Hosting Basics

I have been building websites for over 8 years and I have to admit, I sometimes assume everyone knows the basics. Time and time again I am reminded that in actual fact, not many people are aware of the basics, why would they be? They don’t build websites! So I decided to put together this mini guide about hosting basics. It’s the simple stuff you need to know before thinking about building your website. If you don’t know these basics, you will likely feel very confused very quickly and I really don’t want that for you.

I keep hearing bad things about certain domain and hosting providers ( 1 & 1 ). I have a few clients who have bought their domain name from them and they are unwittingly being charged for other services such as SEO programs and hosting when they were not needed. Mainly because the difference between hosting and a domain name was never made clear.

How does that happen?

How can a company set it’s services up in such a way that you get charged for something you didn’t want?

I can only assume there is a huge lack of clarity when you press that buy button, it’s not really clear what you are buying.

This is such a sneaky tactic and a warning to us all to remember to read the small print, double check what you are buying, but above all, you need to understand enough about the services on offer to know if you need them or not.

I know that many people struggle with understanding the difference between hosting and domain names. What are they and what exactly do you need?

The first two parts of this guide will explain that. The last two parts will explain DNS (OMG what’s that!) and how to get yourself an email address!

Let’s start at the start.

PART 1: What is a domain name?

Before you build a website you need a domain name.

A domain name looks something like www.yourwebsite.com

It’s what people type into the browser window (like Chrome) to find your website.

You can buy your domain name from many online ‘Domain registrars’ such as Crazy Domains, Name Cheap, Uniregistry.

You pay for a domain name yearly (or every 2 years), you do not pay monthly. The cost for a .co.uk name is usually around £10.

You can also buy domain privacy which hides your domain registration details from the public.

Many domain registrars also offer hosting.


Start of video transcript: 

Welcome to this little video where I am going to explain what a domain name is.  now the domain name is the name you give your website so for me, mine is is www.weiderweb.com, and that is as simple as it gets. Now you buy a domain name from a domain registrar and a domain registrar can be somebody like Crazy Domains or GoDaddy. A lot of hosting companies also provide domain name and there can be some confusion about what you’re actually purchasing. So that’s why I’d like to do this very short video to just explain in more detail actually what a domain name is. So if I type my domain name into the browser bar ok ‘Weider Web’ and it will take me to my website. Here we go, so the domain name is the name you give the people so they can find your website. And a domain registrar is somebody like Crazy Domains. Now this is just a company that I use to buy my domains from and domains are not very expensive to buy unless you’re buying something that’s really popular. That a lot of people want.  Then generally your domain name is going to be just a few pounds a year. For example let me show you my this example. For two years that would cost £9.50 per year, that is all you are paying for, the name. It is not a monthly fee, it is a yearly fee and you can buy it in advance like 4 years. You can specify how many years you want to buy it for and then you own that name and that is all that a domain name is. Thank you for watching this video.

End of video transcript.


PART 2: What is a hosting account?

When you pay for hosting, you are renting space on a server to store the files that make up your website. You need to buy hosting before you start to build your website. Hosting accounts can vary in price and you usually pay for these monthly. The price can range from a few pounds per month to hundreds of pounds depending on your needs.


Start of video transcription:

Hello in this short video I will explain to you what a hosting account is. now you need a hosting account because that’s where your website files are held or stored. It’s physical server somewhere and on that server is where your website files will live. So, I’m using siteground for my hosting but there are many many website hosting companies out that you might have heard of,  GoDaddy or 1 & 1, not all hosting companies are the same. You do get what you pay for and if you pay for a really cheap hosting account it can affect how your website performs. It can mean that your website loads quite slowly it can mean that your website is vulnerable to security issues so when you’re looking for hosting account it’s important to shop around and balance your budget with what you’re getting in your hosting account and that’s why I recommend SiteGround at this time just because they have a  really good service and good support for quite a reasonable fee.

Inside a hosting account, this is what my account looks like.  This is a cPanel control panel. This is how I would manage my account.  In here we have a little section this is where some accounts let you have multiple websites on one hosting account and if that’s you, you would add your domain to the account by using this section here. Here we can see that it’s got some auto installs so if you want to create a WordPress website you can do that or a Joomla website. We have various other tools that helps you administer your website we have email address tools and other things. You can access your files by going in here and your databases. If you have a backup plan provided by your hosting complete you can access them here I do recommend you have independent backups as well because sometimes you hosting company might not get it right and it’s quite a lot to expect them to have your backups all the time so it’s always a good idea to have your own independent backups made as well. So we can see here there’s a lot of things that included in your hosting account now what is really good about hosting accounts is if you shop around then you can change your hosting account, you could just pull your website files from that account and put them on another account is quite straightforward thing to do.

Now, your website hosting account has an address and that is given by this IP address here, we need to connect a domain name to the IP address using the DNS settings and I will talk about the DNS settings in the next video. So now hopefully now you understand what a hosting account is and why you need it. Thanks for watching this video.

End of video transcription:


Where is the confusion between knowing the difference between what is hosting and what is a domain name?

When you buy your hosting and domain name from the same company you might not realise you can cancel the hosting service. This is important to know if you decide to use a better company to host your website.

PART 3: Joining the dots (finally) with DNS

Once you have a domain name and a hosting account, you may be wondering what you do next? You need to make sure that when someone types your domain name in the browser that they are taken to your website, hosted on your hosting account. To do this you need to tell your domain where the website files are kept. The act of doing this is called ‘changing your DNS settings’. There are several ways to do this and I won’t go into detail here because the process can vary slightly depending on who you bought your domain from, but it is something you need to be aware of.  If you have a good domain registrar account and a good hosting account then you can approach them for help.


Start of video transcription:

I’m going to quickly explain how you join the dots between your hosting account and your domain name. So now you have bought your domain name and you’ve signed up with a hosting account you next need to point your domain name to your hosting account.  How you do that is by changing the DNS settings. I’m not going to go into too much detail about the ins and outs of domain name setting but all you need to know is that if you go into your account, so here is my Crazy Domains account where I have bought my domain name, if you go into your account you will find something called nameservers.

What you basically want to do is update your nameserver and all that means is finding what the nameserver is for SiteGround for where my website files are hosted. This is the nameserver and you can sometimes get two, or three or four, it depends on the service what kind of hosting you’ve paid for and you just set it in here. So you just copy and paste and it.  once you’ve done that it takes a few hours to propagate throughout the internet and then Once it’s propagated that means the DNS settings are all over the internet and your website at your hosting account will then be live when somebody types in your name your domain name now when we put these nameservers in that just means that your hosting account is now responsible for the DNS settings.

Some people  like to change the files individually, and we can have all different sorts of records, A record, C name. There are various types of DNS settings you can change and but obviously for this video we’re keeping things simple and you can just change that the name servers and that will set it all up for you. I hope that was useful thank you for watching.

End of video transcription:


PART 4: Setting up a FREE professional business email address

Did you know that your hosting company may be offering free email addresses? (SiteGround does). Go and find out if yours does and if it does, follow this video for how to set up in just a few minutes.

Start of video transcript:

Welcome to this very short video on how to create an email address from within your hosting cPanel account. Now you might not know this but some hosting accounts let you create free email addresses so you don’t need to stick with an unprofessional looking Gmail email address.

You can have something that looks quite professional and that helps to build the credibility on your website. Basically if you have an email address that end in ‘gmail’ then it doesn’t really add credibility. My email address is karen@weiderweb.com and I think that looks better than some of my old personal email addresses.

So wherever you can, you need to really build credibility on your website and having a professional looking email is one way to do that.

I’m with SiteGround for my hosting and they offer free email addresses so I recommend that you look for a good host and take advantage of the free email addresses. One of the things that they have is something called cPanel as a way to manage your hosting account.  Not all hosting companies offer cPanel but if yours does then this video is perfect for you. You can set up your own professional looking email address in just a matter of minutes.

If your hosting company doesn’t have cPanel there might be another way for you to set up email addresses you’ll just have to ask them how to go about it but for now this video is just about the cPanel method of setting up your email address.

Now here we can see inside my hosting account and this is what cPanel looks like. So I’m just going to scroll down until I see the email section and here it is. I’m just going to click on the email account. You can see there’s lots of things that I want things to do in email I’m not going to bother with any of those. We just can keep things nice and simple and click on email account.

I’ve already got some emails, I have my own private email address I have one that’s on my website and one that my customers can contact me and raise a support request for services that I offer and I have that going through to a ticketing system so you might want something similar. So what you just need to do is find this area where it says email and you just add whatever the email is you want to create and then you select password and put your password and then you just decide on how big you want your mailbox to be so you can change this and then you click on create account. It is that simple.

Then your account will appear here. Now you have the option to change the password so you can just click on change password and email address. You can also access your email in the browser bar next to your URL of your website so for me to access my typing www.weiderweb.com/webmail  I’ll be taken to the email account. I will put in the email address and password. Sometimes you might have to type webmail.weiderweb.com , it just depends how you’re hosting has been set-up, but you can try either of those variations.

If you want to use a third-party tool to read your emails like Gmail then you’ll need to configure your email client. I’m not going to go into that level of detail in this video but if you clicked on that you will find instructions. For now go ahead and set yourself up with a professional looking email and get that on your website and you’ll be increasing your credibility in there.

Thank you very much for watching this video bye for now.

End of video transcript:


Don’t be afraid to shop around for a good hosting company

I always recommend using a hosting company with a good reputation. For this reason it is important to look around frequently and hosting companies to compare their service, price, support and reputation. Staying with a bad hosting company can really affect the performance of your website so I do recommend shopping around for this.

I currently recommend SiteGround. One of the reasons I recommend them is because their support is really good.

What next?

I want you to feel empowered! I want you to understand what you are paying for. Check your bank statements! Are you being charged for more than you need?

Remember – you should only be paying once a year for your domain and a few pounds per month for hosting.

Be in control! It’s your business and your website.

Need more personalised support? Contact me to find out how I can help you get unstuck with your website.

Grab my 7 Website Planning Roadmaps, Including 5 Checklists!

Not sure where to start when building your website? Use these 7 roadmaps to identify where you should start and what your plan of action should be. 

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