23 Oct 2017

Domains and hosting servers, do you need them?

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Often I am asked by clients what are the differences between a website domain and a web server or ‘host’, and are both of them truly necessary for a website?

The short answer is yes, all websites, even free to build websites using online website building platforms like Weebly or Wix NEED a server and I will talk about why in a minute. For people who are currently using something like Weebly or Wix, those companies are essentially taking care of all of your ‘hosting’ needs in the background and sometimes for free.

Not having to deal with purchasing or selecting a hosting plan is less hassle for you initially, but if you ever want to change the underlying framework of your website, or would like to simply back up or even easily migrate your hosted content someplace else you really can’t because you do not have access to that area of your website.

Ok, so where should I go if I decide to purchase my own website hosting? Frankly, I prefer name.com for most of my domain and hosting needs. They are based out of Denver Colorado, their website is clean and easy to navigate and much less busy or pushy as some of their competitors and the ‘starter’ or ‘namebuilder’ plans are a great hosting option for most website needs. View name.com’s Website Hosting plans here.

As for what are domains vs web servers /hosts and do I need them both for my website, let’s do an analogy where a website is like a house. Think of your domain as something that simply points to the house’s address, like a P.O. Box. Whereas the website files themselves need to be physically built and reside on a server or ‘host’, kinda like a house is built and resides on a plot of land.

The difference in storage between ’startup’ and ‘namebuilder’ is 10 GB vs 100 GB. So again, keeping with our analogy what kind of house are we building? Is it a single family one story home? Or are we building an entire two-story community of houses? Unless you see yourself doing a video blog or storing other large files on your website, 10 GB should be plenty of storage space for a single website.

As for bandwidth, think of this as the amount of traffic that visits your site each month. Whenever you visit a website the entire page (it’s text, it’s coding, styling, and all of its images and videos etc), need to be downloaded first before the page becomes visible. The volume of all of that downloaded content is measured as bandwidth. Let us say for example that you have a welcome video on a very basic homepage that is 500MB in size (ie 0.5 GB). The ‘startup’ plan comes with 100 GB of bandwidth vs 1000 GB for ‘namebuilder’. So using our example, that 100 GB would equate to about a max of 50 visitors a month in bandwidth using the ‘startup’ hosting vs 500 visitors a month using the larger ‘namebuilder’ plan. For this reason, I don’t usually recommend having large bandwidth-intensive files like videos directly stored on one’s host, preferring to simply link to 3rd party video streaming servers like YouTube or Vimeo. Due to this, the max amount of monthly visitors per month will probably be higher than in our examples above, but hopefully, you get the idea.

For most small businesses, I would say the storage and bandwidth provided in the ‘starter’ plan should be fine but know that you can always purchase upgrades to these settings down the road rather easily.

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