So you want a website (part 3)

At long last.

The previous post talked about domain names and registrars, and hosting providers.

I don’t think the bit about registrars was clear enough. The registrar makes sure that your domain name works and that people can find it. You pay a small yearly fee (usually less than $25) to make it work. A domain name by itself isn’t very useful: it is just a pointer. Without something to point at you cannot do much with it.

Hosting providers and their web servers are the things that domain names point to. You pay a hosting provider a monthly fee (many offer a discount for yearly payments) to hold your data and the software that makes it all run.

For example, <a href=”http://baremetal.ca”>Baremetal.ca</a> is the host for this site. My blog and the software that it runs on all lives on server hardware owned by Baremetal, and I rent space and Internet connectivity from them. I’ve never met anyone from Baremetal, or even spoken with them on the phone in the 10+ years I’ve been a customer. It’s all email and forms on their site, and that’s the way I like it.

Different hosting providers offer different services and different prices. For a basic site like this one, I would expect to pay less that $25 for the domain name and less than $200 for a year of hosting. (I don’t remember the actual costs) Baremetal doesn’t provide much in terms of automatic software installation, disk space, or other goodies. I can do the software installation myself and customize it. And I don’t need much disk space.

Other providers, like Dreamhost are much larger and provide more services, like automatic software installation and unlimited disk space. They’re slightly more expensive, but also far easier for someone without technical experience to get up and running. They have a one-click install of WordPress, for example, which makes getting a wordpress-based website up and running very quick and easy.

Here’s the important bit: many (but not all) hosting providers are also domain name registrars. One payment handles both registration and hosting and it is much more convenient; but, not all registrars (and host/registrar combinations) can register a name internationally.

Baremetal, for example, can register .ca and the big three (.com, .net, and .org) but not .co.uk.

Not all registers are created equal, so do some research. There are plenty of examples of Network Solutions doing dumb things to customers. Go Dadddy’s CEO has been known to hunt and kill elephants in Africa.

So, find a reputable registrar which can handle the domain you want, and then find affordable hosting somewhere which also provides services you need. Or even better still is to find a host which can also act as a registrar for the domain name that you want.