Hosting (and Domain Registration) Explained

I’m going through a sad situation at the moment with an old client who hasn’t paid / won’t pay for hosting their website. Through my company I offer a boutique hosting alternative to the big guys, that’s admittedly more expensive but comes with the added bonus of “ME”! I handle all the techie side of hosting for my clients so they don’t have to – they call one person with any issues and one person sorts them out.

The client determined that they didn’t want to pay my rates for hosting which is totally fair enough. Their option is to transfer off my server which I’m happy to assist with. But they’ve done neither – not paid AND not transferred. I’m about to suspend their account before permanently deleting the account – if they don’t transfer off, they’re likely to lose everything.

don't understand hostingIn an earlier message from them they confessed “I am not sure I even understand what hosting is about if you want to know the truth”

Understanding hosting along with its evil twin, Domain Registration is a stumbling block for many small businesses. When I teach class on Internet Marketing it’s the one topic that always needs further clarification.

Here’s how I explain the various components during my class:

Domain registration

A domain name like, or is a substitute for the actual code that points to your website – this code is called an IP (for Internet Protocol) Address. An example of an IP address is which is a lot harder to remember than

Domains are rented not purchased – they are recurring costs for as long as you want to retain them. (Domains don’t have to point to a specific website, they can be “parked”, sometimes for many years before they’re used) Think of your domain as an address pointer or PO Box on the internet. Domain registration is relatively inexpensive (~$10-15/year).


All websites need to be “hosted” somewhere, on a slice of a server somewhere out there in “the cloud” that’s dedicated to your website. Using the same type of analogy as the domain = PO Box, then hosting can be equated to renting a plot of land on which we build our website. Our website is the only thing in this setup that we actually own – our rented plot of land has a recurring cost for as long as we want our website to be found.

The cost of hosting can range from ~$5/month to hundreds of dollars a month depending on a bunch of factors, including:

  • Number of other sites on a single server (the more sites, the cheaper the service)
  • Additional services provided (for instance email, security alerts, etc.)
  • Level of tech support (personal one-to-one or by forum support only)
  • Whether hosting includes updates and backups

The picture is muddled even more because you can get domain registration and hosting from two separate places OR you can get them bundled together from certain providers (for example, GoDaddy). Both these scenarios have their advantages and disadvantages – here are some things to consider:

Separate domain & hostingGet best price for specific servicesTwo separate accounts / two separate invoices to handle
Easier to transfer hosting from one server to another
Bundled domain & hostingConvenience - one place to handle bothDifficult, if not impossible to untangle domain & hosting
Additional charges for extra services

Hosting (and Domain Registration) IS confusing but pleading ignorance isn’t the answer either. Make sure that your web guy (or gal) explains this to you when you’re starting the process and stay abreast of the situation during the process. In financial terms hosting is a tiny part of the whole website project but ignoring it could result in some drastic situations – as my recalcitrant client is about to find out!

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