Many internet users rarely give a second thought to the inner working of the web until it comes time for them to dive into the deep end themselves. All of a sudden, bewildering questions arise: Should I register my domain name first, or will my web hosting service do that for me? Do I need to go through a domain registrar if I have a web hosting service? Do I need a web hosting service, or can I go it alone? Relax, we have all your web hosting vs. domain registration questions covered:
What is Domain Registration?
Computers communicate between themselves on the internet using IP addresses, numerical sequences that broadcast their location. A domain name puts a face to all these numbers: Instead of typing in 126.96.36.1999 to access a website, domain names allow us to simply search for mysite.com.
A domain registrar is like City Hall or property registry, keeping tabs on internet real estate and property transactions. When you register a domain name, you are essentially laying claim to a specific internet address and making sure that no one else can use it. You become the “registrant” of the domain, and the organization you register your domain name with becomes the “registrar”.
Why this matters to you: At the free level, most free web hosting sites will provide you with a free URL under a sub-domain (for example, mysite.i-m.co). Registering your own domain name, though, is a relatively simple and inexpensive process, and allows you total freedom to choose your website’s name at a nominal price. Most domain registrars charge between $5-10 USD per year for a generic TLD like .com, and often less for a local TLD and lesser generic TLDs like .net or .org. While many domain registrars offer web hosting as part of their package, they tend to leave you on your own when it comes to building the site itself. In this sense, it’s often best to combine your domain registration with a free or inexpensive website builder if you don’t know your way around coding (you can try IM Creator here).
Here are our 3 top domain registrars:
GoDaddy offers both domain registration and web hosting at bargain prices, starting at around $10 per year that comes with a domain name and basic hosting services.
1&1 is among the cheapest of domain registrars, with prices starting at just 0.99 cents per year for domain name registration. Like GoDaddy, 1&1 registrations come with a free 5-page web hosting package and free private domain registration to keep your private information safe. (see here how to attach a 1&1 domain to a site built with IM Creator)
Name are a more aggressive domain search and registration platform, with plenty of tricks up their sleeve. Most notably, Name offers suggestions for domain names that are currently up for auction, and allow you to keep tabs on unavailable domain names with their “Domain Grabber”. With this service, you can pay Name to keep an eye out on a domain name, so that when and if it becomes available, you can grab it first.
What is Web Hosting?
If domain registrars are like City Hall, web hosting services are perhaps best thought of as landlords. They rent you web space and storage on a server, help with its basic maintenance, and keep the power on.
In their most basic form, web hosting services simply allow users to upload files to a single web page using FTP (file transfer protocol). As websites become larger and more complicated, though, so do the services web hosts provide.
When you’re reviewing various web hosting plans, it’s fairly typical to run into exotic-sounding acronyms like PHP and MySQL, but what exactly do they mean?
The internet uses several different coding languages to help developers build websites, from HTML5, to PHP, Python, and RubyonRails. In order for a website to be built using one of these platforms, the web host must support it.
Why this matters to you: If you are using a site builder like IM Creator to create your website, the question of development platforms shouldn’t be much of an issue for you – your friendly website builder is already structured using one of these languages (in IM Creator’s case, it’s HTML5). If, however, you are working with a developer or graphic designer to build your website from scratch, the coding languages your web host supports may be a factor to keep in mind.
A Relational Database Management System – or “RDBMS” – is the system that stores and manages your website’s data. Any time a visitor clicks a link to access information, a database management system must retrieve it from your archive. RDBMS’ language, Standard Query Language – or “SQL” – is used to access, manage, and update stored information on the RDBMS.
Why this matters to you: Web hosts tend to offer one or two different SQL options for their users, usually MySQL, PostgreSQL, or SQlite. Unless you are writing code for your website yourself, the kind of database system your web host provides probably isn’t very important. Most web hosting services offer MySQL or PostgreSQL, which work well for website that are created on blogging platforms (like WordPress) and CMS software.
Macro Pixels URL Cliche by Chris Dlugosz (Flickr Creative Commons)