Setting up Email and Web Hosting for a New Small Business

Are you setting up a business and need to know how to set up email and web hosting? ¬†Are you confused about terms like domain name and DNS records? This article is the first of a series that will guide you through the process of setting up email and web hosting as well as explain terms you’re likely to encounter along the way. This article gives you an overview of the entire process and defines important terms. Each of these steps will be explored in detail in future articles in this series. Here’s the overview:

  1. Select a domain name and register it with a domain name registrar.
  2. Select a company which provides email and web hosting and sign-up for service.
  3. Configure your computers and smartphone, if you have one, to access your email account.
  4. Build a web site and place it on your hosting company’s web server.

Sounds pretty easy doesn’t it? It can be easy, but it can also be confusing. There are a lot of choices to be made and you’ll encounter a lot of jargon along the way. Let’s explore some of these terms.

Domain Name

Even if you’re not familiar with the term “domain name” you know what they are. Examples are apple.com, ford.com, comcast.net and soundsupport.biz

To over-simplify slightly, a domain name is a human-memorable name assigned to an individual computer or a network of computers. Thus, it makes it easier for a person to remember your email address or web site name.

Domain Registrar

A domain registrar is a company that will help you register a domain name. One pays an annual fee to register (own) a domain name. It’s common to register a domain name for several years at a time or have your registration set to automatically renew every year. Make sure you don’t accidentally let your domain name registration expire or else your email could suddenly stop working and your web site would no longer be visible. GoDaddy is a very well-known and now infamous domain registrar. Network Solutions is one of the oldest registrars.

There’s actually very little money to be made in being a domain registrar, so most companies that register domain name also offer email and web hosting services since they can make a bit more profit in that business.

While I understand the convenience of having your registration, email and web hosting all with one company, I prefer to keep them separate. I like to use one company as my registrar and a second company for my email and web hosting.

Hosting companies

A company that houses or stores your company’s web site and processes incoming and outgoing email messages is a hosting company. More specifically, they could be called a web and email hosting company. Obviously, one pays a monthly or annual fee for email and web hosting services. In order to get your email and web hosting set up and working, a hosting company will configure their name servers with DNS records for your company.

Name Server

A name server is a server which maintains authoritative records for your company’s domain name. Put more simply, a name server stores information about your company’s domain name. A name server then responds to requests from anybody trying to find your company’s web site or trying to send emails to your company. The information stored are called DNS records. DNS stands for Domain Name System. The Domain Name System is a hierarchical system for naming computers and for keeping track of and locating the millions of computers that are connected to the Internet.

DNS records

DNS records include information about the names and locations of your company’s servers, like a mail server or a web server. DNS records are stored on DNS servers. DNS servers are often described as the phone books of the Internet since they translate human-memorable server names like www.apple.com into IP addresses like 23.49.45.15. Another example is mail.apple.com might be translated to 17.171.2.21. Humans find it difficult to remember strings of digits like this and easier to remember names like www.apple.com. However, computers are just the opposite, so DNS servers play a critical role in making the Internet easier to work with.

If you use just one company as your domain registrar and as your hosting company, they’ll set up all of the DNS records on their name servers and you won’t have to deal with any of this. On the other hand, if you choose to use two or more companies for your domain registration and hosting, you’ll need to deal with some of these details. For example, if you register your domain name with one company then pick a separate company for your email and web hosting, you’ll need to list the hosting company’s name servers in your account at the domain registrar.

This concludes our introductory overview about what you need to know about setting up email and web hosting for a new company. The next article in this series will cover picking and registering a domain name.

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