The basics of domains and hosting services

Domains and Hosting 101

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I get asked all the time from our clients about why they need hosting when they already have a domain name, or why they keep getting random bills in the mail. So, let us dig into what each of these services are, what they do and some of our service recommendations.

Domain Names

In the internet world, your domain name serves much the same as your house address. Imagine a world where all you had to get to your house was GPS coordinates such as these: 45.512230, -122.658722. That does not sound fun to get around. Well, servers on the internet run with similar addresses, such as fd0f:51d3:4c6a:c4b4:ca3d:10de:234e:03e4. Try browsing the internet and having to remember every address like that. Again, not so fun. So instead we use domain names, then special computers on the internet connect all those long addresses to a name, much like a map and street names. The traffic is then sent to where it needs go.

Domains are handled by a public registry system and purchased through third party resellers for a leased amount of time. You will need ‘lease’ this domain name for the entire time you wish to use it. If you neglect to pay for it, it will go back up for sale and the next person may snatch it out from under you.

Since domains are handled by a public registry, the information you use to register it will become public information. To protect yourself from spam and other unwanted contact, I recommend that you purchase an add-on service normally referred to as ‘WhoisGuard’. The WhoisGuard service may even be included free from some registrars. This will place protected contact information in the registry while leaving your information hidden from those who might do you harm or waste your time.

We personally use NameCheap and recommend them to all our clients for their domain needs. Start the search for your next domain name here: NameCheap Domains

Hosting Services

Just as your domain name gives your website ‘house’ an address, your website will need ‘land’ to build your house. Most hosting services are paid in advance of the resources it will consume. Those resources are namely computer power to make the website function, a place on the internet (the long address discussed above), and bandwidth. The bandwidth is how much traffic your website consumes each month sending data to and receiving from your guests.

Not all services are created equal, however. There is shared hosting and dedicated hosting. Some hosts provide much better technology and others have a better support system in place should something go wrong. Shared hosting means that your website will share the total resources of a single server with other websites. Dedicated hosting is the opposite, where your website has sole use of all the resources the server has available. Of course, the latter is much more expensive.

In the end you must pay for the ‘land’ in which you will build your ‘house’. Try to find the best that you can afford. When you opt for cheap services you will often run into problems. Either your website will be slow, or during periods of high use your website could cease to function. Be mindful of the support process and ensure that the provider you choose will be responsive and knowledgeable when you need it.

For a more advanced service, we offer a website care service, which includes hosting. Learn more about our service on our care plan page. If you are not interested in full care services, I would recommend trying out SiteGround. You can learn more about their services here: SiteGround Hosting

Email Hosting

Different email hosting services

Much like website hosting, you will need a provider to rent you space to store and process your emails. Some hosts will provide this service in conjunction with your website hosting. However, I would strongly recommend you keep these services separate for your business. No matter how much a provider says they have perfect up time, downtime and maintenance is a fact of life.

If you keep your email and website on the same services and they do go down, you will lose access to both pieces of your internet presence all at once. If you keep them separate, then you will generally have access to email while your website is down for maintenance. And there is something else to look for with email that is especially important to know.

Email services are commonly abused. I am sure you have got your fair share of spam email. To try and protect users from spam, some services actively reject mail from hosts they do not trust. This makes it extremely important to choose a trustworthy provider with a large backbone of support. You need a provider that can help to ensure your emails make it to the inbox of your customers on the other side.

For extremely basic email hosting, I would recommend using NameCheap’s PrivateEmail service. Anything more advanced, then I recommend G-Suite by Google. You get the same interface as your Gmail account, but with much more advanced features and support for a custom domain such as yourname@yourdomain.com.

SSL Certificate

The last most common bill you may see is an SSL certificate. Many hosts have gone to providing a free SSL through a service called Let’s Encrypt. But in some cases, you may want to still purchase one. Generally, if your host does not provide support for the free SSL, or you wish to have a certificate that uses a stronger form of encryption. The case for the latter is normally very large e-commerce sites.

The SSL certificate allows your domain and website host to work together with your guest’s web browser and provide the resources of your website in a secure manner. This helps to protect the guests from entities that would steal their private information such as passwords entered on your website. This is commonly referred to as a ‘Man in the middle’ attack. It also helps to build trust with your guests and the search engines by having a SSL installed. You are proving that you have the security and safety of your visitors in mind.

Wrap Up

So, there you have it. The basics of Domains and Hosting. Now you should know a little more about what all these different items are and why you have bills for each of them.

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Domains and Hosting 101

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