What is the difference between:
- Domain Names
- Web-Hosting / File Server
- Site Files
When a site visitor enters your domain name into a web browser, the domain name is then translated into your server IP address, then the server sends that user your site files, which their browser represents to them as a typical web-page.
Computers communicate by using numbers, called IP addresses, to contact each other, much like a phone number. Domain names on the internet are much like entries in a phone book. The phone book tells people looking for a business what the entries are, just as a domain tells people (i.e. their computers) that a domain is hosted on the server.
So without a domain name, you would have to tell your customers that your site is located at 123.456.789.123 instead of using a domain name such as fred.com, now we all know that fred.com is far easier to remember than a string of numbers.
Web-Hosting / Servers
Web-hosting or server space is much like the business space for your office. It is merely a space. It does not include furnishings like shelves for your products, just as the web-hosting account doesn't include a website.
Luckily, in the web-hosting world, it's very easy to furnish the space provided by your hosting company, because you can install applications in your hosting space.
So without the hosting services, you won't have a place for your files to reside, so your domain would then become like a disconnected phone number in the phone directory, and your site files would have nowhere to stay.
The web-hosting server knows how to read these files, which explain how the webpage looks or instruct the server to do a series of things. These things are like figuring out what happens when a visitor clicks a menu button should it open a page/article or display a large picture. Or when they have completed an online form what should happen to it.
Without the above 3 elements you don't have a web-site.
What's it going to cost
- Domain Names: from: £3.00 p.a.
- Try and get the name that either represents what you business or product is or does, the name will have a yearly renewable cost. Choosing your domain name can be tricky so do some searching on the internet to make sure nobody has a similar business or product.
- Web-Hosting / File Server: from: £40.00 p.a.
- These services range greatly in cost depending on what you need it is better to go for a slightly better package than you think you need and save money by downgrading in year two. There are lots of hosting providers who offer amazing deals but as you would expect there is always a catch:
- Limited Disk Space (space for your website files)
- Low Bandwidth (the amount of visitors allowed)
- Email accounts (limited or size of email storage)
- Databases (limited to a number of or size or number of)
- Site Files: from: free to developer costs
- There are many services online that are point and click construction sites some carry advertising, some let you spend days weeks developing your site and then when you go to publish your hard work, yep you got it there is a charge.
- You could choose a hosting provider that offers website templates so if your are a plumber there's a choice of 5 layouts, brilliant but if the hosting provider has 300 other users that are plumbers who have chosen from the 5 provided templates what makes your website different? to a visitor looking for a plumber.
- Hosting providers also offer a selection of applications that you can install and tailor to your needs these fail into categories and I'm not listing them all here, there are CMS, eCommerce, Photo Galleries etc etc some are opensource(1) and free, and of course some are not.
- And last our developer/designer option which depending on what your end vision is of your website is going to cost money. We often use the following analogy: Did you build your own car, do you do the major service maintenance I'm guessing the answer is No, but you do check the oil, water and tyres. So we developers & designers build your site according to your vision, we take care of what we call the "back-end stuff", layout the basic structure ready for you to add content or we will do that for you.
These are packages that are free to download and use born from a developers idea which he opened to a community to use. Many opensource projects (Joomla - Wordpress - Drupal) have been around for years and have grown through the input of many developers who maintain the core package. Support for these opensource products is via large community forums, that are well supported. Should you go this route for your website, please make a donation to the project as they also have to pay a hosting provider.