One of the first tasks faced by a new website owner is the job of registering a domain name and setting up web hosting and email. Having some knowledge of what you are paying for will help you make more informed buying decisions.
Domain registration, DNS, hosting and email terms
Before looking at different setups let’s first get some definitions in place.
Is a company you register a domain name with such as smarterwebsiteowner.com. Your domain name is essentially your business name on the web. And like a registered business name you also need to register a domain name and pay the registration fees on an ongoing basis.
Domain Name Service – this is like a ‘phonebook’ where your domain name is looked up and mapped to a computer IP address. It is like a switchboard for routing web page requests and emails as well as many other advanced functions.
When you purchase web hosting you are renting space on a web server where your website files are located and ‘served’ as people make requests to visit your site.
Email hosting allows you to set up email accounts and send and receive emails using your own domain name. Email hosting can come included with most web hosting plans but it is often preferable to host email separately from your website.
In this arrangement the website owner has all their web related services with the one provider. A convenient arrangement but means you rely fully on the one service for all your web related functions. If it goes down you lose access to your website and email.
Here the website owner has registered the domain with one company and then hosts the website and email with another provider. The DNS is also handled by the domain name registrar (Provider 1) and points web and email traffic to Provider 2.
In Scenario 3 the website owner registers the domain with one company and then hosts the website and email with another two separate companies. While this may seem more complicated it is actually good practice to separate website hosting from email hosting. If your website goes offline you can still access your email.
In this setup the website owner has used another service to handle DNS. This setup is sometime used to provide enhanced speed and security through dedicated DNS services. To do this the name servers at the registrar are pointed to Provider 2 which then handles the DNS service. The DNS service then directs website visits and email to the relevant provider.
If there is a DNS failure at any point with any provider then you will not have access to web or email. This is because DNS acts like a ‘telephone directory’ for the web. If it goes offline you’re website and email cannot function