Understanding Domain Names and Hosting
Helpful articles because running a small business is Big Work!
Understanding domain names and hosting can be one of the most confusing things for new small business owners. Especially for the non-techy. We get it. And, we’ve been there. Below is a high-level overview of these two items and how to understand them for your business.
WHAT IS A DOMAIN NAME
A domain name is like your last name. It identifies and is connected to the name of your business. You can keep your name for as long as you continue to pay a Domain Registrar (a company that registers the name for your use only because you paid for it).
WHAT IS HOSTING
Hosting is like your house. It is a service that ‘houses’ all of your website files. You can move houses as many times as you want to wherever you want (like if you are moving from Ohio to South Carolina). So, your domain is your name and will always be your name. Hosting is your house and you can move your house as often as you’d like and keep your name.
HOW THEY WORK TOGETHER
Just like when you move residences, you have to tell the USPS at what address they can find you. No matter where you go, for as long as you are living, your name will have an address associated with it.
For a website to be shown to the world, we have to tell the internet where they can find your name. An internet address is called an IP Address. The IP address consists of several digits. Each Website Host location has a different IP Address (makes sense — different hosting company, different locations). We use that unique Host IP address to inform the world what it will see when it types in your domain name (which gets programmed with the IP address).
WHAT IF I LOSE ACCESS TO MY DOMAIN NAME ACCOUNT?
Losing access to your domain name isn’t the end of the world, but it can create a few issues.
Try to Work With with the Existing Domain Name Registrar
Before giving up trying to regain access to your domain name account (e.g., GoDaddy, NameCheap, Register), we suggest reaching out to your domain name registrar and working with them, over the phone where you can speak with a human, to try to verify your identity and that you really are the owners and should be granted access. They’ll ask you questions, one of which may be the last 4-digits of the credit card on file that made the original or renewal purchase.
Using a “Who Is” search, you – and anyone – can search for the identity of the Domain Registrar of any domain name. This search result may also, if not private, provide you with the name and address of the person/company that is paying for this domain name, when it was originally purchased, and when it expires. We like to use the GoDaddy Who Is website for searches https://www.godaddy.com/whois
What if I Need a New Domain Name?
If you cannot come to an understanding with the Domain Registrar to grant you access to your domain, you will most likely have to purchase a new domain name. This, in the short term, solves the problem. Be aware, however, of the following issues that may occur in the future:
- Once the original domain name expires, someone else can purchase it and start using it for their business
- Once the new domain name is being used, you may lose access to the content of your existing website (there are several variables here)
- It will be impossible to redirect website visitors from the old website pages (e.g. mydomainname/homepage) to the new website pages (e.g., newdomainname/homepage) because you cannot access the original domain to tell it where to send visitors
- Search engine indexes (Google or Bing, for example) will continue to show results to your original domain/website and cannot be redirected to the new site (see note above).
Good To Know
A helpful piece of information to understanding domain names and hosting is that they can be purchased together or separately.
For instance, did you know that you can purchase hosting with Flywheel (our fav!) but not a domain name? Did you know that you can purchase a domain name and hosting with GoDaddy? Did you know that domain names function the same? However, hosting can be very different from company to company.
As a final tip, be sure to keep your domain and hosting account information (company name, username and password) written down in a safe place for future use.