Taking control of your web services

You should know that most professional relationships don’t last forever. And if you care about the integrity and longevity of your business website and email, you should know what these three simple service categories are and how to manage them. If you are not in complete control of these services, you are going to be up a creek if something goes wrong.

There are three basic service components to your web presence. Each one should be independent and under your control:

  • Domain registration (your registered web address, i.e. companyname.com)
  • Hosting service (where your website lives)
  • Your webmaster/designer

If, until now, you trusted everything to your web designer, I understand – you should trust your web designer. However, I have clients that have been with me more than 15 years, and I still recommend independent accounts for these services. After all, what will you do if your designer gets hit by a bus?

It is possible that as long as you own your business, you may never have a reason to worry about these services, but you should at least be aware of their distinction just in case you do. Here is a description of these services in order of essentiality.

Domain Registration

The first thing to do before you can have a website is to get a domain name (yourcompany.com). Owning this account yourself is fundamental to controlling your web presence, since this is the identity and primary address of your website and email on the internet. It is independent of your hosting and other services.

To get your domain name you will need to create an account with a domain registration service. A registration service provides the literal address of your site and will point your browser to the place where your website actually resides. You can search for an unused name using their search feature. A dot com name is the industry standard for commercial businesses, dot org for non-profits, and dot net for networks – these three are the most popular and commonly recognized. Recently they have come out with numerous other dot suffixes, but they are generally more expensive and less memorable. Once you have found a suitable domain name, you will just add it to your shopping cart and checkout. You should expect to pay around $15 per year for a dot com address.

Godaddy.com is the largest and most popular registrar, and they have great customer service. But, just to complicate things, a domain registrar like GoDaddy will also offer to host your site and build it as well. This is a bad idea for several reasons. You will pay more because each additional service (email, web hosting, etc.) is a cost add-on. You can get a better deal and a more professional appearance by going to a specialized hosting company and hiring a web designer. As you will see below in the hosting section, these other services come as a package with other companies. So, if you are using GoDaddy, you will want to “skip to checkout” or face an onslaught of marketing for other services.

Later, after your website is ready for testing, you will log back into your domain account to set the DNS. The DNS is the pointer on the internet that tells where your website lives.

You will likely never have to change registrars if you use GoDaddy or another popular provider, but owning this account yourself will ensure that you can move (point) your domain to the host of your choice when you start out, or if you need to change hosting services.

For more information visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_name_registrar

Hosting service

A hosting service provides the environment where your website files actually live (and also where your DNS will point, as noted above). A hosting account is a server on the internet that provides the file system for your website, and also where you set up your email accounts. Owning this account yourself ensures that you control and can manage the website files and email accounts.

There are many companies that offer hosting services. Many offer free, 24/7 chat and phone support. Rates are competitive. For your first website, I recommend one of the larger services like In Motion Hosting, HostGator or BlueHost. These providers offer a full compliment of services including email, statistics, databases and much more. Everything is managed through and easy-to-use control panel. You should expect to pay about $5-$7 per month for “shared” hosting.

Shared hosting is an economical way to provide hosting accounts where dozens or hundreds of accounts are shared at the same location on the internet (IP address). This is sufficient for most small businesses. If you have high-risk content, high volume, or e-commerce, you will, at a minimum, want to add a “dedicated IP” to your account. A dedicated IP isolates your website at a location on the internet for added security. For e-commerce you will also want an SSL certificate (Secure Socket Layer), but that is a topic for another blog.

To confuse you even more, a hosting company will offer to register your domain, and build your website. As I said before, I think this is a bad idea. Hosting services are not perfect, and you may have to change services – I have a couple of times. If your domain and your website are tied up in that agreement, you will have a tough time unraveling that mess in a crisis.

For more information visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_hosting_service

Web Designer/Webmaster

Your web designer is the person who builds and manages your website. He is the person who guides you through the technical details. He is knowledgeable in the current trends and latest tools. He is the person that helps manage your expectations. This is also the most volatile and precarious relationship. If he fails at any of these things you may need to find a new designer. If your designer registered your domain and hosts your site himself, you may have a difficult time retaining your assets in the event of a breakdown in the relationship.

I have relationships with clients that have spanned nearly 15 years, and I still encourage them to manage their own accounts independently. Maybe you just don’t want to worry about the details. Honestly, you would be a lot better off if you considered managing and controlling these three services separately. There are a lot more technical issues involved, but these are the ones you should be most concerned and aware of.

You will be in control

It is my goal to put YOU in control of your website, not me. My role is to assist you in making your website great. The help I give you will make you not only the administrator of the accounts but also the author and designer of your site. Let me show you how.