The dummies guide to websites

General Digital

The dummies guide to websites

A website isn’t just a website, it’s a many tentacled beast and if you want to tame the leviathan then having a bit of knowledge up front can go a long way to avoiding the pitfalls, making the whole process much more pleasurable and successful.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explain in simple terms what each of the main elements are to owning and producing a website and which are key to surviving the fastest growing industry in the world.

We start with domain names and server types.

Domain Name

The domain name is THE most important element, it is the device with which the whole world can access your information. Yes the site sits on a server (which I’ll talk about next) but that’s no good if there isn’t an address for the user to get to it from.

When you pick a website, you can get your agency to buy it for you or you can do it yourself, this sometimes depends on access (in the public sector realm, access is much more restricted) and it can also depend on the individuals knowledge. It can seem a very intimidating area to step into, especially when terms such as DNS, MX records, IP address are bandied around.

I’ll explain what each of these are later on, but the key to remember with any domain name purchase is make sure it is registered in your name and if you are using an agency, have them listed as the technical contact. Ideally if you have created an account yourself you can just give the agency access to the login to change any specifics, then if further down the line you decide to stop using that agency, all that’s required is you to change your password.

Rather than what we have encountered on many occasions, the agency not liking the fact that they are about to lose a client, suddenly drag their feet and make the process become very procrastinated.

What if I’ve never bought a domain before! Where do I begin?

There are lots of sites out there which allow you to purchase domain names, some provide good service but are very difficult to navigate and some are cheaper than others, but this difference is normally very small, especially when you consider for example .org.uk domain name only costs £6.98 for 2 years.

Without advocating one company over another all I can say is we use www.123-reg.co.uk and have found the design, cost and support to be excellent. If you don’t have much technical knowledge then this would be a good choice as everything is very easy to find, making it very user friendly.

Servers - What is a server?

Well in a nutshell it’s a box where all the things that make a website work lives, just as your home computer stores files and allows you to view them, a server stores the files that make up your website. Without a server no webpage can be served to the world wide web. So yes they are essential, if you are producing a website you’ll need one.

Now there are lots of different servers, there are cloud servers, shared servers, dedicated servers. So what’s the difference:

Cloud Servers

In some respects cloud servers work in the same way as physical servers but the functions they provide can be very different. When opting for cloud hosting, clients are renting virtual server space rather than renting or purchasing physical servers. They are often paid for by the hour depending on the capacity required at any particular time.

Shared Servers

Shared hosting is the cheaper option whereby servers are shared between the hosting provider’s clients. One client’s website will be hosted on the same server as websites belonging to other clients. This has several disadvantages including the fact that the setup is often inflexible and cannot cope with a large amount of traffic, on the other hand for small sites this is a cheap option.

Dedicated Servers

Dedicated hosting is a much more advanced form of hosting, whereby clients purchase whole physical servers. This means that the entire server is dedicated to them with no other clients sharing it. In some instances the client may utilise multiple servers which are all dedicated to their use. Dedicated servers allow for full control over hosting including the installation of custom software.

Conclusion

So you can see just the first two area are vitally important, cheap doesn't always equal good and if no one can access your website, whether that be through a fault with your domain name or with the server hosting the site, then all your efforts are for nothing.

Understanding your business and it's digital requirements is key and then finding an agency that can help you through the steps is the next key. Never be afraid to ask questions of an agency and if you feel confused after their explanation, ask them again, if they can't explain it clearly, then walk away.

Next time we'll look at email provision for small businesses and explain what a CMS (Content Management System) is and how to pick the right one for you.

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