Domain Names, Explained

Domain Names

Domain Names are human-readable words (e.g., amazon.com) that directs Internet browsers to specific files on a specific server.

As an analogy, a domain is like a physical address but on the Internet. Like a physical address, they don’t really do anything on their own, but they are critical to understand when you are building an online project.

That’s the short version. But there’s more to domains & domain registration than the definition. I’ll cover common questions like –

  • What is a Domain Name?
  • What is DNS?
  • What is Domain Privacy?
  • How Domains, DNS & Privacy Work Together
  • How Much Does A Domain Name Cost?
  • Can You Just Buy A Domain Without Hosting?
  • I Bought A Domain, Now What?
  • Popular Domain Name Registrars & Next Steps

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

What is a Domain Name?

The Internet is nothing but a bunch of connected devices with IP Addresses (usually a series of numbers like 192.168.0.1). IP Addresses are not only hard to remember, but they change frequently.

A domain name is a human-readable series of letters that gets matched with an IP Address so that a person operating a browser will find the device (usually a server with files) that they want to find.

In the physical world, the analogy is that Addresses are to Domain Names what Geo Coordinates are to IP Addresses.

Now – you can take this analogy pretty far, and it answers quite a few common questions. For example, like physical addresses,

  • Domain Names are mainly for convenience and memorability. You don’t have to have one…but it makes finding your work *much* easier.
  • Domain Names can have prestige based on neighborhood. Everyone knows 5th Avenue in New York City. But 5th Avenue only has prestige from the businesses that exist there.
  • Domain Names are regulated and structured by a central governing entity.
  • Domain Names are partly determined by country and availability.

Now, the central governing entity in this case is ICANN. They manage the structure of the domain name system while delegating responsibility for individual domain names to registrars.

ICANN has also approved a series of Top Level Domains (TLDs) that are meant to pair with specific devices / websites. Many are country pairs but many are also industry related. Domain Name Registrars literally register and lease your domain name on an annual basis for a fee.

We’ll get to providers & what to look for in a moment.

But what actually connects a domain name to a device / files / website? Well now we are talking about the Domain Name System (DNS).

What is DNS?

The Internet Domain Name System (DNS) is the protocol that translates a domain name request to an actual IP address request.

Every domain name requires you to set name servers. Name Servers do the work of the DNS. These name servers then allow you to define “records” for where each request will go.

You can tell a request for incoming email to look in a folder. You can tell website requests to look in another folder, etc.

Your domain name does not work at all without an attached DNS name server. It simply exists. And a DNS name server does not work with a domain name.

Now, access DNS name server is usually included when you buy a domain name or when you buy hosting (a place to put your website files). But it’s important to know that you don’t have to have your DNS name server in any specific place.

Namecheap DNS Setup

It’s usually simplest to set your name servers with your hosting company (rather than your domain registrar) since they are the ones actually routing your traffic to folders. However, if you are technically adept, many people use a DNS provider like Google, Cloudflare or others separate from their registrar and hosting company.

But the key part here is that no matter where your DNS name server lives, you still have to set it at your registrar. They are the ones who control all your registration data – and your privacy.

So let’s briefly touch on Domain Privacy and the products around that.

What is Domain Privacy?

Domain Privacy is a product that a domain registrar is authorized to sell under certain regulations. Under the ICANN license agreement, you *must* provide correct contact information with your domain name registration. Your contact information is stored in the public WHOIS database.

This requirement is to correct spam, abuse, and technical issues that can arise with domain names & DNS operation.

The side effect of a public WHOIS database is, well, you can probably guess. This is the Internet after all.

Scrapers, spammers, stalkers, and salespeople have a habit of helping themselves to the public contact information and misusing it. Although sometimes you can use it to find the spammers yourself 🙂

Public WHOIS

Domain Privacy is meant to solve that issue. Basically you pay for your registrar to act like a middleman in public. They publish their contact information in place of yours and promise to pass along any important information to you.

Domain Privacy comes at a cost, even though many registrars are starting to bundle it for “free” (i.e., including the base cost in the total cost).

Hover Bundle

Either way, it’s a good idea and a worthwhile upgrade, if only to reduce spam and random phone calls.

How Domains, DNS & Privacy Work Together

Here’s how all this works out in a real life example.

  1. This site’s domain name is shivarweb.com.
  2. The domain name is registered at NameCheap with the DNS name servers pointed to my host, InMotion Hosting.
  3. InMotion’s DNS name servers are set to direct web traffic to a folder on my VPS Hosting server that will deliver my website files (like this page, all of its images and design). They will also deliver any email sent to [email protected] onward to Google, where I receive my email.
  4. My registration information lives at NameCheap, where I have WHOIS Privacy Protection. NameCheap can get in touch with me, but no one else can.

That’s how a domain name, DNS, and WHOIS privacy all work together.

But there are still quite a few questions that come up. Here’s how I answer them.

How Much Does A Domain Name Cost?

A domain costs a flat annual fee depending on several factors including the base cost of the top level domain (TLD), the status of the domain, and your registrars’ business model & markup.

In other words, it depends 🙂

You can expect to pay $10 to $30 per year for an inactive generic top level domain (e.g., a .com, or .org domain that is not currently registered).

If you are buying a country TLD (e.g., .co.uk or .ca or .tv) or premium TLD (e.g., .ninja or .wedding or .movie) then you can expect to pay a base cost plus the registrar’s model & markup.

If you are buying a domain that is currently registered, then you will have to negotiate a private party price or wait to buy it at auction when it expires. Most big registrars either have their own marketplaces or participate in a domain marketplace.

GoDaddy Auctions

The quickest way to see how much a domain name costs is to simply search for it. Most of my readers use NameCheap (for their low annual renewal prices and user experience), so I’ve embedded their search tool below.

Find a domain starting at $0.88

powered by Namecheap

But you can also use the search tool at domain registrars like GoDaddy (cheap upfront) or Hover (focus on support) or even direct at hosting companies who usually offer a free domain (like Bluehost or InMotion).

Now, the big wild card with domain costs are your registrar’s business model and markup. I’ve written many reviews of different registrars. There is no “best” registrar. But there is one (or several) that match your goals.

Every domain registrar is out to make a profit. But they aim to make a profit in different ways. Your job as a consumer is to find one that matches your goals, and remember that if something is too good to be true, then it’s not true. If you get a super cheap domain upfront, then you will pay for it over time. If a company overpromises the world for an expensive domain…you’re probably going to just get an expensive domain.

I’ll cover different providers’ business models below.

Can You Just Buy A Domain Without Hosting?

Yes – you can absolutely buy a domain without buying hosting. In fact, there are a few good reasons to buy a domain without hosting.

  1. Your project is not ready, but you want to claim your domain name now.
  2. You want to redirect your domain name to an existing project (ie., on Facebook, Medium, Amazon, elsewhere).
  3. You want to speculate on a domain name idea. This practice is not as lucrative as in the past, but it is a thing.
  4. You want to protect trademark of phrasing.

There are of course plenty of other good reasons, but that is up to you. The point is that you can buy a domain without hosting. You’ll just need to pay the $10 to $20 per year to keep it registered.

I Bought A Domain, Now What?

Once you’ve bought a domain, there are a few things that you can / should do.

If you are setting up a new website, then you’ll also need hosting / website builder / ecommerce platform depending on what you are building. For diversity sake, I like to get hosting separate from domains. But, if your domain provider has a good deal (or you want convenience) then you can just follow their onboarding).

Once you’ve bought hosting / website builder subscription, then you’ll need to point your DNS to your hosting company / website builder.

Namecheap DNS Setup

After that, all the remaining steps will happen at your hosting company / website builder.

If you are setting up an email setup or other Internet project, then you can set DNS settings with the DNS nameservers that should be bundled with your registration subscription. You can set MX records for email (ie, Google Suite) or @ records to point to a live project.

If you need to redirect visitors to an existing project, then you’ll set the 301 records to the target with UTM parameters for tracking.

If you ware just leaving it alone for a while, then you can place limited advertising or a parking page.

Popular Domain Name Registrars

There are a lot of domain registrars on the Internet. They range from Big Brands like GoDaddy to hip upstarts like Hover to companies that do registration as a complement (like hosting or website builder companies).

They all have tradeoffs. I’ve listed a few of my favorites with a buying guide here. I’ve also reviewed many individually here and compared the two biggest brands here.

But the key to shopping is to ask yourself what you really prefer. Do you want a cheap first year only to pay more on subsequent years? Do you want phone customer support or is chat fine? Do you want an established brand or small upstart? Do you want a simple user experience or lots of complementary products? Do you want a wide TLD selection or no? Do you plan on buying a lot of domains or a single one? Do you want the convenience of buying a domain & hosting from one company or do you want the control of buying them separately?

My domains are hosted at either NameCheap (almost all of my long-term personal domains), GoDaddy (for quick ideas & some clients), or Google Domains (for experiments). But I have clients who use Hover (review) and bundle domains / hosting somewhere like Bluehost or InMotion or Shopify or Wix.

They all work fine in their own way, but you should find the one that fits you.

Next Steps

Domain names are very interesting. In many ways, they are a core ingredient to a successful website. In other ways, they don’t really matter (see thefacebook.com, basecamphq.com and all the other terrible original domains of now big businesses).

But if you have an idea, a project or a need for an online presence, then go grab your domain name and put it to use!

The post Domain Names, Explained appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting Explained

WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting Explained

Choosing the best web hosting plan for your specific project has always been a bit confusing. Plan features never line up. Terminology never matches. And pricing varies according to current discounts and plan length.

But that was before the latest trend – WordPress-specific hosting plans.

Nearly every hosting company offers a “WordPress Hosting Plan” in some form.

Sometimes those plans are nothing more than a headline change. Sometimes they very well-priced for the extra services. And sometimes they are plainly upsells with dressed up “features.”

It’s maddening – because here’s the thing. WordPress software runs fine on typical web hosting.

You do not need “WordPress Hosting” to run WordPress software. All you need is a Linux-based hosting account that supports PHP and mySQL.

Both are run of the mill features since the early 2000s. So what’s with all the WordPress Hosting plans vs. Web Hosting plans?

Well – sometimes a WordPress-specific plan is absolutely worth paying for. WordPress does have some needs & requirements that are not “generic” so some companies can offer seriously better service, support & performance for WordPress installs.

Here’s how they differ along with features worth paying for, and what to look for when shopping for the right host for your specific project and next steps.

Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this site. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or as a consultant to a paying customer.

WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting Overview

WordPress software will run fine on standard Web Hosting. In fact, most companies offer an auto-installer to make the process easy.

However, WordPress Hosting plans should provide features that…

  1. The hosting company can provide better at a “global level” than you can.
  2. The hosting company can use to provide consistency.
  3. The hosting company can provide as a bundle that is a better value than you can buy individually.

If a WordPress Hosting plan does not do any of those three conditions AND charges more money – then it’s a bad deal.

That said, do not throw out all WordPress Hosting plans as overpriced upsells. Some are worthwhile and some are amazing. Your goal as a customer is to understand what features you actually need.

WordPress Hosting Features Considered

There is a myriad of features that hosting companies will bundle (or highlight) in their sales material. Here are a few of the broad feature categories to consider with WordPress Hosting.

I’ll also point out how you can do the same thing on standard web hosting.

Speed & Performance

There are a ton of variables that affect website speed. There is no single factor that makes your website “fast” – especially with WordPress.

Advantages of WordPress Hosting

WordPress Hosting means that your account shares a server with other WordPress installs.

This means a few things –

  1. The server’s resource usage is more predictable.
  2. The server’s configuration can be more specific.
  3. Upgrades can happen faster, due to #1 and #2.

Different hosting companies will go further than others on their configuration.

It’s usually hard to tell who actually does what though. It’s important to read the fine print to see what they *actually* do.

If you see things like “increased PHP memory” or “NGINX” or “PHP7” – then you know that they have made special considerations for an advanced WordPress configuration.

Now, there are companies like SiteGround, InMotion, and Bluehost that all have a strong bias toward WordPress in their standard web hosting. Often, their standard web hosting will be “better” for a WordPress install than some hosting companies’ “WordPress Hosting.”

Lastly, there are companies like WP Engine and Flywheel that *only* do WordPress installs. WordPress is their one thing. They are able to customize their servers to force speed considerations at the global server level rather than at the install level.

Doing the Same with Web Hosting

So all that sounds great, but the open secret about WordPress speed is that you can do 90% of a specialized WordPress hosting plan on a solid, but standard hosting account.

Think of it as buying a house that is good for “entertaining guests.” Sure – there are some houses that come prebuilt with a nice kitchen, a good deck, and comfortable furniture. But you can create a great house for “entertaining guests” on your own – provided you have a generally solid house.

Most hosting companies allow changes to PHP version and extra allocation of memory.

If your server has a solid response time, then you can do almost all the caching that you need via a plugin.

If you take the time to understand all the variables of website speed, then you’ll be fine with a standard (and cheaper) shared hosting account.

In fact, most hosting companies allow even advanced configurations like NGINX on VPS accounts.

In the end, you are paying for convenience with a WordPress Hosting plan. They bundle many performance features that you can assemble on your own with standard web hosting.

That said, there can be a real difference in raw configuration and resource allocation, which we will look at next.

Configuration & Resource Allocation

Like I mentioned earlier, the core difference between a “WordPress Hosting” plan and a standard “Web Hosting” plan for the hosting company is that they know what will be running on a specific server.

Since they know what will be running, they can configure the server and allocate resources specifically for WordPress.

Some of these features will be near useless (like auto-installing “common” plugins). But some can be useful and worth the money for some.

Advantages of WordPress Hosting

A WordPress Hosting plan can pre-configure many web technologies for quick setup within WordPress.

For example, using an SSL with WordPress is not super-complicated, but it does need many steps. A WordPress hosting plan can provide a pre-configured setup.

Same with a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN can speed up content delivery around the world.

It’s not super-hard to integrate one with WordPress, but it does need some steps. A WordPress Hosting plan can automatically “hook one up.”

The same goes for a staging site (ie, “test site that syncs with your live site) or memory allocation or auto installers.

Doing the Same with Web Hosting

The thing about resource allocation and configuration is that you are straight-up paying for convenience.

That’s not a bad thing – often convenience is worth it. But before purchasing a plan because it promises “WordPress features” – it’s important to remember that there’s rarely a feature that you can’t reproduce on standard web hosting.

For example, many hosting companies cap allocated memory, but you are free to increase it via an edit in wp-config.php. It might require looking up a tutorial or using a 3rd party service, but it is possible.

Sometimes that’s an upsell, but sometimes convenience is the difference between bad site or a good site – as in the case of security.

Security & Vulnerabilities

WordPress security sounds complicated and scary, but it does not have to be.

WordPress is inherently secure. WordPress has notoriety with security because it’s so popular. It’s a big target. It also allows anyone to install any “plugin software” that can create vulnerabilities.

Securing your website is a bit like securing your house. You can never guarantee against a break-in but you can become less of a target.

Practicing basic precautions will protect against most attacks. But it’s important to maintain a backup in case someone *really* wants to break-in.

Advantages of WordPress Hosting

Like resource allocation, WordPress Hosting plans provide hosting companies with predictability so that they can provide the same custom maintenance to all their accounts.

They can secure all their servers running WordPress to protect against WordPress-specific threats.

They can do bulk upgrades and instantly apply security patches. They can identify vulnerabilities across many accounts.

In other words, they can provide routine maintenance services since they are maintaining all their WordPress accounts as one.

Doing the Same with Web Hosting

That said, most all WordPress Hosting-specific services are routine. They are rarely “above and beyond.”

Just because you have a WordPress Hosting plan does not mean that security is “done.” You still need strong passwords. You need to maintain reputable (and ideally, minimal) plugins.

WordPress Hosting services might take care of routine maintenance, but that’s something that you can easily do on your own.

The key security difference between the two is, again, convenience. But – it’s convenience that leads to habits. Practicing security means having secure habits.

If you are the type of person who needs convenience & ease of use for good habits, then you’ll appreciate WordPress Hosting plans’ security features.

If you are the type of person who sets up systems and habits (and you will be actively using your site) – then you can re-create every security feature on standard web hosting.

In fact, sometimes you can do security even better with a 3rd party plugin. I use the one from JetPack (maintained by WordPress.com) that does security scanning, automates updates and does backups all in one.

Either way – it’s important to think critically about what you personally need.

Customer Service & Support

Understanding your needs & habits factors into customer service & support as well.

It’s easy to dismiss customer support until you need it. And you will need it working with WordPress. WordPress has a lot of moving parts that can create issues quickly.

Since WordPress is free, community-supported software, it does not have professional support bundled with installation.

When you install WordPress software, you are relying on your own troubleshooting ability. You “own” any problems with it.

Your hosting company’s support usually only covers problems with your hosting account – not the software on your hosting account.

Advantages of WordPress Hosting

When a hosting company sells a “WordPress Hosting” plan – they usually make some sort of promise to provide software support…to a point.

And the “point” depends on your hosting company. It’s important to read the exact text to see how far their commitment goes.

A WordPress Hosting specialist like WP Engine or Flywheel will often take ownership of your issues and simply solve it.

Some hosting companies will simply guarantee that your rep is trained on WordPress issues.

It all depends.

*Side note – this is WordPress.com’s main pitch. They are the commercial side of the WordPress software community. They do provide WordPress-only support to the software & hosting bundle. I wrote about the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress software here.

Doing the Same with Web Hosting

WordPress drives a *ton* of business to many hosting companies. Many hosting companies are basically WordPress Hosting companies by default.

If you go with a hosting company like SiteGround, InMotion Hosting or Bluehost – then your tech support rep will be proficient in common WordPress issues.

Additionally, you can always make use of Google, the WordPress.org forums, paid support via JetPack, or many of the premium plugin providers.

Your support journey might take a few stops, but it’s free and open. And sometimes it’s higher quality since you “own” the issue and are learning more about your site.

Either way, the choice comes down to the price of convenience. Do you want a single, go-to support option (WordPress Hosting plan) or do you want to put your own system together (standard Web Hosting)?

Software & Bonus Features

This balance between choosing your own 3rd party software and bundling extends to software and bonus features.

Many WordPress Hosting plans offer lots of bundled software with WordPress. They might have premium themes, plugins or even SSL certificates or CDN subscriptions. It’s all quite attractive.

The important thing here is, again, choosing convenience over control. And thinking through exactly what you want.

Advantages of WordPress Hosting

With WordPress Hosting plans, their bundled services usually work well. They are simple to install and come at an attractive price.

With an SSL, you can quickly secure your site without going through a 3rd party.

With a CDN, you can speed up your site without the confusing setups and API keys.

With a theme collection subscription, you get access to a range of designs for free.

Doing the Same with Web Hosting

On the flip side, you can usually get all the software and bonus features bundled with WordPress Hosting for a better price if you put in the time and planning.

Theme makers are a dime a dozen. You find exactly what you are looking for and buy one a la carte somewhere on the Internet. Same with plugins.

SSLs, CDNs, and other bonus features are available somewhere for the price and selection that you want.

For example, I wanted an Extended Validation SSL for this site – I had to get it from a 3rd party rather than my hosting company. I decided that I wanted to use MaxCDN rather than CloudFlare. That kind of thing.

If you want to use the products bundled with WordPress Hosting plans, then factor that into your decision.

But if you know that you want different software anyway, then be sure to add it to the “total cost of ownership” with your WordPress Hosting plan.

WordPress Hosting Providers Overview

I have tried out a lot of hosting companies as a consultant and as a customer. Most of my projects use WordPress, though I usually work with standard web hosting installs.

Here’s an overview of some of the well-known brands that I’ve used. Skip to next steps here.

InMotion WordPress Hosting

InMotion is a fast growing independent hosting company. I use them for this site. They are reworking their WordPress plans, but right now they are a focused version of their Business Hosting plans. InMotion provides WordPress-focused support regardless of plan. They do bundle a drag-and-drop builder with WordPress Hosting plans. Worthwhile plans.

Read my InMotion review.

See InMotion Hosting plans.

Bluehost WordPress Hosting

Bluehost is the big brand in the WordPress world. Bluehost’s WordPress Hosting plans are pricey. But – they do add a lot of value – including running WordPress on an NGINX VPS platform.

Read my Bluehost review.

See Bluehost Hosting plans.

SiteGround WordPress Hosting

SiteGround is a fast-growing independent hosting company. I use them for several side projects. Like InMotion, they are reworking their WordPress plans. But right now, they bundle free CDN and NGINX settings. They also have a one-click staging setup for WordPress. Worthwhile plans.

Read my SiteGround review.

See SiteGround Hosting plans.

WP Engine WordPress Hosting

WP Engine was the first “Managed WordPress” hosting company. They only do WordPress. Due to that specialization, they offer a lot of unique features that are worth their pricing. Worthwhile plans.

Read my WP Engine review.

See WP Engine WordPress Hosting plans.

GoDaddy WordPress Hosting

GoDaddy is the big brand in the web hosting space. Their WordPress Hosting plans are fine, but overpriced IMO given the value-adds.

Read one of my GoDaddy reviews.

See GoDaddy Hosting plans.

HostGator WordPress Hosting

HostGator is a well-known budget brand. They are sister companies with Bluehost. HostGator’s WordPress Hosting is a rebranded form of their Cloud Hosting. Cloud Hosting is a bit of a different beast. Basically, HostGator hands your install to Amazon/Google/etc for a flat rate and a usable dashboard. It’s interesting, but not comparable to other WordPress Hosting plans.

Read one of my HostGator reviews.

See HostGator Hosting plans.

iPage WordPress Hosting

iPage is another well-known budget focused host. They are also sister companies with Bluehost. Their WordPress Hosting plans are web hosting plans with pre-installed software.

Read my iPage review.

See iPage Hosting plans.

WordPress.com WordPress Hosting

WordPress.com is a commercial website builder owned by Automattic and running only on WordPress software. They bundle hosting, software and support into a single package. Their founder, Matt Mullenweg, wrote the original WordPress software. If you want a more controlled but sleeker experience, WordPress.com is where you go.

Read my WordPress.com review.

See WordPress.com Hosting plans.

Next Steps

The short version of WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting is one of convenience vs. control.

If the convenience of WordPress Hosting is worth the higher price point, then go for it. It’s worth it. One of my clients swears by his plan and his ability to “just pick up the phone and have it fixed.”

If you are sticking with a budget or simply want more control over 3rd party services, then be confident in your decision to use standard web hosting. WordPress was built for everyone. It does not need and will not need specialized hosting services to run well.

You might be interested in my Best WordPress Hosting Quiz here or my WordPress setup guide here.

I also wrote an explainer to explain what is WordPress hosting here.

Good luck!

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What is WordPress Hosting?

What is WordPress Hosting

WordPress Hosting is a hosting product that is pre-configured to host a WordPress powered website efficiently. There is no industry-standard definition for “WordPress Hosting” so the exact product will vary by host. WordPress Hosting is usually used for the 3 “s’s” – to simplify, to secure, and to speed up a WordPress install compared to a WordPress install on typical Linux server.

How WordPress Hosting Works

There is no industry-definition for what “WordPress Hosting” – it varies by hosting company. Since WordPress is simply software that can run on any Linux hosting server that supports PHP / MySQL – the “WordPress Hosting” is often used as an empty upsell.

However, WordPress websites do use some resources differently than other web applications – so there is plenty of scope to create a hosting product that runs a WordPress install more efficiently than a traditional install on shared / VPS hosting.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. Buying hosting is kind of like purchasing a condominium, townhome or detached house. You buy it and live in it and do whatever you want.

But now – imagine you are the builder of these homes. And you notice that most of your homeowners are all elderly couples (or couples with children – whatever piques your imagination).

Sure, these elderly couples live in your condos, townhomes, and houses all just fine with standard amenities. But you see lots of these couples making the same changes over and over. So you start selling “active adult” homes. These have ramps instead of outdoor stairs. They have reinforced bathroom rails. They have wider hallways and more functional appliances.

WordPress Hosting is kind of like that. Good hosting companies will really think through what will make a WordPress install more secure, speedier, and simpler right off the bat.

They’ll have all those features pre-configured and pre-allocated. They’ll have support staff who will dig into a WordPress install rather than only dealing with the hosting support.

With a good product, this setup works well for hosting companies because they can charge a bit more – and they know exactly how to handle a group of servers. And it works better for customers since a lot of minor WordPress headaches go away.

What Is Managed WordPress Hosting?

Now – and this gets kind of crazy and confusing – there are a bunch of hosting companies who go a step further. They will not only pre-configure your hosting account for WordPress – they will actively manage your install for speed, performance, and security.

It’s like bundled intensive support. They are typically a separate “thing” from hosting companies selling WordPress Hosting. In fact, the most well-known is WordPress.com which is owned by Matt Mullenweg – the “founder” of WordPress software. WordPress.com provides a customized but heavily controlled install of WordPress that is bundled with themes, plugins, hosting, etc for a flat monthly fee. There’s limitations and rules – but everything is done and done.

Usually the biggest installs of WordPress will live with a managed host – think the New York Times’ blogs, etc.

But they are also popular with WordPress websites that drive a lot of traffic and want hands-on support. One of my clients uses WP Engine – he loves it, he has budget for it – and it fits his site.

However, it’s important to treat managed WordPress hosting as a different beast compared to the WordPress hosting that most companies sell.

What WordPress Hosting Is Used For

WordPress Hosting is used for running WordPress powered websites at a predictable price point.

Most WordPress Hosting plans base the pricing on the projected number of visits or the number of installs – rather than allocated resources.

This makes shopping a little bit easier to do – but also means that you have to reframe what you are paying for compared to traditional web hosting.

For example, on a shared hosting plan with no limit on domains, I might be able to sustainably run 12 microsites powered by WordPress – or even a single site with 30,000 visits per month. Since I’m handling how the resources are allocated – that’s my choice. My price per website or per visit will be much, much lower than someone who pays for a WordPress Hosting plan with a limit of 2 websites and 20,000 visits.

Again – your money and your value. WordPress Hosting is used to take care of pre-configurations, speed issues, and security issues that many website owners simply don’t want to deal with.

WordPress Hosting Differences

WordPress Hosting, like reseller hosting, does not exist on the spectrum of hosting products. Instead, it’s an add-on to the traditional feature spectrum. Here’s how it differs.

WordPress Hosting vs. Shared / VPS / Dedicated / Cloud Hosting

I wrote an entire explainer on this topic here – in addition to touching on it above.

You can run WordPress on shared, VPS, dedicated, or even cloud hosting. But WordPress Hosting is always going to be some sort of customized setup for WordPress. Sometimes it’s useful – and sometimes it’s not. Here’s what to look for.

What To Look for in WordPress Hosting

Since you are paying for a customized setup and for use, shopping for WordPress Hosting can be a bit more complex than other hosting products.

You are really looking for –

  • Server Resources (memory, bandwidth, processors, etc)
  • Unique & Hard to Create Configurations (staging, NGINX, etc)
  • Dedicated Support
  • Specifics on Memory Allocation, Caching, etc
  • Plan Bonuses (ie, themes, plugins, builders, etc)

WordPress Hosting Providers

I’ve used quite a few WordPress Hosting providers both for my own projects and for clients. Here’s the main 4 companies that I’ve used & really liked. I receive customer referral fees, but all the data & opinion is based on my professional experience.

Name Best if you want… Features!
InMotion …high-performance & independent-owned w/ great customer support. See Features.
SiteGround …high-speed w/ global data centers & developer-friendly features. See Features.
Bluehost …name-brand hosting w/ good support & full product suite. See Features.
WP Engine …fully managed WordPress hosting focused on speed. See Features.
WordPress.com …fully hosted, but also limited, version of WordPress. See Features.

I also created a more in-depth best WordPress hosting guide with a quiz here.

Additionally, using a WordPress Hosting plan will not automatically solve your website speed issues. I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed & Performance here.

The post What is WordPress Hosting? appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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What is Shared Hosting?

What is Shared Hosting

Shared Hosting is a hosting product that shares server resources across several hosting accounts. Shared Hosting is used as an affordable, straightforward hosting solution for the majority of websites.

How Shared Hosting Works

Shared hosting is quite literal. There’s no technical meaning – you are simply sharing a server with other websites. A shared hosting server runs resource management software that is configured & maintained by a hosting company. They allocate & manage resources across accounts. The accounts are fully private & do not interact with other accounts.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. A shared hosting server is kind of like a condominium. Even though each owner fully owns the unit as a property owner – the actual structure & property is shared as commons. Each condo can come with its own amenities & floorplan. The owner can do whatever they want as long as it does not impact the overall building or trash the common property.

A shared server is configured to operate smoothly & without interruption across accounts. But since resources are shared, the hosting company can (and does) impose limits & rules on each account to prevent any downtime for all accounts.

What Shared Hosting Is Used For

Shared Hosting is used for running most of the websites on the Internet. Given the resources of a typical server and the demands of a typical website, most website owners do not need anything else. With a shared server – you know generally what rules & limits you have, and you trust the hosting company to provide those resources to run your website.

If you know how many visits you receive, and how efficient your website is – then you can pay a locked-in price for those resources.

Going back to the condominium analogy, as long as you know how many people will be living at your condo and what your typical day looks like (which is most people) – the shared structure makes sense.

Often I’ll see publishers switch away from a shared hosting plan around 25,000 to 30,000 visits per month (that’s when I upgraded). For an ecommerce site, I’ll often see the switch happening around 10,000 visits per month.

Now – both of those numbers are not benchmarks. Your numbers can vary wildly depending on the exact specifications of your website. It always pays to check your own memory, bandwidth, and CPU usage on your hosting account’s cPanel page.

It also pays to understand your traffic patterns, your hosting company’s customer support – and how your website runs.

Shared hosting has some notoriety for crashing under high traffic spikes. But that misses the bigger story. Usually all the accounts on a given server are not spiking at the same time. Unless you are wildly out of proportion with your website – even a good shared host can handle plenty of traffic.

Back in 2013, I wrote a personal blog post that went viral – in quite a big way. I was on a shared server at HostGator. I gave support a heads up when a big website picked up the piece. I implemented a static cache of the page. My site handled 10,000 visits in an one hour fine.

Now shared hosting certainly can (and does) crash. Plenty of sites outgrow them – and there are plenty of other flavors of hosting products.

Shared Hosting Differences

Shared Hosting exists on a spectrum of hosting products. Here’s how it differs.

Shared Hosting vs. VPS Hosting

Shared Hosting offers fewer dedicated resources than VPS hosting. Often they will be the same server – but with VPS, more is pre-allocated rather than shared. It’s kind of like a townhome vs. a condominium. They are both private property within a building. But – with a townhome, everything is allocated (including the land and attic space). With a condominium, a lot more is shared.

With shared hosting, you have to share all of a server’s resources with the other websites on your server. This means that you can usually get a much better price than VPS – and you can usually get the same performance since the hosting company will work to keep the server load balanced.

However, a VPS hosting plan will offer more control and more freedom. You’ll know exactly how much your website can handle – because you know that another spiking website won’t affect yours.

Shared Hosting vs. Dedicated Hosting

Shared Hosting offers dedicated resources on a single server that is shared with other accounts. Dedicated hosting offers the entire server for your use. You are basically leasing a server with support & top tier connection to the Internet.

Shared Hosting vs. Cloud Hosting

Shared Hosting offers dedicated resources on a single server whereas Cloud Hosting decentralizes your website files & databases across thousands of servers everywhere. With shared Hosting, you pay for agreed-upon resources. With Cloud Hosting, you pay for use.

It’s kind of like purchasing a townhome vs. having some sort of AirBnB subscription where you can stay anywhere, anytime, as long as you pay.

With Cloud Hosting, you basically have unlimited resources – but you pay for each use. With Shared Hosting, you pay a stable price for stable resources. It’s like an a la carte all you can eat buffet vs. ordering an entree for a single price.

Confusingly, many hosting companies mix and match the advantages and disadvantages of each. A common combination is to use Cloud Hosting as backup for Shared Hosting for a set price.

Cloud Hosting is also rarely bundled with customer support. Cloud providers are all the big tech companies like Google, Amazon, Oracle, and Microsoft. It’s a commodity for sale.

Now – some hosting companies are creating innovative hosting plans that bundle support and pre-purchased credits for a single priced Cloud Hosting plan.

However, in that case, you are still paying for uses rather that resources. It’s just that you are pre-purchasing the uses.

What To Look for in Shared Hosting

Since you are paying for shared resources, shopping for Shared Hosting is simpler than shopping for other hosting products.

You are really looking for –

  • Server Resources & Performance (memory, bandwidth, processors, etc)
  • Account Rules & Limits (ie, databases, domains, disk space)
  • Customer & Technical Support
  • Account Management & Ease of Use
  • Server Configurations & Software
  • Plan Bonuses (ie, automated backups, etc)

Shared Hosting Providers

I’ve used quite a few Shared Hosting providers both for my own projects and for clients. Here’s the main 4 companies that I’ve used & really liked. I receive customer referral fees, but all the data & opinion is based on my professional experience.

Name Best if you want… Features!
InMotion …high-performance & independent-owned w/ great support. See Features.
HostGator …overall value w/ good pricing, support & unmetered features. See Features.
SiteGround …good support & advanced features w/ plans to grow. See Features.
Bluehost …name-brand hosting w/ good support, pricing & clean interface. See Features.

I also created a more in-depth best shared hosting guide with a quiz here.

Additionally, using a shared host will perform much better if you understand the basics of how servers & speed works. I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed & Performance here.

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What is Cloud Hosting?

What is Cloud Hosting

Cloud Hosting is a hosting product that distributes your website data among an entire network of data centers with near infinite resources. Cloud hosting usually charge per use rather than per resource feature. Cloud hosting is provided by the big tech companies like Amazon, Google, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM – but is sometimes resold via traditional hosting brands who bundle customer support.

How Cloud Hosting Works

Usually website files live on a hosting server that is leased by a hosting company. A cloud is an entire network of data centers that host website files in a distributed & decentralized fashion. It gets way more technical than that – but basically it’s just raw server resources for rent based on use rather than renting a part of a server.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. Traditional hosting is like buying a house, townhouse or condominium. You buy it and you can do whatever you want. Cloud hosting is like having access to any house anywhere in the world whenever and wherever – you just have to pay per night for whatever house you use.

The actual cloud is built by the biggest tech companies in the world. There are not that many. Amazon is the biggest. They are closely followed by Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM.

Cloud hosting as a product is also something sold by traditional hosting companies. They usually do not have their own clouds. Instead, they pre-purchase and bundle credits on a big tech cloud.

This product works because none of the big cloud providers give tech support – at all. None. Also, you never really know how much your bill will be. I’ve had a small site on Google’s cloud for over a year. I think it has cost a few dozen dollars – all covered by my sign up credit. But most sites with a few thousand visits per month can run between $10 and $40 per month depending on how big and complex their site is.

What Cloud Hosting Is Used For

Cloud Hosting is used for running websites that need varying resources and want unlimited performance. The only time your site will ever go down is if Google or Amazon go down. That happens – but it’s usually only for minutes and it makes international news.

If you know how many visits you receive, and how efficient your website is – then cloud hosting can be insanely cheap. You can host a site on the cloud directly for pennies. But if you have even a bit of traffic – then your costs will be in the ballpark of traditional hosting…with no real cap.

Moving to the cloud is usually done by website owners who know & find an advantage in managing their website’s performance. You can get very responsive and very reliable websites in the cloud. But there’s also a tradeoff with complexity, overall value, and cost.

I’ve had my most maddening consulting work on 100% cloud hosted websites (I’m looking at you Microsoft Azure) when the client absolutely did not need cloud hosting.

But cloud hosting will also serve a really useful complementary role – especially for storage or mirroring. Some hosts provide cloud credits for automated backups, media storage, and traffic spikes.

What To Look for in Cloud Hosting

Since you are paying for use, shopping for cloud hosting is different in many ways.

You are really looking for –

  • Cloud Setup
  • Customer Support (how much they’ll help with setup)
  • Prices per Projected Use
  • Plan Bonuses (ie, automated backups, etc)

Best Cloud Hosting Providers

I’ve used a few Cloud Hosting providers both for my own projects and for clients. Here’s the main 5 companies that I’ve used & really liked. I receive customer referral fees, but all the data & opinion is based on my professional experience.

Name Best if you want… Features!
SiteGround …great overall value, high resources w/ great customer support. See Features.
HostGator …unlimited bandwidth w/ affordable pricing tiers. See Features.
CloudWays …very high performance w/ great customer support. See Features.
Google …to run your site on the cloud that runs Google. See Features.
Digital Ocean …developer-focused platform w/ fast, global deployment. See Features.

Additionally, using a cloud hosting plan will not automatically solve your website speed issues. I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed & Performance here.

The post What is Cloud Hosting? appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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What is Reseller Hosting?

What is Reseller Hosting

Reseller Hosting is a hosting product that dedicates specific server resources to an administrator who can create shared hosting accounts. Reseller Hosting is typically used as a stable, affordable product for freelancers & agencies to provide to clients. It allows agencies & freelancers to generate recurring revenue via hosting, maintenance & turn-key solutions while providing clients with world-class infrastructure & technical expertise.

How Reseller Hosting Works

Reseller Hosting is a variation of a shared, VPS or Dedicated Hosting plan where the customer has an administrator account to create new individual hosting accounts. It is literally reselling hosting to a 3rd party. A reseller account has specific server management software so that the administrator can dedicate specific resources to each account and bill them individually.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. Ok – imagine a house or condominium building that is leased to someone who sub-leases the rooms to individuals. Reseller hosting is like that. The individuals could buy their own condo or rent their own house. But if they simply don’t want to deal with leasing agreements or property management – and would rather deal with their friend, then it makes more sense to sub-lease.

That analogy makes Reseller Hosting sound informal and unprofessional. It’s not. It’s actually a very common service for freelancers & agencies who have clients who simply don’t want to even *hear* the words FTP or DNS. Clients get hands-off hosting. Resellers get recurring revenue and a long-term relationship. Hosting companies lease servers to someone who can pay, knows what they need, and will usually be around for a while.

Reseller Hosting can be part of a shared, VPS, dedicated or cloud server. It all depends on what the customer is using it for.

What Reseller Hosting Is Used For

Reseller Hosting is typically used for running known client websites at a predictable price. With a Reseller Hosting account, the customer will know what types of websites will be on the account, so they’ll be able to allocate exactly what each site needs. Ideally, the reseller will have strong influence over the websites on the account. They’ll be able to set the billing and manage the traffic & resource use.

If you know how many visits you receive, and how efficient your website is – then you can pay a locked-in price for those resources. And you can rebill clients for very high-value add.

For example, if an agency has 10 local business clients with only 500 visits per month each – then the agency could easily put them *all* on a $20/mo reseller account with a solid hosting company. The agency could charge $50/mo for hosting, light tech support & WordPress updates. That’s $480/mo profit for the agency. And also quite a deal for each client. You can see how this could scale – especially if you charge more, provide more value, or balance more websites on the account.

Reseller Hosting Differences

Reseller Hosting sort of exists separately from other hosting products. Here’s how it differs.

Reseller Hosting vs. Shared Hosting / VPS Hosting / Dedicated Hosting

Unlike other hosting products, Reseller Hosting accounts are built to resell part of your server’s resources in a dedicated account. You can have a Reseller Shared plan where you are reselling accounts on a shared server. You can have a Reseller VPS plan where you are reselling accounts on a dedicated allocation of a single server. And so on – the key is to know what kind of resources your business and your clients’ businesses need.

What To Look for in Reseller Hosting

Since you are paying for type of hosting product resources, shopping for Reseller Hosting is simpler than other products in many ways.

You are really looking for –

  • Server Resources (memory, bandwidth, processors, etc)
  • Server Management Support (how much they’ll help with setup)
  • Server, Website & Billing Software (WHMCS, domain resells, WHM, cPanel, etc)
  • Data Center Location & Security Setup
  • Plan Bonuses (ie, automated backups, white labeling, etc)

Reseller Hosting Providers

I’ve used quite a few hosting providers both for my own projects and for clients. Here’s the main 4 companies that I’ve used & really liked. I receive customer referral fees, but all the data & opinion is based on my professional experience.

Name Best if you want… Features!
InMotion …great overall value, bundled reseller features, solid support. See Features.
SiteGround …unique program setup w/ diverse international data centers. See Features.
HostGator …great pricing, solid bundled features and known brand. See Features.
NameCheap …cheap plans with low-commitment & UK data centers. See Features.

I also created a more in-depth best reseller hosting guide with a quiz here.

Additionally, using a reseller host will not automatically solve your clients’ website speed issues. I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed & Performance here.

The post What is Reseller Hosting? appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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What is VPS Hosting?

What Is VPS Hosting

VPS Hosting is a hosting product that dedicates specific server resources to a hosting account. VPS Hosting is used as a predictable hosting solution for high traffic or resource websites.

How VPS Hosting Works

VPS stands for “virtual private server”. A VPS server is a server that runs “virtualization” software which divides & dedicates the hardware resources to specific accounts.

Imagine real-world housing for a second. A VPS is kind of like a row of townhouses. They look like one shared structure. But when you look at the blueprints, every single townhome is separated from the rest all the way to the ground. There is no “co-ownership” of anything even though it’s all a single structure.

A VPS server might be a single server located in a single rack – but it behaves like multiple servers since everything from the memory to storage space to processing power is already allocated.

What VPS Hosting Is Used For

VPS Hosting is used for running consistently higher-traffic or more resource intensive websites at a predictable price. With a VPS server – you know exactly how many resources you have, regardless of the other accounts on your server.

If you know how many visits you receive, and how efficient your website is – then you can pay a locked-in price for those resources.

Often I’ll see publishers switch to a VPS hosting plan around 25,000 to 30,000 visits per month (that’s when I upgraded). For an ecommerce site, I’ll often see the switch happening around 10,000 visits per month.

Now – both of those numbers are not benchmarks. Your numbers can vary wildly depending on the exact specifications of your website. It always pays to check your own memory, bandwidth, and CPU usage on your hosting account’s cPanel page.

VPS Hosting Differences

VPS Hosting exists on a spectrum of hosting products. Here’s how it differs.

VPS Hosting vs. Shared Hosting

VPS Hosting offers dedicated resources rather than shared resources. It’s kind of like a townhome vs. a condominium. They are both private property within a building. But – with a townhome, everything is allocated. With a condominium, a lot more is shared.

With shared hosting, you have to share all of a server’s resources with the other websites on your server. This means that you can usually get a much better price than VPS – and you can usually get the same performance since the hosting company will work to keep the server load balanced.

However, a VPS hosting plan will offer more control and more freedom.

VPS Hosting vs. Dedicated Hosting

VPS Hosting offers dedicated resources on a single server that is shared with other accounts. Dedicated hosting offers the entire server for your use. You are basically leasing a server with support & top tier connection to the Internet.

VPS Hosting vs. Cloud Hosting

VPS Hosting offers dedicated resources on a single server whereas Cloud Hosting decentralizes your website files & databases across thousands of servers everywhere. With VPS Hosting, you pay for specific resources. With Cloud Hosting, you pay for use – though there are plans that provide a certain number of uses for a stable price.

It’s kind of like purchasing a townhome vs. having some sort of AirBnB subscription where you can stay anywhere, anytime, as long as you pay.

With Cloud Hosting, you basically have unlimited resources – but you pay for each use. With VPS Hosting, you pay a stable price for stable resources. It’s like an a la carte all you can eat buffet vs. ordering an entree for a single price.

Confusingly, many hosting companies mix and match the advantages and disadvantages of each. A common combination is to use Cloud Hosting as backup for VPS Hosting.

What To Look for in VPS Hosting

Since you are paying for dedicated resources, shopping for VPS Hosting is simpler than Shared Hosting in many ways.

You are really looking for –

  • Server Resources (memory, bandwidth, processors, etc)
  • Server Management Support (how much they’ll help with setup)
  • Server Management Software (does it come with pre-installed graphical software)
  • Data Center Location & Bandwidth Provider
  • Plan Bonuses (ie, automated backups, etc)

VPS Hosting Providers

I’ve used quite a few VPS Hosting providers both for my own projects and for clients. Here’s the main 4 companies that I’ve used & really liked. I receive customer referral fees, but all the data & opinion is based on my professional experience.

Name Best if you want… Features!
InMotion …great overall value, high resources w/ great customer support. See Features.
DreamHost …unlimited bandwidth w/ affordable pricing tiers. See Features.
LiquidWeb …very high performance w/ great customer support. See Features.
Digital Ocean …developer-focused platform w/ fast, global deployment. See Features.

I also created a more in-depth best VPS hosting guide with a quiz here.

Additionally, using a VPS host will not automatically solve your website speed issues. I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed & Performance here.

The post What is VPS Hosting? appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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