Your domain name is how visitors easily find you online. It is often the first step in getting your website started because it is like establishing your website’s street address on the internet. If you did not have a domain name, you would have to give out your IP address to everyone who wanted to visit your website, which would get confusing and be easily forgotten.
Many people may not know that a domain name can be registered at very reasonable prices, sometimes for as little as $.99 per year. In fact, the relatively low cost of domain name registrations can help businesses to register multiple domain names and build a domain name portfolio for use in promotional or brand-protection strategies. The key is to align your brand and relevant keywords to maximize the value your domain name can bring to your existing and future online presence.
To host a website on the internet, an individual or company would need their own computer or server. As not all companies had the budget or expertise to do this, web hosting services began to offer to host users websites on their own servers, without the client needing to own the necessary infrastructure required to operate the website. The owners of the websites, also called webmasters would be able to create a website that would be hosted on the web hosting service's server and published to the web by the web hosting service.
Domain names are often seen in analogy to real estate in that domain names are foundations on which a website can be built, and the highest quality domain names, like sought-after real estate, tend to carry significant value, usually due to their online brand-building potential, use in advertising, search engine optimization, and many other criteria.
Domain name registrations are priced on a subscription-like model that allows a person or business to register that domain name for a certain period of time (usually in annual increments). At the end of the registration period, you (the domain name registrant) have the option to renew the domain name registration for an additional period of time, or let it expire. It is important to renew your domain name registration, or you may find that all of your work building traffic and views to your site ends up benefiting someone else (in the instance that someone else registers your domain name after you let your registration expire), and potentially costing you more in rebranding.
The first step in building your online presence is finding a web host, the company that will store your website's files on its servers and deliver them to your readers' and customers' browsers. Web hosting services offer varying amounts of monthly data transfers, storage, email, and other features. Even how you pay (month-to-month payments vs. annual payments) can be radically different, too, so taking the time to plot exactly what your company needs for online success is essential. Many of these companies also offer reseller hosting services, which let you go into business for yourself, offering hosting to your own customers without requiring you to spin up your own servers.
We use only the latest, fastest web servers available from Dell, HP and Supermicro. Every one of our servers has at least two processors, 16GB of RAM and four hard drives with RAID protection. We place a lighter load on our machines than the other guys do, so your site has breathing room during busy periods and you can run more complex scripts. And we use CloudLinux to optimize.
A domain name consists of one or more labels, each of which is formed from the set of ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens (a-z, A-Z, 0-9, -), but not starting or ending with a hyphen. The labels are case-insensitive; for example, 'label' is equivalent to 'Label' or 'LABEL'. In the textual representation of a domain name, the labels are separated by a full stop (period).
Once you decide you price range, you need to consider how long you'll need web hosting. If it's a short-term project—say, less than a month or two—you can typically receive a refund should you cancel your hosting within 60 days. Some companies offer 30-day money-back guarantees, others offer 90-day money-back guarantees. Once again, it's beneficial to do your homework.
Once you choose your provider, it's time for you to open an account with the monthly plan that fits your needs. If you still have questions about which plan is suitable for you, call their customer support staff and have them assist you through the registration process. Companies will generally charge a credit card on a monthly basis, however, some companies will also offer discounts for paying a yearly payment at once.
People use websites for all kinds of things, and exactly what you want to do will dictate what kind of web hosting you need. In addition to the types of web hosting we covered in the previous section, which can generally be used for many different types of websites, there are specialty options that cater to a specific subset of users. We will cover these options below.
A customer needs to evaluate the requirements of the application to choose what kind of hosting to use. Such considerations include database server software, scripting software, and operating system. Most hosting providers provide Linux-based web hosting which offers a wide range of different software. A typical configuration for a Linux server is the LAMP platform: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Perl/Python. The web hosting client may want to have other services, such as email for their business domain, databases or multimedia services. A customer may also choose Windows as the hosting platform. The customer still can choose from Perl, PHP, Python and Ruby but may also use ASP .Net or Classic ASP. Web hosting packages often include a Web Content Management System, so the end-user does not have to worry about the more technical aspects.
Website hosting is typically measured in the amount of disk space you're allotted on the server and the amount of data transfer or "bandwidth" you need for accessing the server. For example, if you have a lot of customer interaction at your website, such as files to download, you will access the server frequently and you'll need more Web hosting transfer space than someone who simply puts readable text on their website. The more "items" or "content" you have on your site (i.e., photos, maps, PDF files, etc.), the more disk space you'll need for website hosting.
The company also offers higher-end Windows and Linux servers, available with Plesk and cPanel respectively. We were very intrigued to see that the company offers low-end Atom-based dedicated servers as well as the more traditional Xeon-based machines. One great resource for those doing some basic experimentation, or site development, is that they have a free, three-month trial for one of their lightly-equipped Atom servers.