Understanding Website Hosting and Domains

In order to have a website on the internet, you must have a website host and a website domain. As they are vital parts of having a website, it’s important to understand some basics about what they are.

The website host provides a physical location for your website and makes it accessible all the time.

The domain is an easy to read combination of words, one or two periods, and letters that act as an address for the location of your website. (Example: the domain of the website you are currently looking at is katlove.com)

Website Hosting

Every website is a set of files. Every time someone visits a website, they are simply accessing these files. It’s very similar to how you might save a photograph on your computer and then later, find it in a folder so that you can look at it again. The photograph is saved so you can access it when you’d like. Instead of the files of the website being on your computer at home, the files are stored on a computer provided by a website host.

Website hosting is the service that provides storage and access to your website, 24 hours a day, everyday.

Behind the scenes, the hosting service has an administration area or control panel from which you can manage your account. Most control panels will allow you to create email accounts, databases, and perform backups of your website, among other tasks.

Website hosting can cost anywhere from $4 per month to hundreds of dollars per month with most hosts offering a year-long contract. Generally, the more expensive the website hosting the more space, speed, and features. Most private psychotherapy practices will need website hosting that costs from $6 per month to $20 per month depending on the size and functionality of their website.

Domains

When someone types a domain name into an internet browser, the browser displays the corresponding website through a bit of technology magic. The domain identifies and locates the computers where your website lives.

When you register a domain it becomes your property. No two organizations will have the same domain name.

There are two basic parts to any domain name: a top level domain and a second level domain.

The top level domain is the part of the domain to the right of the dot. By far the most popular top level domain is “.com” but there are many alternatives with new ones being released all the time. Popular examples of top level domains are:

  • .com
  • .net
  • .org

The second level domain is the part of the domain to the left of the dot and the top level domain. The second level domain is up to you and based on availability. Examples of second level domains are:

  • google, as in google.com
  • facebook, as in facebook.com
  • psychologytoday, as in psychologytoday.com

Domains are usually inexpensive, about 1$ per month, and sometimes come in a package deal with hosting. Domains can also be less expensive if purchased for 2 or more years upfront meaning if you know that you’ll be using a domain for years to come, you can save by purchasing years in bulk.

Get Help Finding Hosting

Today there are so many options out there for hosting that it can make your head spin. If you’ve tried searching yourself and the feature lists on these hosting packages read like alien language, fear not, there are people to ask for help. Anyone can make sweeping generalizations about which hosting plans will be a good fit for you but the best person to talk to about the hosting package (and domain registrar) for your website is your website developer. Your website developer is the expert in your website’s needs and will be able to match you with the best hosting and domain solution for you.

Generally though, some hosts are better than others. My top recommendations for website hosting, domain registration, and email can be found here on my blog.

Hopefully you have at least a basic understanding of what domains and web hosts are! As you can see, both are essential for any website.

I’m a nerd and I love this stuff so feel free to get in touch with any questions you have and I’ll enthusiastically get back to you. I’m reachable through my contact me page or twitter anytime. I would love to hear from you.

Photo courtesy Josh Graciano (CC BY 2.0)

Kat Love

Hi, I'm Kat! I'm the founder and lead designer here at Empathysites. Therapists helped me heal from childhood sexual abuse so now I help therapists with creating their websites. I write on topics like website design, strategy, and turning website visitors into clients. Reach out anytime if you'd like to say hi. Pronouns: they/them/their