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under constructionStarting something can be hard. It's even harder if you're not sure what questions to ask. When we do web redesigns, we encounter many businesses who struggle with understanding the basics of the property their website is built upon - domains, hosting, and security. If there's a web redesign in your future, here's a quick primer on these important concept, along with some questions to help make you better informed as you move through the process. Remember, these items are critical to your website's operations - they are pieces of information YOU should own (not your web designer!) and retain for your records! 

Domain Registration

A domain is another name for the www. address of your website. It's what people type into browsers to find your company, and it's what the search engines use to connect them to your page. 

Domains can be registered with a number of registrars - Namehost and GoDaddy are two of the best known, but there are LOTS out there. You pay a registrar to "rent" your website's domain (think about it as it's "name"). And you have to keep your registration current, or the registrar can "rent" that name to another entity. Domain registrations are usually renewed yearly, but some registrars allow longer-term registrations, like 3 or 5 years. 

Typically domains are registered with the same company that hosts your website (more on that in a minute), but that isn't always the case. Most good web developers will try to set up everything with ONE provider, so if issues arise, you're only dealing with ONE company instead of several. This is also helpful in streamlining payment notifications and making sure your website bills (registration, security, hosting, etc) all go to the same place. At GYRE, we always recommend this route - it saves time and sanity, and is much easier for customer service and troubleshooting should it be needed.

Domain questions: When is my domain registration due? What renewal cycle is it on (1 year, 3 year, five year)? What registrar is it registered through? Is the registrar the same as the host?

Hosting

If domains are the "rent" for your address, then hosting is the space needed for the site itself. Sometimes it helps to think of a domain as a physical address, and the hosting as the house at that address - you pay property taxes on the address each year, and you mortgage the space (house) from the bank.

Like a house, hosting gives you space for storing the "stuff" on your website - the text, the pictures, the forms, the links, etc. You want to make sure you have enough space for all the options you want your website to have, and also a little room to grow. However adding hosting space is typically pretty easy - usually a quick call to your hosting service is all it takes.

However, all hosting is NOT created equal. In most cases, a big-name host (like GoDaddy) gives you access to faster servers and lots of redundancy, which can be lacking in smaller hosts. Faster servers mean your site loads faster for viewers (and updates show up quicker), and redundancy means you don't ever encounter that awkward "404 error - site not found." Smaller hosts, while sometimes cheaper, don't always want to pay for those investments in servers, which is why we recommend bigger hosts.

Hosting questions: What does my hosting cost? Is is billed monthly, or annually? If it's billed monthly, is there an option for billing annually (this usually gives you a % savings on the monthly billing)? If it's billed annually, when does it renew? Who is my hosting through? If it's a local company, where are they located? How much hosting space does my contract allow? 

Security

For ecommerce sites (a website where you will be selling items or taking payments), security is important. But even if the only "transaction" that happens on a website is when a customer or potential customer fills out a web form, you as the owner of the site want their information to be safe. Hence, security.

The main form of website security is called secure sockets layer or SSL. It's pretty involved, but basically it makes it secure for a customer's web browser to transmit their personal information to your website. You know a site has SSL protection if you see a https ahead of their domain URL, or if your browser shows a "Secure" or lock image.

SSL is typically purchased from a web host as part of a hosting plan. 

Security questions: Does my hosting package include SSL protections? If not, where is the SSL protection coming from? If so, what does the SSL portion of my web hosting package cost? Is that billed annually or monthly? When does my SSL protection expire?

Having a good working knowledge of these terms, and the role they play in making your website work, are important for any business owner. If you have questions, or want to move ahead on a website redesign, contact GYRE Marketing today!