A question I am asked often to explain is “how does the web stuff work for my agency?” By web stuff I mean your domain name, email, and website hosting. Some agency principals understand and control this, while others leave this to 3rd parties or their staff. It’s not exciting stuff but is very important for any agency as it controls their online presence. Also, if it is broken down and explain correctly (something I attempt to do below) then it’s also relatively easy to understand.
Let’s start with your domain name or website url. This is what users type into a web browser to find your website. Domain names can be purchased through a Domain Name Registrar. This is an accredited company that manages the reservation of internet domain names. There are thousands offering their services across the internet and you need to be careful to choose a reputable registrar. A few popular ones in Australia are Netregistry, Melbourne IT, Crazy Domains, Cheap Domains and Aust Domains.
Domains can be purchased for various prices so make sure you shop around for the cheapest option while the period purchased usually varies from 1 to 2 years for a .com or 2 years for a .com.au. Be very careful when registering domain names, as these companies will always try and up-sell this product and add in web hosting, email hosting, email marketing, DNS Hosting and even a website. Do not purchase these ad-ons now, as they can be purchased at anytime and more often then not, you will not require these services as they will provided by specific companies in the real estate industry.
Once you have purchased a domain you then have control of where that domain name is to point. The Domain Name System (or DNS) is basically a phone book that allows domain names you type into a web browser to reach web servers (where a website or email is located) via IP addresses.
For your email and website to work for your domain name, you are required to adjust the DNS for your domain to the servers which serve your email and website. Although your email and website can be served from the same web server, this often does not happen. The reason being, that if that server goes offline then both your website and emails will be down. Also, you often find that email is best managed by your IT (hardware) consultant or a specialist email management company. While your website is hosted by your web development company on their own server.
To adjust the DNS, you first need to set the name server records for your domain to point at a DNS name server host. This DNS host could be your domain registrar eg Netregistry, your web development company or an email management company. As a web developer, we encourage our clients to point their nameservers to the Agentpoint DNS name server which are ns1.agentpoint.com.au and ns2.agentpoint.com.au. We do this because if we ever upgrade our web servers we do not need to contact 3rd parties to have the DNS changed. Once we have control of your domain name we can then set the IP addresses which connect your domain to your email and web servers by creating A records (Address Records) and MX Records (Mail Exchanger Records). The A Records (root and www) will point at your website server while your MX records will point at your email provider server.
When you delegate new name servers or new DNS records for your domain name, these can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 48 hours to propagate. Propagation can depend on the Internet Service Provider (ISP) which a user is calling your website from and how often they clear their DNS caches. Sometimes we have situations where a client’s new website has been launched and is visible to our staff and also by the client at home, but in their office they still see their old website. This is usually because of an internal network their IT consultant has setup for their office and a sticky DNS cache that simply needs refreshing.
So as you can see, there are three specific areas to consider with your “web stuff” that include Domain name purchase and management, website hosting and email hosting.