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Understanding the Relationship Between Domain Names and Hosting

Nov 16, 2007
Selecting a domain name can be a bit overwhelming since domain registrars often offer far more services than just domain names. Many offer "hosting" as well, so it helps to understand the relationship between domain names and hosting. Domain names and hosting are two completely separate products, but in the effort to sell the products together, domain registrars often just confuse people.

When you purchase Web site hosting, you are basically renting a folder on a computer (called a Web server) that is connected to the Internet. You pay a company a monthly or yearly fee to keep your Web site files online and safe from hackers and other online "bad guys." Although technically, you might be able to host a site yourself, the $10 or $20 a month you spend on hosting is money well spent. Keeping a Web server alive and well is not a trivial exercise, so leave this task to the techies who like that kind of thing.

It is important to understand the relationship between Web site hosting and domain names. A domain name basically points to a specific folder on a specific Web server. You can buy a domain name without buying hosting. Many people buy domain names long before they get around to creating a Web site. As soon as you think of a good name, spend the $8 and just buy the domain, so someone else doesn't get it.

Until you put up a site, the domain name points to a "parked page." This page is created by the domain registrar as a sort of holding spot until you buy hosting and get your site online. The parked page lets other people know that the domain isn't available anymore. After you develop a site, get hosting, and put your Web site files in your folder on the Web server, you change your domain to point to the site.

Note that you also can point more than one domain to the same Web site. If you decide to do this, you do not need to buy more hosting. Here are some questions to ask before you buy additional hosting.

1. Do you want another Web site? (A completely different site with different files.) For example, two separate URLs have two different domains, are located in different folders, and are made up of completely different files.

2. Do you want another domain name to point to the site you already have? For example, you might have two URLs point to one place. In that case, it is one folder with one set of files on the server, yet two domains point to it.

If the answer to the question is 2, you do not need to purchase another hosting account. The files are already there in the folder. Generally, your hosting company should not charge you to point another domain to the same site. Hosting companies don't care how many domains you have pointing at a site. However, they do care if you have more than one Web site and will charge you accordingly.
About the Author
Susan Daffron is the President of Logical Expressions, Inc. (http://www.logicalexpressions.com) and the author of books on pets, web business, computing, and vegetarian cooking. Visit http://www.publishize.com to receive a complimentary Publishize podcast or newsletter and bonus report."
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