Why are you paying for a domain and hosting?
When you’re building your first website, there are a whole range of acronyms and tech jargon that you’ll be encountering for the first time. We’re going to delve into a couple of the main contenders here - domains and hosting.
These are the ones you’ll see come up in the regular maintenance of your site and the ongoing bills you’ll need to pay. We know how annoying it can be to see a bill for something when you have no idea what it is for, so we want to make sure you’re not left in the dark and that you understand the importance of the service.
We’ll unravel some more jargon in future blogs, so if you’re interested in learning the lingo - watch this space.
But for now, let's look at domains and hosting.
What’s the difference?
Domains. Your domain is the name of your website. Your domain name must be unique, no two websites can have the same domain. It’s your virtual address. It’s like registering your business name. You pay an annual fee to keep your name. If you don’t, someone else will be able to take it and then you’ve lost your unique URL and the reputation you’ve built around it.
Web Hosting. Is where your website lives. It’s where all the content, images, forms, everything about your website is stored. Your website, believe it or not, actually sits on a physical server somewhere. You are paying for that server to host your website, to keep all your data safe and accessible for those you want to see it. There are plenty of other types of hosting too - email hosting, DNS hosting, and you may pay separately for all of these depending on your setup. The premise is the same, hosting is the storage of your data.
Domains and web hosting are two different services, for your website to work one cannot exist without the other. If you paid for a domain but not web hosting it would be like giving your customers an address only for them to find there’s no physical building on that site.
It’s worth noting that even if you don’t have a website, you may still pay for a domain and for email hosting. This is your emails can be directed to an address that matches your business name like, firstname.lastname@example.org. Which looks much more professional than just using a Hotmail address.
So if I need both, why do I need to pay two separate bills?
Because they are two separate things. Think of it as how you buy your gym clothes separately from your gym membership. Often people will even choose to buy a domain from one company and host their actual website with another. For this reason, you can be a bit picky with where you host your website, you don’t have to host with the same company that you bought your domain from. In fact, some companies ONLY sell domains and don’t provide hosting at all. One of the main reasons that this is separate is because, while domains are usually registered for a set amount of time like 1 year or 2, hosting does not have the same restrictions. You can choose to host your website for as much or as little amount of time as you like.
People will choose who they host with based on things like security, cost and server location.
Security and hosting
Assessing the credibility of your hosting provider is super important. Cybersecurity is increasingly something that businesses need to be aware of and fortified with. If you choose a hosting provider purely because they are the cheapest option, you may encounter a nasty surprise down the track when all your data, files, user information and more get hacked due to a server's poor security.
If your hosting provider does not have strong security measures in place, the entire contents of your website or database may be up for grabs. This will certainly lead to some awkward conversations with those who have chosen to invest and trust in your work.
There are certainly several other ways that your website’s security can be compromised, but going into them would make this a much longer blog post. For now, just now that the security of your hosting is one important factor of your website’s overall safety.
Hosting and domain costs
Why are some hosting/domains $10 a year, and others $1000 a year? There are some sneaky internet companies out there, and as with anything in life, you should be wary of something that seems too good to be true.
While you’re shopping around, you’ll notice that some domains are cheap, others expensive.
If you’re in Australia, you’re much safer going with an Australian domain provider. Not to mention, your search results will be better within Australia if you’ve got a .au on the end of your domain.
The Australian domain name industry is heavily regulated and all domains are managed by the AUDA. All providers are actually resellers. The fee you pay is really only for admin work, more than anything else. The AUDA also lets you change providers at any time - if there are issues - at no cost. Resellers can't charge you for this.
Cheap domain registration companies generally make money by upselling related services, or by charging unreasonable fees for misc services like modifying the contact details on the domain name. And for .com domains, it's the wild west, anything goes and you generally get what you pay for.
Cheap hosting companies use old, slow and unreliable servers and cram thousands of sites on the same server. Expensive hosting companies usually use the best hardware and only put a few accounts on their servers. You are paying for the quality of your website and how nice it is for people to use.
While all of this information might be overwhelming, it’s important for you to know what you’re paying for. Cybersecurity is not to be undervalued. As the world moves ever more online, the security of your data and the reputation of your website and in turn, your business is not something to be messed around with. User experience is another high ranking factor when it comes to what makes a great website. These things are important to consider when you’re tossing up how much you should pay for services like domains and hosting.