How your website is wired into the internet is not a subject most people lose sleep about – until it needs to be changed. Below is a short explanation of how hosting and registration fit together. We also throw in some handy tips for making it easier when you come to change.
This is the easy bit. Website hosting buys you the space on a server attached to the internet. You may have purchased your hosting package, or it could have been done for you. You or your web site buider may be responsible for keeping the software up to date (using the tools provided) or it may be part of the hosting package.
All the big providers throw in email mailboxes with their packages. The limiting factor here is likely to be space. Unless your email traffic is limited and relatively image free, mailboxes can get big quite quickly. We would recommend that you have a proper business email based on your website domain, and this is a simple way to do it.
Domains bring us to the second part of the picture:
Your website has to have a name (nepeta.co.uk in our case) and the name needs to be unique. Although most people purchase their domain from their website hosting company, the two are entirely separate. The company is acting as a registrar: selling available domain names and managing their ownership.
Please make sure that your domain is registered in your business name. If it is not, there is a risk that you may lose control if you have a dispute. You can check the “Whois” record for the site (Google “whois” to find a website to do it) to see the information that is held for any domain. Note that you can pay to hide this information for a .com domain. You do have to supply the correct information to the registrar. IF this has been done on your behalf, ask the question!
Although you may start off with the same company acting as both host and registrar, you can change this at any time: moving hosting, registration or both. This brings us to the vital link that ensures that people can reach your site:
Nameservers: the glue that brings it together
The registration record for your domain includes the names of at least two nameservers (in case one goes wrong!). When someone types your domain into a browser, one of the nameservers will resolve this into the location of your website. Your web server can then send the information to you.
You will normally use either the nameservers provided by your registrar or your hosting company. If you change your hosting, you can either change the nameservers, or change individual records to point to the new hosts. The nameservers also control the routing of your business email.
The flexibility of the nameserver system makes it easy to change your hosting (or your registrar). Just make sure you keep control of your domain!