How to register a domain and host your own website

How to register a domain and host your own website

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 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.


Next steps

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.


Cover image credits

Also published on Medium.

8 Comments How to register a domain and host your own website

  1. wiobyrne

    Over a series of posts I will describe the steps I believe are necessary to host and build a domain of your own online. This process started with a look at the digital identity that you would like to create online. I then detailed the steps you should take to develop your own personal cyberinfrastructure and decide how things will connect online. Finally, my last post discussed the what, how, and why of domain names and hosting a website. This post will detail the steps involved in starting up, or installing a brand new, self-hosted WordPress website.
    WordPress is a free and open-source content management system (CMS). A CMS allows you to create, modify, and publish digital content on the web. There are two main versions of WordPress. is the free service that allows you to run the software and publish your own website. The second version of WordPress is the open-source software available at Because the software is open-source, this means that you can download the CMS and run it on your own computer or web hosting. This post will focus on the open-source software that you can use to host your own website.
    The reason I am focusing on the open-source version is that it allows you to control your data as long as you maintain your web hosting. If you decide to discontinue your web hosting, or move to a different provider, you can download or move your website and all content to the new server. You are in control of your data.
    Installing a new WordPress site
    It is assumed that you’ve reviewed the earlier post on domains and web hosting. It is also assumed at this point that you have a domain and web hosting ready to go. This post will follow the steps involved in using Reclaim Hosting. Your usage with a different hosting provider may differ. Please also note these images and materials may change as Reclaim or WordPress updates their software.
    Log in to Reclaim Hosting and click on the button marked cPanel.
    In the Application section, click on the button marked All Applications.
    This will bring you to the Installatron. Scroll down to the “Apps for Content Management” section. Click on the button marked “WordPress.”
    This will bring you to the page for the WordPress application in the Installatron. You can read all of the details about the software and check out the demo and screenshots. Click on the button marked “Install this application” to the right of your screen.
    This will bring you to the Install page for the software. You will be presented with several options for how you would like to install WordPress.
    Location – The first option will have you select the “Domain” where you would like this website to be hosted. If you only have one domain with Reclaim, this will be the only option listed. You may be presented with an option for “https://” or “http://”…if so, I would select https://. You may also be presented with your domain with or without the “www.” You can select either. Most browsers will automatically add or remove this as people search for and click on your webpages. For the “Directory (Optional)” section, this may already have “blog” written in. You can leave this alone.
    Version – This is the version of WordPress and Language that you would like to use to install your software. I would leave this section alone. You will also have a section for the WordPress end-user license agreement (EULA). You can read and accept the license agreement here. Finally, there are options for automatically updating the software. I typically leave all of these settings as they are. The first three options indicate that you want the software, plugins, and themes to automatically update. This is generally a good thing. The last option is to automatically create a backup and restore this backup if something goes wrong in the update.
    Settings – In this section you’ll want to add an administrator username and password. Change this to something you will remember. Write it down and save it somewhere safe. You will also enter the Administrator email if it hasn’t already been added. You can ignore the “Website Title” and “Website Tagline” for now. Finally, I leave the two settings for “Limit Login Attempts” and “Enable Multi-site” to the recommended settings.
    Advanced – The last section includes additional settings for WordPress. I select “Automatically manage advanced settings for me” under the “Advanced Setting Management” heading.
    Understanding your new website
    Click the install button and wait as your new WordPress website is installed. Once it is installed, it should bring you to the page listing all of your applications. If this is your first website or application…you should only see the one you just installed.
    If you scroll down to your website in “My Applications,” you will see the listing for your new WordPress website. It will show you a screenshot of the homepage of your website. You can also see the link to the website, as well as a link to go edit your website. This section also allows you to Download this installation of WordPress or Delete it. Finally, you can review the Version, date of install, date of last update, and the number of backups you have for this installation.
    Next steps
    At this point, you have a new domain, web hosting, and a shiny new WordPress website living at your domain. In the next post, we’ll discuss how to select a theme and modify the look of your WordPress website.
    If you like this sort of content…please subscribe to my weekly newsletter to stay on top of this and more.
    Cover image credit

    Also published on Medium.

    Related posts:

    A Domain of WithKnown

    How to register a domain and host your own website

    Tweaking WordPress to Scaffold & Empower Your Readers

    Becoming digitally literate in a domain of one’s own



    W. Ian O’Byrne, PhD

    Father. Husband. Digital architect. Educator. Professor & Researcher.


Leave a Reply