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2011-08-19 18:06:55

What is Hosting?

If you have an e-mail account or a website, then you may be familiar with what is known as “hosting services.” Most people, however, don’t have a full understanding of what “hosting” actually is, even people who pay for one or more “hosting” services. 


In short, “hosts” are companies that provide space on a server they own or lease, for use by their clients as well as providing Internet connectivity to that server.  A host is the company who gives you space and services on their server.  They run these servers 24/7 to ensure that your website is always accessible and your e-mail is always directed to your inbox.  Some charge by the type of service, others by space, and others by the amount of bandwidth you and your site use up.


Your internet service provider (ISP) is probably not your “host”; they provide your connection to the internet.  In many cases they also provide other services like cable TV and telephone.  That being said, many ISP’s do provide a free e-mail account—which they do host for you.  This is usually an address ending with their domain, however, not yours.  If you use an e-mail address that ends in or or @? you are using an account hosted by your provider.  The upside is that it is (usually) free.  The downside is that if you change ISP’s for one reason or another (you move to another area or you decide on another type of service) you will likely lose your e-mail address and all e-mails sent there after you’ve changed providers.


By itself, a domain name has almost nothing to do with hosting.

So you own, but what does that really mean?  Without any services attached, you own just the domain, just the name, just the title.  You have secured this domain and no one other than you is able to use it without your permission (and probably help).  You own the right to add e-mail services or a website to the domain, but you don’t necessarily have these services already.  Think of it as buying an empty lot-- you don’t have a house or a mailbox, but you now have an address and a place to build a home.


E-mail hosting can be attached to your domain name, providing branding opportunities.

Once you own a domain, you can add an e-mail hosting service.  This can be a forwarding service which simply takes any e-mail sent to ( and redirects it to an inbox you already use like your ISP inbox or your broker inbox.  This allows you to brand yourself and own that brand.  If you change ISP’s or Brokers, they probably won’t let you take that inbox with you, but you can take your domain and redirect that e-mail address to another inbox (for example, a free web based account like gMail or Yahoo!, or even your new ISP or Broker address).

There are other types of e-mail hosting.  Some e-mail hosts provide POP or IMAP accounts which stand on their own and don’t require you to have another inbox in order to access your e-mail.  With this type of hosting, your e-mail is stored directly on your web hosts server.  They offer you a set amount of space, and you can access your e-mail either by logging into a web mail interface, or using a third party e-mail client to connect to their server and download your e-mail onto your hard drive.


Website Hosting is for… you guessed it, your website.

You can have someone build you a custom website from scratch and give you the files.  You can then put these files on the server of a web host, and attach that website to your domain.  This method will usually require you to pay two different fees—one to the person who created the website, and another (usually recurring) fee to the host, so they can make your website accessible to the world.  If you ever need to make changes to a custom website, you will likely need to pay someone an hourly fee to make the updates (unless you know how to make them yourself).

The more common route is getting both services through one provider.  More often than not, this type of website is given to you in “template form,” where you can make the text/image/color updates on your own via an easy to use interface the provider offers.  A website provider like Point2Agent includes a wide selection of home page designs that can be displayed and changed with a simple click.
They will usually charge you monthly or annually for the hosting fees.  This type of website is generally easier and cheaper to manage, however you usually can’t take the website with you to another hosting provider.


Note that it is possible to have a domain with one provider, e-mail hosting from another, and a website through a third provider.  Most people don’t like to separate their services so they only have only host to call/remember, but it is good to know that the flexibility is there in case you need it. 


Having a domain is a great start to branding and marketing yourself on the web, but on its own, it doesn’t help you much.  Once you own your own domain, start using it.  Direct that domain to pull up your website or listings.  Acquire an e-mail account with the domain, let people get to know your brand.

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