In my work with clients I have found that one of the most confusing aspects of getting your website up and running is also one of the most confusing. What is it? Domains & Hosting. There’s good reason this can be so confusing, the two are both closely intertwined and each uses their own terminology which can be confusing and overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with it. So get out those note cards and get ready to expand your vocabulary! Here are the terminology you need to know to help you better understand of website hosts and domain names as well as work more closely with your designer or developer.
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Often if you hire a designer or developer they will ask for your log in information for your cpanel. Your cpanel is where you go when you log into your web host to manage your hosting plan, files, and services. CPanel is a specific web host control panel program. It’s one of the most common and many hosts use it. However, not all do. Your host may use their own solution or a different solution.
Domain Name Registrar aka Registrar aka Domain Registrar
This is the entity that registers your domain name. This may or may not be the same as your hosting provider. Hosting providers often do offer domain name registration services. However, not all domain registrars are hosting providers!
Protip: Wondering where to buy your domain name? My fave registrar is Namecheap, I love how easy they are to work with and their pricing is awesome.
DNS or DNS Settings
Domain Name System. This is how domain names are associated with the IP address where the files for the website are hosted. Every website address has its own IP address. This of course is very confusing and hard to remember for humans, so domain names were created to make things easier. When you create your domain name, especially if it’s registered with a different entity than your web host your domain will be pointing to an IP address (that will usually show a branded coming soon type page for your domain registrar). To change where your domain name points, the DNS settings must be updated to point to the IP address where your website is hosted.
File Transfer Protocol. This is a method of uploading, downloading, and managing files on your web host. It can usually be accessed via your cpanel or through an FTP client such as coreFTP or winSCP. You can manage your FTP and it’s associated accounts from your cpanel, this includes the abilities to create and manage user accounts for your FTP. SFTP is a more secure version of FTP, however it may not be enabled by default and may need to manually be enabled on your cpanel.
What about SFTP? That’s FTP but more secure! If your host offers this option it should be used instead of FTP to keep your files secure.
This is the numerical or alphanumerical string that represents your website, or your computer when it is browsing the web. Every domain name and website has an IP address. The IP address that your domain name points to can be be changed via the DNS settings.
Secure Shell is a secure method of accessing your website. You can do all the same things you can do with FTP, such as uploading, downloading and editing files, however it’s much more secure and it’s usually done via the command line. it usually must be enabled via your cpanel.
Top Level Domains
Top Level Domains are the endings of a website’s url, for example .com, .net, .io, and more. Recently ICANN released a number of new top level domains which include domains like .art, .horse and more.
Web Host aka Hosting Provider
These two terms are often used interchangeable. This essentially is the company that gives you space to put the files of your website on. Popular ones you may have heard of include GoDaddy, HostGator, and BlueHost.
Protip: My recommendation is NameCheap.
Don’t be overwhelmed by all this talk of domains and registrars! Once you learn what some of these terms mean for you, the process will become more clear and you will find you are better able to discuss issues, or concerns with your developers or even your support.