Most people don’t understand how website hosting works, and it’s a far cry from an interesting topic. However, I do think hosting is interesting because the confusion around it is only matched by it’s necessity.
If you’re confused about hosting, and how to set up a hosting account for your website, stop and read this first. We’re going to cover all that you need to know, without getting too technical, including:
Website Hosting Comes Clean
You may have been pissed off when you bought a domain name and then someone told you “By the way, that won’t work without hosting.” And you wouldn’t be alone on that one.
Here’s why they said that. Website hosting is really about storing your website files on a computer, so that other computers can access and load those files when someone way over in Timbuktu types in your domain name (or web address).
So that domain name you bought is basically a digital address without a structure. Once you get hosting, you can combine your domain name with a server (which is just a big, fast computer) where your website can be accessed and loaded on other devices connected to the internet.
For other paranoids out there, I’m gonna calm your nerves right now. Heading to your web address does not give everybody access to all the files that make up your website. Just the ones you intend for them to see (which is known as the front-end).
While hacking can take place on any website, that’s a different story. Your hosting server should be a secure place to manage your website and serve it to internet browsers.
We could go down an ugly, treacherous road of hosting detail, but that sounds terrible. So, the important takeaways for you:
- Website hosting is where your site is stored
- Domain names are how your site is accessed on the web
Who’s Host is it Anyway?
There are many places to get hosting, even though you may not have heard of anything but GoDaddy’s superbowl commercials. The biggest differences you’ll find between hosting companies are:
- types of hosting
When it comes to assessing these qualities, it’s best to rely on reputation and reviews, since it’s very hard to figure out at a glance.
MOJO Marketplace recommends one of our hosting cohorts, Bluehost, especially if you are using WordPress to build your website (which we also recommend 😉).
If you’re not feeling the Bluehost vibes, that’s fine, but for demonstration purposes, we’re going to cover everything from this point through Bluehost.
Choose a Hosting Plan
As if hosting weren’t confusing enough, there are lots of options for all budgets.
For instance, at Bluehost you can choose between:
Each of these options offers different packages with varying amounts of storage and other features, based on your budget.
Most of us only need shared or cloud hosting, which are the more cost effective options. However, if you’re using WordPress for your website, the specialized WordPress option is the ideal choice. Bluehost knows WordPress, and has core developers on their staff.
Bottom line: you need fast and secure hosting with good support that aligns with your budget.
Hi, What’s Your Domain Name?
Before we get to the next part, we need to take stock of the big elephant in the room. Do you have a domain or not?
Yes, I bought a domain name already.
If you have purchased a domain name somewhere other than your hosting provider, get access to your account. Who knows how long ago you bought it, when you had that shining moment of clarity and a big idea? Get all your passwords reset, usernames recovered, information updated with the place you first purchased your domain from.
Getting access to that domain account is necessary, and it will save you headaches to get it done now.
Nope, no domain name here!
If you don’t already own a domain, you can typically purchase one through your hosting provider.
Click above to search Bluehost for available domain names, and don’t forget to consider a different top level domain (those are the different endings on web addresses like .com, .co, .io, or .tv). Some hosting providers also provide a free or discounted domain when you purchase a hosting plan.
If you need some great guidelines on choosing a domain name, check out this article from MOJO CEO JR Farr about confirming your identity as a brand.
(If you choose a domain through your hosting provider, you can skip the next step.)
DNS—The Problem Child of Hosting
Domain name servers function as address books for all of the websites on the internet, and show authenticity of registration. Sounds good, but the problem is that pointing your domain can quickly become the bane of your existence if you’re trying to set your website up quickly.
So, if you see this DNS error page when you were expecting to see a WordPress “Hello World!” or other page, you need to start digging.
The first place to check is your DNS settings in your hosting account.
On Bluehost, that means
- logging in to your account
- clicking the Domains tab
- scrolling to the bottom and clicking Name Servers from the summary window
The weird numbers shown here are the name servers for Bluehost. If you own a domain already, you need to copy these and paste these numbers into the DNS fields where you bought your domain.
If that sounds like it might be over your head, you’re not alone. The best course of action in that case is to contact support where you bought your domain and get guidance on where to put those numbers.
If you are still experiencing problems, or didn’t get the help you need, your hosting provider should be more than happy to help. So if you tried all the steps listed here, contact support.
With Bluehost, you can find support links at the bottom of your cPanel. Try out the live chat, and your problem should be resolved quickly.
Manning the Control Panel and Installing WordPress
Once you get past the hurdles of understanding hosting, choosing a plan, and setting up your domain or solving DNS problems, it gets a lot easier.
From the control panel, or cPanel, of most hosting providers, you can install software and make upgrades to your website. If you want to get started right away, Bluehost offers a one-click installation of the WordPress software on your website, so you can install a theme and start customizing today!
All you have to do is click install WordPress and you will be given credentials to log in to your WordPress dashboard at yourwebsite.com/wp-admin.
Off to Build a Website
If you made it through that process, give yourself some kind of unicorn chaser. It can be a headache, but it’s a one-time headache. Once you set up hosting, set it and forget it.
Before we go, here are some resources to help you get started on the actual build of your site: