One of the challenges that we have as we create and share online content is that other businesses control or in some cases “own” our content. As an example of this, many people suggest that their main home on the Internet is their Facebook or LinkedIn page. The problem is that if either of these companies were to change their business model or close down, you would lose all of the content that you’ve shared there.
In this post, I will to discuss the basics of registering a domain and hosting a website. I will provide examples from my hosting company (Reclaim Hosting). There are many hosting companies, but I use and value my service from Reclaim. And…no, I am not being paid for this post. 🙂
Your online home
Because of the reasons indicated above (and many more), I believe that it is important for you to own and maintain your own space online. I believe that our schools should help prepare us for this environment by starting this domain as we enter the educational system. In a series of upcoming posts provide more guidance to develop your online home. As you begin this process, it is important to understand some of the basics of hosting your own website.
One analogy used to understand the connection between a domain and hosting is to compare your website to a house. The address of the house is the domain name. The complete house is the web hosting. Inside of the house, and included on the property is all of the data, files, and cat GIFS that make up your website.
What is a domain?
A domain, or more accurately a domain name is the naming system for given to addresses of web servers and web pages. It is a memorable and easy to spell part of the address of a webpage and website. Behind the domain name is also the Internet Protocol (IP) address of the various webpages and websites. Most people are not interested in the IP address of a website and instead focus on the domain name when connecting to this information. The domain name is meant to be a more usable, memorable name for the website, whereas the IP address is the technical address of the web host.
Domain names are organized right to left. The general descriptors, or the “top level domain” (TLD) is to the far right. More specific descriptors are included to the left. Levels of domains are separated by periods or “dots.” The machine name, often “www” is sometimes included all of the way to the left, but this is less frequently included.
Most U.S. servers use three letter TLDs (.com, .edu, .net). Countries outside of the U.S. more often use two letter TLDs (.au, .jp, .ca). Each of these TLDs has a specific reason for its use, and is organized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
While we’re here, we should understand that the domain name is not the same thing as the URL for a webpage. To be technically correct, the domain name is part of a larger address for the website known at the uniform resource locator (URL). The URL goes into much greater detail than the domain name by providing information about the specific page address, folder name, machine name, and date.
What is hosting?
Web hosting is a service that allows organizations and individuals to post a website or web page on to the Internet. A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed in the Internet. Web hosting services store your website files in high-powered computers (web servers) connected to a very fast network.
When you make a website and want other people to see it, you will need to publish (or upload) it online using a web hosting service. You can then allow others to view your website by just typing your website address into their browser. Their computer will then connect to your server and your webpages will be delivered to them through the browser.
There are many options to host your website for free. I frequently use Google Sites, Wikispaces, Weebly, Wix, and WordPress.com in my classes or with students. Once again, you are trusting these businesses with your content if you utilize these free services. If you have content that you want to make sure it stays online, you need to consider paying for hosting.
How to own your own online home
I use Reclaim Hosting as my web hosting provider. They also help me identify and register most of my domains. Reclaim (IMHO) is by educators, for educators. Their prices are more than competitive when compared to other services. What really sets them apart is their customer service. They are prompt and supportive when you have problems. They also give you the tools you’ll need if you want to try and figure things out on your own.
To get started with Reclaim, click on the Shared Hosting link. For most people, you will be fine with the “Student & Individual” level. I use the “Faculty & Professional” level of service. Chances are you won’t need the “Organizations” tier of service…although I feel like I’ll soon be at that level. 🙂 Click on the “Sign Up” button for whatever tier you select.
You’ll be asked to select a new domain for this account. In previous posts (one, two) I discuss the steps you should follow before identifying a domain name. You can type in potential domain names and check the availability of these addresses. If you already have a domain that you’d like to bring over, select those options and start up your discussion with the customer support team at Reclaim.
If the domain is available, you can select continue and move on to configure the domain and hosting. If you’d like to select another domain name, you can return to the search page. If you select the “Continue” button, you’ll be brought to the configuration page for your domain. Select the ID protection checkbox and continue.At this point you’ll be asked to enter your address and payment information. You’ll also be asked to select a username and password for your account with Reclaim. You will need to enter payment information at this point to pay for your service for the year.
After this point, you’ll receive several emails from Reclaim. You will be welcomed to their service and be notified of your new domain. The most important thing to look out for is the link to verify your account and your email. In walking students and colleagues through this process, they often are confused as to the errors and warning signs as they try to log in.
Behind the scenes with Reclaim Hosting
As you read this post, you may already have a domain and hosting with another company. In this you might be wondering if it is worth the time and investment to switch from your hosting provider to Reclaim. If you’re brand new to domains and web hosting, you might want to know exactly what you get when you pay for Reclaim.
To help effectively answer these questions, I put together a video tour of what is happening behind the scenes when I log in to Reclaim Hosting. I show you some of the account options, but also dig in deep into the applications you can host on your service. The video is a bit long (13:07), but if you’re thinking about joining Reclaim…this is what you’ve been looking for.
In upcoming posts, I’ll detail how to get a WordPress website up and running on your domain, using your new hosting plan. These tutorials will guide you as you build a professional website that you can be proud of.
Until then…please let me know if these posts help you. You can also stay connected with future posts and my work by subscribing to my weekly newsletter.
Also published on Medium.