If you ran a physical business, such as a supermarket, you would have a building which is used to store and sell the food, and a street address so that customers can find you. An ecommerce business has its online equivalents. Instead of a building, a website is hosted on a server – a place where all of its files, code and data are stored. And instead of a street address, a website has a domain name – essentially the web address you type into your internet browser.
Running a website requires you to both register a domain name and pay for hosting services. Buying a domain name only gives you the right to use that particular name for a specific period, but you can pay for longer periods. It is also possible to move a domain name to a different company and to change hosting providers. Many companies will offer both services to you. The average price for a domain is $14.99 / year and for hosting you could expect to pay $7.99 / month. This blog will outline how you should go about selecting a domain name and a hosting provider.
Types of Web Hosting
In the following types of web hosting, your website’s files and information are stored on a physical computer, referred to as a server, or on a virtual, cloud-based server. The server sends your information to other computers when their users enter your domain name into a browser.
You will have to decide what kind of hosting provider you would like to use based on the amount of control you want over your hosting and how much traffic your website is likely to generate.
- Shared Hosting: This is the most common type of web hosting. One powerful server is shared by several users. The benefits of shared hosting include the provider preconfiguring your server and doing all of the maintenance and security updates for you. In addition to this, it is easy to to use and much cheaper than other hosting options. However, since the server is shared, the performance of your site will be affected by how much load other sites are putting on the host, thereby limiting your servers capabilities: your website’s ability to access its database and run programs may be restricted.
- Dedicated Hosting: Rather than sharing server space, you get all of it to yourself – the entire physical box is rented to you. This means you can customise the software and hardware to your needs, and you won’t have to share performance with other sites. That said, you should only select this option if you are familiar with basic server maintenance and management.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS): VPS is a cloud based server which offers all the features of a dedicated server but at the reduced cost you’d expect of a shared server. VPS hosting usually has an easy-to-use interface and performance that is almost always better than shared hosting. You should be familiar with basic server maintenance and management if you decide to use this, though.
- Cloud Services: This is the most reliable and powerful service. Instead of using the disk space of a single server, it runs on giant public clouds like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. These providers will build whatever configuration suits your needs, and the main advantage is scalability: if you need to increase the amount of traffic your website can handle, you can just pay your provider more and nothing needs to be moved or rebuilt.
- Digital Hero Hosting: Our own hosting is a shared cloud server. Our ready packages are suitable for small to medium traffic websites, up to 20,000 visits per month. We do also offer custom hosting services (managed, unmanaged, VPS etc.) that can cater to much larger volumes of traffic, please get in touch for more information!
When choosing a hosting provider, then, you should consider how much traffic your website is going to pull: if you are aiming for something with more reach than just a small, local business, then a cheap shared hosting account may not be appropriate for you. Furthermore, when paying for hosting, ensure that your site isn’t locked in to one host so you can change provider should there be any changes to the ownership of your business. It is easier to do this if you have been backing up your site: when you change providers you can load your backup to that provider and point your domain name to them.
Choosing a Domain Name
Domain names are an important part of your brand. They are the first impression of your website and can affect your search engine optimisation. There are many factors to consider when choosing a name – it is not too dissimilar from choosing a company name – but they can be broken down into the following three categories.
- Extension: An important thing to consider when choosing your domain is how it will end – .com is by far the most recognisable and popular extension (43% of websites use it). .net and.org are other examples. Trying to use niche ones that go with your brand, like .club, are not advisable because it just adds something extra for the user to remember when entering your address into a browser.
- The Name Itself: What are some of the most famous websites you can think of: Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter? Some of these words are made up, or have nothing to do with the business’ products. But they are a brand and are therefore easy to remember and search for. Although coming up with a memorable brand isn’t easy, if you do have one for your company and it can serve as a domain name, then you are going to find it easier to get online traffic than if your domain name is just a list of descriptive words. For example, southlondonfurnitureshop.com might very clearly explain what the website is going to sell, but it is long, not unique, and easy to forget. However, it is not always possible to come up with a new, memorable word that fits your business. If this is the case, try and keep the domain name short – 12 letters tends to generate the most traffic – and use a keyword that describes your business. Also, avoid hyphens and numbers as they are another thing to remember type in, and make sure it is easy to pronounce so people can pass on their new favourite website.
- Protection: Lastly, check to see if your name has already been trademarked (you can use https://trademarks.justia.com/ to do this) and protect your brand by purchasing different extensions and misspelled versions of your name so customers reach your page even if they type it in wrong.
It is not always possible to come up with a new, memorable word that fits your business. If this is the case, try and keep the domain name short - 12 letters tends to generate the most traffic - and use a keyword that describes your business. Also, avoid hyphens and numbers as they are another thing to remember type in, and make sure it is easy to pronounce so people can pass on their new favourite website.
Where to Register a Domain Name
There are different options you can turn to to register your domain name, and many of them will provide hosting services too.
Domain.com allows you to select the length of the term and the extension; Bluehost offers combined domain name and hosting services – you can get a free one-year term for a domain name if you sign up to their web host; GoDaddy.com offers protection from spam and scams should you want it; and Namecheap.com includes privacy protection for free.
Not sure where to start?
Book a free consultation with our team
Like with many decisions in business, there are pros and cons to each type of hosting and different domain names you can choose. It is important that you make decisions that fit your online business, though. There is no point paying for a powerful cloud-based hosting option if you will generate little traffic; a large website with lots of content to load may struggle on a shared server. A long domain name is hard to remember and might be mistyped into a browser; a shorter domain name needs to match the brand you are trying to create.