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In this post, you will discover some domain and web hosting basics so you can have a general idea of how websites work.

I will be using the analogy of residential property quite often to help you visualize the concepts in your head to better understand all of the different terms.  Using real estate as an analogy in the beginning really helped me to grasp domain and web hosting basics.


What is a domain name?

A domain name is what people type into their browser URL bar to find your website.  It's comparable to the street address of your property.  As with street addresses, a structure may or may not exist when you arrive at the actual property.

Buying, holding and selling domains can be a very lucrative business. In real estate, this buying and selling is called flipping.  There are sites online where owners of parked (owned but unused) domain names are auctioned off for prices into the millions.

Some of the more popular TLDs (top level domains) are .com, .net, .io, .biz, .gov, org and .edu.  These are the most common and they will generally only cost you about $8-15 dollars a year to own depending on the registrar.

GoDaddy and Namecheap are the best registrars that we've used to manage our domains.


How do you choose a good domain name?

The perfect domain name is short, easy to spell, easy to remember, ends in a .com, does not sound like any other word and it has your target keyword for search.  You won't find the perfect domain because most words are taken at this point.

Nowadays it takes some work and some research to come up with the most effective domain for your brand.

Ultimately, it depends on your strategy for driving traffic to your website.

For instance, if you're not going to rely on Google SEO traffic then you don't need to have any related keywords in your domain.  If you will be using pay per click for traffic, it won't make a difference how short or memorable your name is.

When I'm starting a new website or company, I use Panabee.com to generate ideas.  It lets you enter in one or two words that describe your brand and it will search for domains and match social media handles for your brand.

It's a great tool to help you match your domain name with all your social media channels so that you are easy to find.


What is a subdomain?

A subdomain is a domain inside of a domain.  It looks like 'subdomain.domain.com'.  Think of it like the apartment number of your street address.

It's useful because you can set it up to point to any hosted page on the internet.

For example, you can create the subdomain 'photos.yourdomain.com'  and point it to your image gallery in Photobucket or Instagram page.

This helps to keep your brand consistent when telling people where to find your work.  "You can find all of my work at portfolio.mydomain.com."

If your web hosts allow it, you can actually host (or create) entire websites on different subdomains of your main domain.

For example, you could create a membership website on 'members.yourname.com' with a totally different design than 'yourname.com' or a blog on 'blog.yourname.com.'


What is web hosting?

Using the real estate analogy, your web hosting is almost like the actual land that your house is being built on.

When you purchase web hosting you are actually paying for space on a physical computer.  A server manages access to and from the physical hard drive of that computer remotely.

The wear and tear that would normally occur from your usage on your personal hard drive generally still applies and your web host will have limits in place to protect their hardware.

There are also Cloud Hosting providers who provide hosting environments that are entirely in the cloud.


Different types of web hosting

Shared hosting

Shared hosting is the equivalent of renting an apartment.  You have other users in your hosting 'property' so your usage can affect others on the same server.  This means that if you have millions of visitors hitting your website within an hour, it may slow down other websites on the same server.

This is why you should be wary of plans that advertise unlimited shared hosting. Though technically it can be true, if you were to back up your entire hard drive of music, for example, on to a shared hosting space your host would likely freeze your account.

VPS hosting

A step up from shared hosting is VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting, which is more like having an apartment building with different apartments to either use or rent to others.  You have way more freedom to do what you want because you do not have to worry about your 'neighbors'.

Dedicated hosting

Owning a dedicated server is the equivalent of owning an entire business complex or subdivision.

Most super-high traffic, high bandwidth websites are on a dedicated server because there is virtually no limit what you can do with it.

Shared, VPS and dedicated options require different levels of maintenance and property management so as your needs grow you will have greater responsibility.

Hopefully, this explanation has helped and you have a better understanding of how web hosting and domain names work.
 
If you are unclear about any of this or if you have any input at all please leave a comment below.
 

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Bryan McNeil-Walker

Bryan "Don Suave '" McNeil-Walker is a music producer of over 20 years with a passion for marketing. After immersing himself in digital marketing for four years he founded Alavon Enterprises to help provide entrepreneurs and creatives the tools and solutions to grow their business/brand in the new digital age. His belief is that the marketing of today and tomorrow is social, automated and mobile.
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