A domain is your websites address, also called your URL. It’s where people find you on the web, so you might think of it like a street address where someone could visit your business.
A host account is where all your code and website files live, which allows your website to show up on the web. You might think of this as the rent you are paying for your office or store.
Do I need both?
To have your own website that is unique to you and totally yours, you need a domain and a hosting account.
While you can certainly have a page on Facebook for free, you probably realize Facebook is not totally yours. You are subject to the whims of Zuckerberg and team, and only have limited control over how it looks and functions.
You’ve likely heard of website providers like SquareSpace, Wix or Weebly; DIY website builders that charge a monthly fee. If you choose to build your site on one of these platforms, they will provide the hosting for you.
It may be worth noting that you still require some form of a host to put your files up online, but in this case you won’t need a separate account to get it; part of your monthly fee goes to hosting. Domains ARE NOT included in these packages, so you’ll still need to buy that separately.
I will concede that if you build your website on a platform like SquareSpace they will provide you with a URL. It will look something like this https://nicole-krug-cjkr.squarespace.com.
Yes it will show people your site, it’s not a very user friendly URL. Can you imagine putting that on your business card?
What happens if your domain or hosting account expires?
Your website disappears.
I have gotten a number of frantic calls from clients over the years, because their website went down, seemingly for no reason. They will swear to me they didn’t touch it or change anything. Often we come to find that either their hosting account or domain registration has expired.
Most hosts and domain registrars will send out several notices letting you know that your account is expiring and encouraging you to set up a renewal payment. But this raises another point: you need to keep track of your accounts and be aware of where the information is sent.
I know this sounds obvious, but as hosting isn’t something you deal with on a day-to-day basis, you may skip over the email either because you don’t recognize the provider’s name, or in many cases simply don’t understand what they are asking you to do.
Learn to pay attention to this! Usually you just pay the fee, and like magic your website is back up. But I had one client that let her domain expire, and someone else scooped it up immediately, so even though she was only one day late, she lost her website address and had to find a new one.
Can you tell me where your website is registered and hosted?
If so, good job!
If not, you need to track that down STAT! Start with a WHOIS lookup to find out where our domain registrar, and what email address is down as a contact.
If that doesn’t seem to help, give us a shout.