offer to help you set up your WordPress website, so you can follow their tutorial.
Do you want professional help creating your website? Take a look at our WordPress Web Design Services.
Lots of concepts in this post, but we hope it been useful, and that your hosting questions have been answered. Hopefully there won’t be anymore hosting vs domain confusion!
If there’s any questions regarding this topic, feel free to comment below and we’ll do our best to help you out.