When referring to a technical aspect of a website, you’ll often hear the phrase “the host” or “hosting” of the site, but there are actually two distinct and important parts you should be aware of in order to avoid possible disaster.
In reality, there are actually three (the third being the Registrar) but for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to bundle two of them together.
Your domain name is what people type into a web browser to get to your website, like “cdgi.com” or “apple.com.” You can purchase (rent, actually, as you never really “own”) your domain name from places like GoDaddy, Google, or Network Solutions among many, many others. They are the registrars. Typically, you’ll also use them as your domain host, although it’s possible to make your purchase there and host the domain elsewhere. In other words, your domain name server, or DNS, can be the registrar itself or another third-party provider, or even your own firm. But if you’re capable of doing that last one, you probably don’t need to read this post in the first place.
Your web host is the physical place (web server or servers) on which your website files reside. Like registrars, there are a million of them out there. WP Engine and KnownHost are two we prefer for various and separate reasons, but other examples include HostGator, DreamHost, and GoDaddy itself.
Keep Your Accounts Active
It’s very important that you don’t let either your domain or web hosting accounts expire, as your site will no longer be displayed on the Internet. But that applies doubly so to your domain name. If your web hosting account expires, chances are you can just call or log in to renew it, and everything will be fine. However, if your domain name expires, after a period of time someone could swoop in and purchase it (or “rent” as I mentioned above) right out from under you. I don’t have to explain how much of a nightmare that would be.
One last piece of advice: when creating either of these hosting accounts, it’s always best to associate them with an email address that has little chance of going inactive, either because it’s a person’s email and they could leave the company, or it’s a catch-all (info@, contact@, etc.) that people aren’t paying attention to frequently enough. Hosting companies tend to send several warning emails that an account is about to expire, so make sure those messages go to an email address that is permanent and active.