Part 2: Evaluating Available Technologies

Summary: In this part, we are going to expand and explain some things in more details, tell you more about domain names and how to choose a good one, and explain web hosting technologies and available hosting plans.

Domain name

What is a domain name?

A domain name, also called website address, is the name that people type in the browser to open a certain website. For example, domain name for Facebook is facebook.com. It's the name by which your website will be known online and the way people can find it.

Getting the right domain name is very important. Just like the name of your business is one of the most recognizable parts of your brand identity in the real world, your domain name will be one of the most important parts of your online identity. It is the first thing that your customers will type in their browser to get to your website or discover it through search engines such as Google or Bing.

Different types of domains

There are many different types of domain names also known as TLD's (top level domains). We all see a few letters added at the end of your website name for example .com, .net, .org. There are also Country Code TLD's that represent code for each country, for example .uk (United Kingdom), .us (United States) and so on.

You might also notice some websites have prefix www and you might wonder if your website needs one. The prefix is simply a personal choice and it won't make any difference if your website has one or not. You can select your preference when installing your software to build the website.

Note: If you choose to go with some free hosting or try one of the hosted website solutions very often you will see your website name will be in this form: yoursitename.hostedsitename.com. This means that you don't have a unique name for your website; rather it's located under a subdomain of the hosted solution provider. You let somebody else own your name and keeping your website name in this form doesn't look very professional.

What is the best domain for my website?

It really comes down to how you want your website and business to be represented online. When it comes to choosing a domain name the possibilities are endless. But there are few rules that we suggest you follow.

  • Choose “.com” first - 52% of all websites are “.com” domains.
  • Pick a name that is unique - avoid naming your site similar to existing sites.
  • Make it easy to type - you don't want your visitors to incorrectly type in your name.
  • Try to make it brandable - your domain name will be your brand.
  • Shorter is better - instead of JennyTylerFlowers.com go with JTFlowers.com.
  • Avoid trademark problems - do the search before you register the name.
  • No numbers and hyphens - stay away from them at all costs.
  • Marry your domain name - make sure that you love your domain name.
  • Check social networks - always check social networks for the same name.

Other domain tips

You might want to protect intellectual property. Domains are relatively cheap; it's a good idea to buy different extensions of that name. If you are buying .com get .net just in case and maybe .us if you are living in United States.

You also might find that a domain name you want is already taken, but not necessarily in use. These are usually referred to as premium domain names. They are domains registered by someone else and offered for sale. There's no way of telling how much a domain is worth on the market. But you can check the auctions like: Godaddy Auction or Sedo. Or if it's not for sale through auctions, you might want to contact the domain owner to see if you can make an offer to buy it. You can use Whois Tool to find the domain owner's contact information.

Note: Most hosting companies also offer domain registration services. Some people keep their domain name with the registrar company, separate from the hosting account. I believe it's easier to keep it all under your hosting account for the trouble-free management and maintenance. But whatever you do make sure your domain is registered under your name, not your friend or web designer who helped you. And if you choose to use separate domain registrar you have login details to the control panel of that registrar company.

Web hosting

Your web hosting plan/package, is a permission that specifies how you are going to use your online space. It does not matter what term you use, they mean the same thing. Very often, web hosting plan is bought together with the domain name, but they function independently, just like your business and your workspace.

To make things more clear, if you think of your web host as your landlord, then paying for your web hosting plan is like paying your lease. Domain name is a part of your business and you can move it any time you want, so you can look at renewing your domain name as renewing your business license. You need them both, and although very often you can take care of them both at the same time, they are two separate things.

New webmasters who are trying to choose a web host often find that they are confronted with a plethora of web hosts that are offering a wide variety of packages. Some web hosts give you a choice of packages using the Linux Operating System (OS) and still others Windows. As a newcomer you might wonder whether the operating system of the package matters, and whether you should choose a Linux or a Windows.

What kind of web hosting plan you choose depends on what your website needs and what kind of technology your website rely on (or will be built on). Just like you would first choose a building, depending on your needs and then pay the rent, so you should decide on your hosting needs and then buy it. With this guide we will try to clear up the confusion that some people might have.

Note: I often hear people say that they are using a Mac, and ask whether there is such a thing as a web host offering Mac packages. By the time you are done with this part, you'll realize that you don't really need to get a web host offering a Mac OS X web hosting just because you're using a Mac. For what it's worth, I don't know of any web host with Mac packages at the time we wrote this guide.

The computer OS you're using is unrelated

Let me start by eliminating a common misconception among newcomers. Just because you are using Windows or Mac OS X or something else, it does not mean that you need to get a web host that happens to be running the same platform. Your web host system has nothing to do with the computer you're using. They are two different things altogether. Let me break this down into the two aspects that new webmasters worry about, where this issue is concerned.

The real criteria for choosing the right OS

Now you know that the computer you use has nothing to do with your web hosting package. But why do you need to decide whether to go with a Windows or a Linux hosting.

The reason why you need to choose a system first is because hosts are also running on some sort of software. What you want to avoid is building a website or getting it built for you, buying a hosting plan and in the end finding out that those two are not compatible. Thus your decision will be rather, on the basis of what your website needs (we will talk more about that in Part 3).

Do you need Windows hosting?

Basically, the question is, will your website rely on Windows-specific technologies like ASP, or .NET or Microsoft Access, or Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL)? We're not asking whether you need these technologies on your own computer, but whether your website will be coded using ASP or .NET. If you don't understand any of this, chances are small that you're going to use them. If someone is helping you to create a website you can ask them what technology they use, so you understand your hosting needs.

Do you need Linux hosting?

At this point, some of you are probably shaking your heads. All you want is to create a simple website, or start a blog, or to sell something online. What's up with all these web jargon anyway? For the person looking to just setup a blog, or sell things with a shopping cart, or just create a standard website like firstsiteguide.com, and don't have any special requirements, in 99% of the cases you will find it easier to use a Linux based host.

Note: The majority of free/open source and commercial software (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.) that most websites are made of today, be it A small business, blog, or e-commerce site, were built using a Linux based system.. Likewise, the majority of tutorials on the web, especially those on configuring your web server, assume that your website is running on a Linux based system.

What else do you need to know about the hosting company?

To pick a good reliable host you will have to go through a number of questions and decide if it's a good fit. Below we will provide you with the list of some general and technical questions you should ask to check company's legitimacy.

  • Can you trust the company and is it legit?
  • What kind of customer support do they offer?
  • What is the availability of the support?
  • Where is their customer support located?
  • Is their customer support outsourced?
  • What is the average uptime?
  • Where are the servers located?
  • Can you choose server location?
  • Do they offer any additional technical services and to what cost?
  • What kind of features do they offer?
  • What are their security measures?
  • What are their backup measures?
  • How do they upgrade their servers?
  • Do they have any software limitations?
  • Can you expand/reduce your hosting plan?
  • What do they offer under their "unlimited" plan?
  • Are they a hosting provider or just reselling?
  • What payment plans are available?
  • Are there any offers for new customers?
  • Do they offer a free trial period?
  • What are the renewal terms and fees?
  • What is their refund policy?
  • What are requirements for cancelling web hosting plan?
  • What is their privacy policy?
  • How do they manage personal data?
  • What are the terms for bandwidth and space?
  • How long has the web host been in business?
  • How many customers they serve?
  • What are current customer's testimonials?

Conclusion: You might have more questions, but the ones above will make sure you sign up with a good host. In the next part we will help you answer these questions and make sure you know how to choose the right hosting provider.

All parts

1Introduction to hosting 2Available technologies 3Choosing the company 4Using primary services 5Glossary