Domains, DNS, Hosting, Oh my!

This is in no way to be an exhaustive review of DNS, but more of a basic guideline for messing with your domain. In general, this is a scary place to mess around if you’re not super comfortable. My main piece of advice is to enlist the help of your local, friendly web-nerd and let them make any changes. If they are an educational sort, they may even show you what they are doing to help you out next time.

Domain Registration – This is the base level of domain stuff. This ONLY means that you own the domain. If I register “JasonIsCool.com”, nobody else can register that domain.
Beyond this, it literally means nothing. There is nothing tied to this domain (website, email, etc.) all that we are talking about here is the ownership of this specific string of text characters.

Typically folks are registered at GoDaddy (they have done the most marketing, right?). It 100% does not matter where they want to host their website or how they want to manage their email service. Domain Registration is only the domain ownership. No more.

Name Servers / DNS – These are all the records that direct all of the Internet traffic to the correct locations for any and all services attached to the domain. Typically these are “IP Addresses”, which are the electronic mailing addresses for the servers where those things are located.

Website? – sure… go to this IP address.

Email address? – sure… go to this entirely different IP address.

FTP/SFTP? – sure… go to this other different IP address.

It’s important to note that you can have your domain REGISTERED at one location, but host the Name Servers / DNS at a different location.

For example, you can use GoDaddy ONLY for your domain registration, but have all of your DNS controlled by SiteGround. Those two things do not have to be at the same place (and best practices recommend that they are not).

Website Hosting – This is where the files and database for the website are stored. We use WPEngine as one option and SiteGround as a second option. There are hundreds of web hosting services out there. Most are garbage. 🙂  It’s also important to understand what specific hosting companies offer. For example, WP Engine ONLY offers hosting. No domain registration, no DNS, no Email, etc. SiteGround offers ALL of those services.
In the SiteGround example, you can REGISTER your domain name. Manage your DNS. HOST your website and HOST your email. All at the same service provider. Neato.

Email Hosting –  This is the service that handles the sending and receiving of the email associated with your domain name. Oftentimes, people will use an “Email Client” that connects to the email service and allows the user to send/receive email. Outlook and Thunderbird are two of the more common email clients. 90% of the time when I ask a client what they are using for Email, they tell me “Outlook”. Outlook is the piece of software they are using to connect to their email SERVICE. That service could be their web hosting server, Gmail, Office 365 or Hover. It is NOT their email service provider.

***  We always recommend Gmail, Office 365, or Hover for email services. We 100% strongly discourage clients from using their hosting provider for their email. As I indicated in that blog post I wrote about Spam, problems with emails getting trapped in spam filters are exacerbated greatly when you use your web hosting provider as your email service. It’s literally never a good idea.

Lastly, regarding email… This is always the most problematic of services to move to a new host. Clients often have hundreds or thousands of emails left on the server. We should always have a conversation about this before TOUCHING anything related to the domain or the DNS.