Untangling the domain and hosting web

Dear Doctor Digital, I want to set up a website, I thought it would be simple, but I’m super confused by how to get a domain, and email and what the DNS is – lil help please!

Doctor Digital Says

Ah yes, it can be a tangled web that initial foray into grabbing ones footprint on the interwebs. Let’s break it down with a simple analogy to make it seem less daunting. The first step is to get your domain name registered. Image this as a digital title deed. You aren’t purchasing the name as much as you are leasing it for a set period of time, and it entitles you to use that name to stake a claim over a space on the internet.

For the sake of this blog, let’s call your business Hobart Cat Sitters. First, you would check to see if it’s available and work out a few variations of this incase it’s not available, and whether you want a .com.au or just a .com or both. Tips are to keep your domain name short, and check it isn’t already in use – you can do this by searching www.whois.com If you want to register a .com.au name you will need to have your Australian Business Number handy. If the option is there to purchase email as well, especially if it is using Google or Microsoft, grab it, as you then have all your needs met in the one place and the set-up is much simpler.

Once your domain is registered and paid for, you need to sort out a host. If the domain is your title deed to your online space, the hosting is the rent you pay to use it. Many template websites like Weebly, Wix and Squarespace all enable purchase of domains, web hosting and email set up as a one stop shop for small business. If you don’t need a wildly complex website built, and were going to do it yourself, this is a simple and convenient option with some ecommerce available. Hosting is a service with a fee attached, and some level of customer support. If you are a web newbie, then look for companies that offer quick support and are responsive.

As mentioned email is best when it comes with the name registration as a bundle, look for that option if you are setting up from scratch so everything can be integrated. Hosting web and email both have a fee attached which you can normally pay upfront for the year or monthly as part of a subscription. And what about that DNS you mentioned?

The Domain Name System (DNS) underpins the web, it works transparently in the background, converting human-readable website names into computer-readable numerical IP addresses. DNS does this by looking up that information on a system of linked DNS servers across the Internet. This is also true for an email address. When you press send on your email, your computer talks to DNS and asks “where is the computer that handles emails for [insert name of email recipient.]” DNS then tells your computer where it is. Your computer then sends that email to that computer. DNS is often also referred to as a ‘name server’, and you will need the DNS or name server details when you go to set up your website after purchasing your domain name.

Simples not simples, I know! Just make sure that when you purchase your domain name you keep the emails sent to confirm your ownership somewhere safe so you can find all the info you need when it comes time to set up your website and email. Want to do a deeper dive into the world of domains, website and emails? There is a factsheet for that, and you can find it here, [insert link to factsheet] along with lots of other awesome resources to help you get the best customer facing web presence to build your business.

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