Every web presence has online assets attached to it. For organizational and security reasons, it’s important to know where your assets are located and how they are controlled. Too many times, individuals find themselves with no control over their domains and without any idea where their site and emails are hosted. We’ve provided this guide to help you understand where your domain, server, DNS, and hosting information can be found so you can meet with your host and developers armed with the right questions. This chain of command illustrates the most critical assets’ connectivity and levels of control.
Domain Registrar > Nameserver > DNS > HostingThe domain registrar dictates where the nameservers are located. The nameservers control all DNS. The DNS is critical to ensuring all hosting (emails/websites) functions properly.
An Overview of Your Online AssetsOnline assets include four key things: your domain registration, your nameserver, your DNS, and your website hosting.
Domain RegistrationThe domain is your address online—it tells people where to go and it tells the internet how to find your website. Your domain is also a reflection of your brand. Just as there are no two physical addresses that are identical, no two domains are exactly the same. Domains and addresses can be very similar. For example, you may see similar iterations of an address online like: mysite.com, my-site.com, mysite.ca, mysite.org—but these are not identical. Same as with an address—no matter what, the physical location is different, so the locating postal codes, cities, and countries will provide a unique address. When you purchase your domain, you are purchasing the right to use the domain name. Examples include mywebsite.com or websitedesignkingston.com. Without access to your domain, you can’t control other assets of the site. You can access a domain through someone else’s name (the host’s name), but this would look something like wix.com/mysite or shopify.com/mysitename. Emails are the perfect example of this relationship. Most people use or emails. This means that the emails are branded by Google and Hotmail, respectively. Alternatively, you can purchase a personal branded email such as . You can look more professional and access more customization with branded emails. Because you are renting a domain name, you must pay the domain annually. If you fail to renew your domain and payment lapses, this can pose a huge issue. Essentially, someone else could purchase the domain name from underneath you and you would lose access to your domain name. Available domain names can be found and registered through registrars like GoDaddy or Rebel and are required to direct people to your website. This happens using DNS.
Nameservers (or Domain Control)Think of the nameserver or domain control as your online navigator. Domain control is a server that responds to authentication requests sent by your DNS. Typically, your nameserver is in the same place where you have registered your domain but that is not always the case. Nameservers can be reassigned to whichever server you would like to have control of your domain’s DNS. For example, your nameserver could be controlled at Shopify or Squarespace, or more likely, by your website host. Should your domain control be somewhere you do not want it to be, you can change the nameserver and take over control as long as you have your domain registrar login. But if you do make this change, be careful! One wrong line of DNS can take your whole site offline. Nameservers look like this: ns1.domaincontrol.com, rita.ns.cloudflare.co, ns1.ygkweb.ca.
DNS (Domain Name Service)Next is your DNS, or Domain Name Service, which is your online roadmap. This is an online address connection point that points your domain to your hosting location. Without a DNS connection, or with the wrong DNS values, your online assets (a.k.a., your website or email) may stop functioning properly. Correct DNS points your website to its hosting location and ensures your branded emails work properly (). It also controls the critical authentication needed for email-sending validation and Google account validation. If you were looking to change your email provider or launch a new website, it is impossible to do without DNS, and modifying the DNS is impossible without identifying the correct Nameserver.
HostingHosting is your home on the internet. This can be for your website, emails, and other web applications. Hosting is the primary back-end for having a website. Think of it as a digital space to rent. All elements of your website depend on a healthy and secure hosting environment. Without this environment, your website might shut down, load slowly, or break. Just like our homes, online hosting environments have limitations. There are usually disk space limitations and bandwidth limitations. For instance, some websites can only load at certain speeds. This is because the host bandwidth is limited. Hosting limitations may have a very high upper threshold but they still exist. So if you hear of a host claiming unlimited disk space and bandwidth, it is simply not accurate. There are always limits. Consider our use of the home as an example. If 1,000 homes are stuffed into the same neighbourhood, and one home decides to be 10x the size of the others, all of those homes are going to be impacted (and damaged). Think of the hosting environment like a neighbourhood where multiple websites live. There is allotted space for every site to operate efficiently. This is why hosting fees are annual. It allows you to choose a home that is secured, protected, and serviced regularly so it does not fall apart. Emails also require a host. Essentially, what you need is a sending service, validation, and inbox storage.
Final Thoughts On Your Web AssetsHopefully, you have a better understanding of your online assets. With this information, you can be more prepared when connecting with your web hosting team. The intent of this article was to provide insight and empower business owners to ask for more information about where your domain is hosted, where your nameservers are, and who has access to your DNS.
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