If you are a business owner and need to be online, there are three main components you will likely need: a domain name, web hosting, and email. Do you know where and how to acquire these things? How much they should cost? I have some tips and recommendations.
What are these things and why do you need them?
A domain is the unique address of a website on the internet, such as www.example.com. It serves as a user-friendly identifier for websites, making it easier for people to access them. Domains are purchased from domain registrars and can be customized with different extensions like .com, .org, or .net.
Web hosting refers to the service that allows individuals or organizations to store their website files and make them accessible on the internet. Web hosting companies provide servers or computer systems where website files are stored and made available for retrieval by visitors.
Domains and web hosting work together to ensure a website is accessible online. When a user enters a domain name in their web browser, the browser sends a request to the domain’s associated web hosting server. The web hosting server then retrieves the website files and delivers them back to the user’s browser, allowing them to view the website.
In summary, a domain is the unique address of a website, while web hosting is the service that stores and serves the website files. When a domain is purchased, it needs to be connected to a web hosting server to make the website accessible online.
Email hosting is a service that allows individuals, businesses, or organizations to create and manage personalized email addresses using their own domain name. Instead of using generic email providers like Gmail or Yahoo, email hosting enables users to have email accounts associated with their domain (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you want to have your own .com, with your own email, then you need all three of those. So the question real question is, where do you get it, and how do you know if where you are buying is reliable?
Not all domain registrars, web hosts, and email hosts are equal
What I’m about to say may be controversial, and will make your life slightly more complicated. But I stand by this recommendation. As a general rule, I recommend buying all of these products from different vendors.
“Wouldn’t it be simpler to buy all these at once place and just pay one time?”– Person who has never been hurt
Why yes. Yes it would. It would in fact be simpler. But I have reasons why I advocate for separate. It is more complicated to keep track of. You do have to remember where everything is, have different logins, and pay different fees. BUT. As the Offspring once said, you gotta keep ’em separated.
Okay, the time and place for obscure 90s references is past. So let’s talk about it.
Why buy your web products from different vendors?
My number one reason to buy your products from different vendors is that if one vendor has an issue or outage, then you don’t lose all your services at once.
If you buy your domain, web hosting, and email hosting all from one place, and that place gets hit by some ransomware, you have now lost not just your website, but your email too.
Let me share a few examples of real life scenarios I’ve had to help people work through.
If you sign up for a support plan with Sumy Designs (and I recommend it!), one of the things that comes with that is uptime monitoring. Uptime monitoring is when I set up a monitor to keep track of your website, and if anything happens, I get a notice and I can go check it out, probably before you are even aware of an issue. Recently, I had two clients whose uptime monitors were pinging me all day. I’d get a notice, go check and the site would be gone for about two minutes, and then it would magically come back. It was showing up as a DNS issue. I put it together that both these clients purchased their domains from the same place, and they were both going out at the same time.
One of these clients had their website hosted at a different company, so I was able to test my theory by changing the DNS management from the domain registrar over to the web host. (I know this is unnecessarily complicated, but stay with me.) Basically, we told the domain we are managing the domain services at the web host instead of at the registrar. The uptime monitor stopped going off, and everything was fixed. It was a pretty quick resolution to keep that site up.
If you have a website, sometimes it’s gonna go out because of a server issue. It just happens. Hopefully not very often. If you have your email hosted on your server as well as your website, your email is going to go out with your website.
It’s really a bummer if your website is down for one reason or another, but it’s super awful when you can’t even respond to client emails. I actually had something happen where my server was hacked and all my sites were redirected to spam. It was one of the worst experiences of my professional career. But my email was hosted with Google, so even though my website was literally showing spam, I was able to continue to communicate with my clients and also, communicate with my web host and domain registrar, to sort out the issues.
Recently, I was approached to deal with an issue of a site suspension on a web host. Their domain, email, and web hosting were all on the same service, and they were all suspended. When I approached the web host about the issue, chat support said there were malicious files that needed removed. I quickly removed them, alerted them that some of the flagged files were legitimate, and wait for them to un-suspend the site. They didn’t. Next they let me know it was spam coming from email that was the problem.
Is it the malicious files or the email spam? I still don’t know. But they were out of their website and email for three days trying to sort it out. Had their email been on a separate server, they would have only dealt with one of those.
By keeping all your services on different providers, it makes it very easy to switch one of them if it starts to become a problem. If you have them all at one place, and suddenly that provider becomes sketchy or goes under, it’s a much bigger task to move everything than it is to move just your domain or just your web hosting.
You’re convinced! Now, where do you get the stuff?
After more than seventeen years of doing this stuff, I have a lot of opinions about these things. Strong opinions.
Say what you will about GoDaddy’s products, but I do think their DNS management is one of the easier DNS management systems.
Avoid buying your domain from companies that are selling you products like proprietary website platforms. These are almost always going to be resellers and harder to manage than if you bought from one of the major sellers and much harder to transfer away when you no longer want to use that platform.
When it comes to email, I’m a Google girl. The main reason I say this is because it’s reliable, it has a good spam filter, and everyone already knows how to use it. It costs $6 a month per email address and in my opinion, is totally worth it.
Now, if you love Microsoft products, maybe you want to use something like Microsoft 365. That’s fine, just buy it from the source and not from a reseller.
When it comes to web hosting, I’m extremely picky and my recommendations have dwindled to just three, but I do have an entire page dedicated to my choices. You can see my my favorite WordPress web hosts on that page and why I recommend them. As a general rule, I recommend WordPress specific hosts because you want a host who knows and loves WordPress. If you have a WordPress site, and if you don’t, then I can’t help you. 🙂
How do you point your domain to different services, like web hosting and email?
To point your domain to different services like web hosting and email, you typically need to configure the domain’s DNS (Domain Name System) settings. Here’s a general overview of the steps involved but can vary depending on the providers you choose.
- Determine the DNS settings required by your web hosting and email providers. They will provide you with specific information such as IP addresses, nameservers, or MX (Mail Exchange) records.
- Access your domain registrar’s control panel or DNS management interface. Popular domain registrars include GoDaddy, Namecheap, and Google Domains. Login to your account and locate the DNS management section for the domain you want to configure.
- Set up A/CNAME records for web hosting: If your web hosting provider uses an IP address or requires a CNAME (Canonical Name) record, you’ll need to create the appropriate records in your DNS settings. This typically involves specifying the desired subdomain (e.g., “www”) and the IP address or CNAME provided by your hosting provider.
- Configure MX records for email hosting: If you want to use a different email hosting provider, you’ll need to update the MX records in your DNS settings. These records specify the mail servers responsible for handling email for your domain. You’ll typically add MX records provided by your email hosting provider with specific priority values.
- Save your DNS changes: Once you have made the necessary DNS configuration changes, save the settings in your domain registrar’s control panel.
Keep in mind that the specific steps and terminology may vary depending on your domain registrar and the services you are using. It’s recommended to consult the documentation or support resources provided by your domain registrar and service providers for detailed instructions tailored to your specific setup.
One last note:
While it may be tempting, because it’s just so much easier, don’t let your web develop register all your services for you. I have fallen into this trap myself, wanting to help folks out who didn’t understand what it all meant or how to do it.
However, these accounts should be in your name. Connected to an email account that you monitor so you can get notifications and manage your services. I have had more than one client who lost everything because they’d taken advantage of a developer’s offer to set everything up, and then that developer disappeared, went out of business, or tragically died. If nothing is in your name, and the person who registered it is gone, it’s very unlikely you will get it back.
Note: If you are a longtime client of Sumy Designs, you may be wondering about this recommendation as we have taken care of these types of tasks for our clients in the past. But over the years as I’ve tried to help many clients recover lost websites, it’s become apparent to me that the best practice when it comes to website products is for everything to be managed in the client’s own account.
And that’s my 1600 words on setting up your online services for your new business. As always, contact me if you have specific questions. It is and can be complicated.
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