Purchasing Hosting

Buying your domain is not the only thing you must do in order to get a website up. Many people are confused between purchasing a domain – the name of your site – and purchasing the server space to host your site, known as hosting. There is basically one rule for purchasing hosting:

Purchase Your Hosting from a Hosting Provider, Not a Registrar

Your Registrar will likely make it very easy for you to purchase hosting. Many registars now offer hosting packages in addition to hosting. The important thing to know is that some companies are registars first, and hosts second, and some companies are just hosts (or hosts first, and registars second). You want to purchase hosting from a company who started as a host, because they will be hosting experts. Registars are not normally hosting experts. There may be exceptions – GoDaddy appears to do both fairly well – but, for the most part, using your registar to host your website is a terrible idea. You will have all sorts of technical problems – including downtime.

 

Hosting Costs

You can expect to pay anywhere between CAD$4 and $20 per month for hosting. The amount you pay depends upon:

  • the host you purchase from (not all hosts are created equal)
  • the amount of server space you purchase (after all, this is what you are paying them for), and
  • the additional services you purchase (for example, some hosts charge for email services).

Both Dreamhost and Siteground, the hosts I use, are not the cheapest but among the most reliable, which is what you want. Speaking of which:

 

Downtime

The most important issue with hosts is “downtime,” which is the amount of time in a given year that your site’s server is “down” (i.e. not working). You should judge a host primarily not on cost but on how often it’s down. Hosts will (and should) publish their downtime information. You want a host which is “up” 99% of the time or more. If the host doesn’t tell you it’s average downtime/uptime, do not purchase hosting from this company.

 

Recommended Hosts

If you are setting up a WordPress site, there are hosts specifically dedicated to hosting WP sites. Here are some great ones:

 

Buying a Domain

How to Buy a Domain

What is a Domain?

Before you put your site online, you need to purchase a domain. A domain is the url for your website. The domain of this site is http://rileyhaasmarketing.com and I own it (though “rent” is probably a better word for my relationship to the domain name). It’s the thing you type in to get to your website. It’s the name of your site online, in many ways. Your domain name is ideally yourbusinessname.com (or .ca for Canada).

 

Purchasing Your Domain Name

But you shouldn’t get depressed if you cannot get your brand as an exact URL. If your business is Canadian ABC, you should not be upset if someone else already owns canadianabc.com, canadian-abc.com, canadianabc.ca and canadian-abc.ca. That’s because “exact domain match,” (when your business name and your domain are the same) is less important than it used to be. It’s good to be as close as possible, but it’s also not the end of the world. If you do a good job of marketing your business online, your domain name will be insignificant.

In order to purchase your domain, you must do the following:

  1. Pick the name of your url, and be sure to list variations:
    • canadian-abc.ca, canadianabc.ca, canadian-abc.com, canadian-abc.ca, canadianabc.business, etc. (There are now hundreds of different top level domains and you can get clever and try something like canadian.business.)
  2. Go to a trusted Registrar to see if your desired domain is available. There are tons of registrars and many of them are equal while others are not great. I would recommend Go Daddy (yes, seriously) as a good place to start for beginners as they make everything very simple and offer very competitive prices. Here are some things to keep in mind:
    • Your domain is available through the Registrar (.ca domains are not available through American-only registrars, for example)
    • They will not charge you more than USD$15 per year for your domain
    • They let you purchase your domain with out purchasing additional services (such as hosting)
    • They let you upgrade to additional services (such are privacy protection) for a nominal fee (i.e. they do not rip you off for additional services)
    • This may take some time and price comparisons.
  3. If they are reasonable, create an account and purchase your domain. You should purchase your domain for as long as possible.

That’s it! Now that you have a domain, it’s time to purchase hosting.

What Type of Website Do I Need?

So, you’re putting your business online, by building a website. But you’re not sure where to start. There are different types of websites and there is too much information online about the different types. What do you do?

All websites are not created equal. This post will explain what type of website you should have, depending on your business needs.

There isn’t just one kind of website. There are, for our purposes, at least three kinds of websites:

  1. out-of-the-box sites
  2. CMS sites
  3. Custom sites

You can think about these three types in ascending order of complexity. Unless you plan on making all sorts of changes to your site all the time, you likely just need the out-of-the-box variety.

 

Out of the Box Websites

In the last few years, a new type of website has emerged allowing people with zero knowledge of website design and coding to create their own websites. These are known as “out of the box” websites because they are pretty much ready to use after you purchase them. Here are the major providers:

Who Should Use an Out-of-The-Box Site Creator?

If you just want a webpage for your business, say you just want a place for people to look you up, or find your contact information, this is for you.

If your business provides a product or service that is easily presented in pictures, I’d recommend Squarespace.

These sites even support e-commerce so if you are planning on selling items on your site, but you don’t want to make many changes to your site, this is also a good option.

However, if you want access to the “back end” of your site, or you want to customize elements of your site, these services are not for you.

 

Content Management System (CMS)

The most common type of website currently is a CMS or Content Management System. A CMS is software for a website that allows you, the average person, to do things to your website that used to require a coder or a designer, or both. The three most common CMSs are:

  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • WordPress

All three of them are written in PHP, which is a programming language for the web. That’s not seemingly something you need to know, but there are different web languages and the advantage of these being written in the same language is that, theoretically, your site can be moved easily between them.

 

WordPress Above Everything Else

Though all three CMSs have their supporters and detractors and their pluses and minuses, Wordress is the most popular which has some distinct advantages, namely that you will be able to find templates and wordpress-centric designers and coders for WordPress much more easily than for the other two.

The short of it is: When in doubt, choose WordPress.

Drupal and Joomla are good for certain specific requirements, including very large sites, among other things, but are unlikely to be necessary.

Anyone can set up a WordPress site, just like anyone can set up an out-of-the-box website, there are a couple of extra steps with WordPress, but they are way easier than you’d think.

 

Custom Sites

It’s hard to come up with a reason, at this point, why you should pay someone to create a custom site for you.

If you need something really, really specific – say, a completely customized checkout process that meets security standards imposed upon you by regulatory body – you might (I stress might) need a fully customized site built from scratch.

But most of the most successful companies on the internet now use CMSs for their websites for the same reason small business owners should: a CMS removes the need for a developer on staff.

So if you are thinking of hiring someone who is offering you to build you a website, do not go the custom route without making sure you really, really need it. (This is especially if that person or company offering to build you a custom website is offering you a deal to build your custom site. They’re doing this specifically because they know a custom site will keep them employed after the site is built.)

 

Conclusion

When it doubt, go with a CMS. Really, when in doubt, go with WordPress. If you have specific needs use Drupal or Joomla. Or if you are really, really uncomfortable online, then use an out-of-the-box site creator. Don’t go custom.