To setup a website there are two basic components that you need.
- A domain name, e.g. themevalet.com or bbc.co.uk
- And, somewhere for the actual website to ‘live’. This means, in the case of WordPress, somewhere where all the files (your logo, all the code for the website etc) and the database (all your articles, pages, user logins etc) that make up your site must be hosted.
It’s worth pointing out also that, although you may sometimes buy both of these services from the same company these are in fact two completely different things.
The domain name is just a record of that you own the domain name, mybusiness.com, which you can then do (pretty much) whatever you want with.
If part of your plans involve a website though you’ll need somewhere to actually host the website too. This is completely different to the domain name itself.
What about email?
Good question. If you want an email address associated with your business (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) you’ll need a third service – an email server – as well!
(Technically you could even just have a domain name and an email provider, i.e. no website(!), but we won’t get into that).
Why does this matter?
So now we’re looking at three basic building blocks for our website, but why does this actually matter for the average user?
- If one day you’re having an issue with any of the three (or need a third party to help you with them, like Theme Valet) it’s helpful to know where each service is hosted so you can quickly get the access or help you need.
- Now or in the future you might want to shop around for the best provider of each service – which might turn out to be a different provider for your domain, your web hosting and you email. Therefore just being aware that you have a choice and it might even be better to separate each service is useful to know!
So what approach should you take?
First of all, if you’re just starting out or maybe even testing an idea ‘7 Day Startup’ style, there’s nothing wrong with taking all of the three services from the same provider. In a lot of cases it’ll be cheaper as well.
If that’s your plan who should you go for?
Well the most popular option on the planet for that is probably GoDaddy, we generally prefer Siteground for an ‘all in one’ package but of course there’s a lot of other providers too.
Why would you use two or three different providers then?
- As your needs grow – or maybe right from the start – you’ll need different levels of service for each of these things For example, as your website gets more traffic you might decide you want a ‘managed’ WordPress website host (like WP Engine or Pagely) and these companies only offer web hosting, not domain names or email.
- If you want to get really ‘pro’ about all this, by spreading services around you reduce the risk of a single point of failure. For example, your web host goes down but your domain name host and email provider are still working so at least you can still email customers. Or, your email provider has some interruption but you can still update your website to keep people updated.
How does it work when two or three providers are involved?
If you’re wondering how all that can possibly work, it’s really just a one time change which can be done by yourself or anyone else with the right access.
The key is usually your domain name.
Usually wherever you registered your domain name you’ll have a set of nameservers too.
Now, don’t worry, if you don’t know what a nameserver is but just know that the nameserver tells website traffic and email traffic where to go.
So if your domain is registered with GoDaddy and you’re using their nameservers – you or someone acting on your behalf can tell the nameservers to point to Siteground for your website hosting and Google Apps for your email.
If later on you decide to move website hosting to WP Engine then the nameservers (still with GoDaddy) are just updated to point to WP Engine for web traffic instead. (Your email – still pointing at Google Apps is unaffected).
You could even get really complex with this stuff and have your domain registered with one company place pointing to nameservers (looked after by another company) which then point to a web host (another company) and an email provide (a fourth(!) company) but we won’t go there 🙂
What does Theme Valet do?
If you’re interested in how we approach this.
Currently we register all our domains with hover.com (we user their nameservers too). Our (WordPress) website hosting is with wpengine.com. (Our email is with Google Apps. Oh and our help desk is with Help Scout. So that’s four different companies just for the basics of our website and email!).
That’s not to say our way is the best way and any other way is wrong, it’s just what works for us today and I’m sure it will change in the future.
So right now there might be nothing fo you to do actually do with the information above but as a business owner just having awareness it will be useful to you some day I’m sure.
Or, if you’re talking to that technical guy or girl and they start throwing all these terms around you can come back to this page and be instantly enlightened!