What’s the Difference Between a Domain Registrar and a Web Host?

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Updated 5/11/2018

Very often, I come across clients who have a difficult time differentiating between some of the essential requirements and pieces of a website. Let me try to explain the difference between a domain registrar and a web host.

The way I like to explain it, there are three essential pieces to creating a website.

  1. A domain name
  2. A common place to keep your site
  3. The files of a site

The Domain Name

The domain name is simply the name we reference your site by. “SteckInsights.com” is my domain for this site. Behind the scenes, when you punch in “SteckInsights.com”, your internet provider looks up this domain name and finds the IP address connected to it — in my case, that number is “35.184.22.78”. Stored with that number are the domain names associated with it, and a nameserver that points users to my hosting provider (currently WP Engine, which I am an affiliate of).

You can purchase domain names from numerous sources. Costs vary, but can often be around $8-15/year for the rights to use the domain name. I recommend using namecheap.com (also an affiliate) for their prices, customer service and professionalism.

The Web Hosting Provider

The web hosting provider, or web host, is a company that provides you a common place to keep your site. Typically, this service costs between $6-12/month. As I mentioned before, WP Engine has been a great resource for me. They deliver top-notch WordPress hosting, with security, speed (which helps SEO) and incredible US-based 24/7 support. Steck Insights now offers discounted hosting through WP Engine; sign up today and let us help you migrate and host your site.

Between the domain name and the web host, your annual costs should be around $70-120/year (depending on the web hosting package you purchase).

While GoDaddy is making efforts to improve their services (and move away from using sex to sell their products), I recommend avoiding them; I’ve heard many tales of poor customer service, worse products and roping their clients into high-cost commitments, whereas other companies try to offer the best product at the best price. That’s my two cents, as a web consultant.

Your Website Files

This is meat of the site. From the simple site, a basic index.html file is needed for information to appear when someone types in “yourdomain.com” and is referred to the web host you have chosen.

I highly recommend using WordPress as a framework for your site. It’s important to note that there are two versions of WordPress: the “.com” and “.org” versions. The “.com” version is appealing, because they do all the work for you; but if you plan to expand your website in the future, you may find yourself limited. For this reason, I recommend using the “.org” version; it is free to download and set up — however, it’s often best to leave this to a professional that can help set up your site quickly and efficiently.

When the time comes to “build a website”, keep in mind a few things and make sure you ask yourself or your web developer about these options:

  • Will I have access to update my site? Will it be simple? Your site should include a Content Management System (CMS), such as WordPress, so that you can update information on the site, without needing to pay someone for each wording change or new page you want to add.
  • Will my site be mobile-friendly? We recommend using a “mobile responsive design”, as they conform to the size of the monitor you are viewing the site from.
  • Will my site be search engine friendly? Finding your site on the internet is important. A site built with search engine friendly (SEF) principles will enhance your opportunity of being found on the internet. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a high-powered keyword, but in reality, this is a whole market, and true SEO requires many hours of research, testing and fine-tuning. Most sites built with SEF principles will be sufficient for your needs, and make life easier when you get ready to hire true SEO work on your site.

 

Next Steps

I hope that quick explanation helped clarify some of the confusion around domain name registrars and web hosting providers. At Steck Insights Web Design, we do our best to explain things with the heart of a teacher. We want our clients to understand as much they can about the products and services they are purchasing.

If you have questions about building your website, contact us today!