Will's Web Primer

May 3, 2013 - The Three Dimensions of Web Sites

In order to have an effective Web site presence for your business, you need Internet access, domain name registration, and hosting. Email connected to your domain is highly recommended.

For specific companies that can provide the services below, please see my Hosting Recommendations.

#1 - Domain Name Registration

A domain name is the designation used to distinguish your Web site from others. A domain name usually consists of a name you select followed by a period and one of the "top level domains" (TLD). If your chosen name is "mycompany" and you've selected the TLD "biz," your domain name will be mycompany.biz.

Don't buy these things from the same company. Always use Three Sources!

Domain names are not owned but rather leased for a specific period of time. The lease arrangement is made through a company called a "domain name registrar."

You can obtain registration services from hundreds of different companies. This is because other companies act as agents for the accredited registrars. I recommend using one of the accredited registrars so that you never have to deal with more than one company when managing your domain. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) establishes the top level domains and accredits registrars. Look at its Web site for a list of accredited registrars.

The pricing for domain registration varies wildly; your own business judgment is your best guide. However, I recommend the maximum registration period of 10 years and a lock on domain transfer.

Your domain name is a business asset. It can be transferred and you can sell it. Therefore, be sure to designate your business entity as the "registrant." Most important, always make yourself the "administrative contact." Do not let someone outside your company assume this role.

#2 - Web Site Hosting

A Web site is nothing more than a collection of files, usually organized in folders (directories) just as files are organized on the hard disk of a personal computer.

In order for your Web site to be seen, its files must be located on a computer, a so-called "Web server," that is accessible to the public Internet. Such a computer is said to "host" your Web site and companies providing this service are called "hosting companies."

The two metrics that most affect the cost of hosting services are bandwidth and storage.

Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that is transferred to and from your site. When someone visits your site, the contents of the page they look at must be sent from the host server to the user's PC. That data is counted, byte by byte. You must be sure that the amount of bandwidth included in your hosting package is adequate for your needs. For most small companies, even the least expensive packages should provide more than adequate bandwidth.

Storage refers to the size of your site. The storage quota must be adequate to contain your site. Unless you have thousands of photographs, other large documents or video, even the smallest quotas will usually suffice.

Many hosting companies will bill you for surcharges if your site exceeds either or both of the bandwidth and storage quotas. The surcharges can often be quite expensive.

#3 - Internet Access

To access the Internet, your computer or office network must have a physical connection to the Internet. Today the connection is most commonly made by a high-speed connection from your local cable or telephone company. Dial-up and satellite services are available in more remote areas. Telephone companies may offer you T1 service, but it can be expensive. Some locales offer a Wide Area Network (WAN) option that uses the cellular network. With the advent of 4G and LTE, these services can often be fast enough.

For businesses, high-speed access is no longer optional - it's essential.

Business broadband services usually cost $60 to $110 per month. Cable and FIOS are the most expensive. If cable, DSL, or FIOS (Verizon's fiber optic system) services are not available in your area, other high-speed services (e.g., T1, aggregated DSL) may be available.

FIOS is the service I most often recommend.

Businesslike Email

Email is not really one of the legs of a Web site but I include it here because it is intimately connected with your domain name.

Internet access companies usually provide one or more email addresses as part of their access packages. For example, a Verizon customer might get an email address like jqpublic2395@verizon.net. Surprisingly, many small business owners with a Web site and therefore a domain name for their business continue to use the basic email address provided by their access company. Using their own domain is more professional, a better choice.

Because almost all Web site hosting packages include a large number of email accounts, it is a simple matter to create email addresses that directly reference your business, such as john@mycompany.biz. However, most hosting services do not provide what is necessary to access your email from multiple devices (PC, tablet, and phone) or they require additional fees to provide it or there are onerous limitations.

Therefore, I have begun to recommend a third-party email service that can use your domain name with the email addresses. For years I suggested Google Mail because a starter account was free, but once Google began charging across the board I switched my recommendation to Microsoft Exchange Online, a service of Office365. I now use this service and find it cost-effective, reliable, and recommended without qualification. Ask me for details.

If you already have a business-class Office365 plan, it includes the mail service.

No matter how you prefer to handle your personal or business email, I can help you configure your email system to provide individual email accounts for everyone in your business and to use the most appropriate email access method (Web-based or software) for your situation.

Use the suggestions and recommendations herein at your own risk. No warranty, implied or otherwise, is given.
Technology changes rapidly; information in this article could be outdated quickly.
Please consult Will with any questions.

Tags: Domains, Email, Hosting, Web

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