What Is Domain Hosting?

by Victor Medina

Finding a domain hosting provider for a website is an important step in creating a strong web presence. A good hosting provider will provide a number of plans which can fit a site's needs, and support it with reliable service. With a number of choices in hosting providers available, a website owner who conducts proper research can find a high quality hosting service at a manageable price.

Domain Hosting

Domain hosting, also known as website hosting or DNS hosting, can best be described this way: if a website is a home, and a web address is the street address, then a domain host is the land a home sits on. Domain hosting is an Internet service provided by a DNS (Domain Name System) server. The DNS server, in simple terms, is a large capacity computer that stores files. It is connected to the Internet, where web surfers can access the files, including the web pages, that make up a website. When a domain name is purchased, it and the domain server that will host the site is registered with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), who in turn ensures that anyone who types in the domain is directed to the correct server. Most small to mid-size websites are hosted on virtual servers. A virtual server may host more than one website, and shares its space and resources among those sites. The only drawback to that situation occurs when there is unusually high traffic to one of the websites on the server. That traffic may slow down access to the other websites on the server.

Dedicated DNS Servers

Unlike a virtual DNS server, a dedicated DNS server is set aside by the hosting provider to host a single website and all associated files. This ensures that the server only has to deal with traffic to their own website, and nothing else. This is often the best choice for large companies, who do not want to share server speed and resources with other websites.

Reliability

Because there are varying degrees of quality among computer servers, there are varying degrees of reliability and service among providers. Before deciding which domain hosting provider will host a website, an owner should research the reputation and guarantees associated with a domain hosting provider. Customer complaints towards a company are easy to find via Internet searches. In particular, avoid companies whose customers complain about busy or down servers. Older servers often crash or get congested with too much traffic, especially with today's high speed Internet access. Some domain hosting providers promise 100 percent "up" time, because they have backup servers that will keep your website online if the primary server goes down. Beware of new hosting providers that "pop up" overnight offering low prices. They could easily fold, leaving a website owner with a website that is offline. There are a number of hosting providers to choose from that have strong track records of service.

Purchasing DNS Hosting

A number of companies offer domain hosting services. These services are often bundled with domain registration and design, offering a website owner a "one stop" source for all of their needs. However, an owner should beware that these "bundles" are often priced much higher, and the same services purchased separately could result in large savings. A website owner can even purchase the services separately from different companies; it is not necessary to have domain registration, site design, and hosting all from the same provider. However, a website owner should consult with any companies providing services to ensure proper registration and hosting information is provided correctly to avoid a lapse in service. Domain hosting providers offer different plans, depending on the size and content of a website and the traffic it will attract. Hosting plans offer a certain amount of space on the server for a site's web pages and content. Simple websites with only a few pages and limited graphics and media files may only need a plan with 50 MB (megabytes) of space. Larger websites with a number of media files and pages may need plans which offer space in gigabytes. Most domain hosting plans offer software which allows an owner to keep track of how much space a site is using, often allowing for additional space to be purchased as the site grows. Some plans charge based on the rate of data transfer, which measures how many people visit a website and load pages and content. This includes larger files like pictures, and audio and video, so a website that offers this kind of content will have a much higher rate of data transfer. Many hosting companies charge a flat rate for a certain amount of data transfer during a week or a month, with additional charges if that level is exceeded. A good hosting company will allow a website owner to "upgrade" to another plan with better rates if website traffic grows along with data transfer. If high data transfer is an issue, consider a hosting provider that offers unlimited data transfer. These plans do cost a premium, but under the right circumstances, can lead to significant savings. A website owner should also research how a hosting provider handles uploads of content and changes to a website. Most offer simple programs of various kinds (often dependent on the operating system used, like Linux or Windows) to make uploads quick and easy. Website owners with a designated webmaster should seek their advice on which hosting provider will make their job easier. Sign up and purchase of a domain hosting plan is often simple, usually akin to making a regular online purchase. Most hosting providers provide a customer service number to provide live help in initially setting up a site.

Free DNS Hosting

If a website owner cannot afford to invest in a hosting service, there are other options. Some websites offer free website domain hosting on their servers. An Internet search using the term "free website hosting" will bring up a number of choices. These free hosting plans tend to include mandatory ads which will run on a website. For very simple websites for individuals or very small businesses, this could be the best option. These websites also offer low cost hosting services for websites that need more space, or want to get rid of ads. With proper research and an understanding of the products offered, a website owner can find a hosting provider that not only meets a site's needs, but can adapt as the site grows.

About the Author

Victor Medina has served as a Community Voices columnist for the Dallas Morning News and editor of the NORTH TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS REPORT. He has also been featured in THE WALL STREET JOURNAL and several national magazines. He blogs about politics and social issues at VictorMedina.com.