Beginners guide to website hosting

Website hosting for dummies

Email, Domain and Website hosting - how it all works

Your website, domain name and email can all live in three different places, called servers. A server is a computer that serves other computers; in this case if your website is hosted on Server A, all the files that make your website work live on this server. Each server has an IP address. So your domain name, website and email each have an IP address of their own. Your domain name registrar (where your domain name resides) will have records of where your email and website live; these are called A and MX records. So your domain is the gateway telling the world where to look for your website and email.

Domain names

When you’re starting a company it’s a good idea to think of a company name that is also available as a domain name, so make it as short and memorable as you can.

Make sure you’ve registered your domain name with a reputable domain name company; having one from a UK-based domain registrar is one way to make sure your intellectual property is safe as they have to adhere to UK law.

We recommend: Heart Internet, 123Reg, Fasthosts, EvoHosting and UnitedHosting. Or we can register your domain name for you and keep it in your control and in your name.

If you get someone to register your domain name for you make sure it’s in your name. If not you could lose control of your website and have difficulty getting control of your domain.

Domain suffixes

You’ve heard of .com and .co.uk, there are many more.

.net is supposed to be used for website companies.

.org and .org,uk are for non-profit organisations.

You can now get .uk (without the .co).

There lots of domain name suffixes available, here are just a few:

 

.app

.blog

.cloud.club

.company

.consulting

.cricket

.cymru

.design

.fashion

.fit

.party

.photography

.holiday

.hotel

.irish

.limited

.london

.ltd

.marketing

.online

.restaurant

.sale

.scot

.site

.shoes

.video

.wales

.website

.wedding

.wiki

The only downside to this is getting people to remember your unusual website address, so it may be worth getting a conventional one as well, just in case.

Having more than one domain name

If your company is growing and you work in a competitive industry, then buying all the variations of your domain name will prevent your competitors from doing so. But this can get expensive so if you’re on a budget then you can buy the main ones and the ones most likely to be bought by your competitors.

You can have as many domain names as you like and point or forward a domain to a website. This means that once you choose which domain you want as your main website address (mine is polyspiral.com), you can set it up so that when people type polyspiral.co.uk it will automatically go to polyspiral.com.

Email

Having a Hotmail, Yahoo or even Gmail address can look a lot less professional than a branded email like yourname@yourdomain.com. This isn’t difficult to set up which is why I’m so surprised when I see a non-branded email address on the sides of vans and on business cards.

Before getting your hosting sorted, find out how your email is going to work. How many email addresses do you need? Can your new website provider get you set up on this?

Spam

Choose your email addresses wisely: info@ and sales@ can attract spam as they’re common and therefore easy to guess. I don’t seem to get much spam to my info@ address; this might have something to do with the fact I use Gmail, and Google is pretty good at stopping spam if you report it.

Some people have hello@ or something else funky as an email address. You might want to have a personal email address abbie@ and a general address. Remember, if you’re setting up a new Facebook or LinkedIn profile, you need to use a personal email address, and your general email addresses won’t get you signed up to Mailchimp as they don’t like these addresses either, which is a negative or a positive depending on which way you see it.

 


Website hosting

As with domain names, make sure you get a reputable company where you have full control over your website content, files and access.

1and1, VistaPrint, Wix and Weebly have online website builders which make creating your own website easy. BUT BEWARE! You may not own your content, you certainly won’t be able to move your website from, for example, Wix to another website hosting company should you choose to go elsewhere for a better deal. Or, perish the thought, the website building company goes out of business and you will almost certainly have a label on your website somewhere saying ‘Made by VistaPrint’, which, for a business wanting to be taken seriously, doesn’t look that professional.

By far a better option, and at the very least, have a WordPress website which the hosting companies above can install for you. With a WordPress website, even if you've built it yourself with a free theme, it can be adapted specially for you with an original design by a professional at a later stage. This is a better investment than having to start again from a 1and1 website. WordPress, Drupal and Joomla websites can all be moved from between hosting companies if you need to. These open source CMSs can also be downloaded and backed up on any storage device.

Backups

When choosing a hosting company, make sure your site is backed up regularly and on more than one server.

If you are considering getting an online shop, this is a must. Be careful of companies like Shopify; I did some research for a client who was considering using them - they were very polite and answered all my questions. However, after talking to them I found out that they only use one server, they don’t have any backups, and you can’t download the website and move it.   

With our hosting your website is backed up daily, with 30 backups available retrospectively.

Security

Open source platforms like WordPress, Drupal will need to run regular security updates, even for non ecommerce sites. A compromised or hacked website can be made to send out masses of spam which can blacklist and thus bring down your email server. This means you won’t be able to access your website, let alone send emails. Or it can have information stolen from it and used - think TalkTalk in 2015, when it was defaced with inappropriate images and videos. Some hosting providers run these automatically.

There are two ways to run these on a WordPress website, automatic and manual. Occasionally, a security update for a plugin or the software release will conflict and sometimes break something on the website. If they are left to run automatically, you won’t know this has happened until either you or (in the worst case scenario) a customer does.

Or you may have a slideshow or contact form not working, which won’t make a good impression if you have a potential customer looking at your website.  

With our hosting and maintenance service, although we now set some plugins to update automatically, we run the less commonly used plugins manually and check for issues and fix if there is a problem. 

Memory

Like your computer processor memory, websites use up processing power too. With WordPress and Drupal, if there isn’t enough PHP memory your website will crash, bits won’t work, and errors will appear. 

So make sure your domain name is memorable and you own it outright, keep it short and simple.

Website hosting: make sure you get backups, good security and enough memory to run your website smoothly and securely

Alternatively... let us take care of it all.