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Hosting & Domains - What You Need To Know

Get the lowdown on web domains and hosting, from email hosting services, to DNS and what it stands for, we've answered all your queries - have a read!

It’s a complex subject, and we’re constantly inundated with queries about it, so we thought we’d give you the lowdown on hosting and domains - ‘cause we’re nice like that.

The various types of Hosting

Here at Selesti, we offer three different types of hosting:
DNS hosting - where DNS entries are hosted for a domain
Web hosting - where the web files and site database is hosted for a domain and any of its child domains too
Email hosting - where email accounts are hosted for a specific domain

What is DNS Hosting and Management?

Let’s start with DNS hosting.

For those that aren’t au fais with the various terms in hosting, let’s start with the question ‘what is DNS?’ Well, an acronym for Domain Name System (or service/server, helpfully), DNS is the service that translates domain names (like selesti.com for example!) into a dedicated IP address (80.244.178.15).

The records for a DNS are stored on a name server, which in our case is ns0.selesti.com. This controls the DNS for a number of domains, and effectively enables you to decide which company controls where your web files and emails are hosted - obviously we like to keep this in house! And to allow for any redundancy, you would generally have a primary and secondary name server for each domain.

There are a wide variety of DNS record types, so get ready for more acronyms!

  1. A Records - An A, or address, record links a domain to the physical IP address (like selesti.com and 80.244.178.15). If you also hear reference to a ‘host record’, then this is what you need to look at.
  2. MX Record - the Mail Exchange (see what they’ve done there - xtremely clever) record delivers emails for a domain to the servers that host the users email accounts. It is possible to set a number of MX records per domain and each of these would have a different priority / preference. Mail is delivered to the mail exchange server with the lowest priority / preference number so the MX record you use for mail routing should have the lowest preference number, typically 0. For example, an MX record with a priority of 0 would be used before an MX record with a priority of 10. Capiche?
  3. TXT Record - A TXT record is a DNS record that provides text information to sources outside the domain, that can be used for a number range of things. The record's value can be either human-readable or machine-readable text. TXT records can also be used to verify domain ownership and to implement email security measures such as Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC).
  4. CName Record - A CNAME or Canonical Name record links an alias name to another true or canonical domain name. For instance, www.example.com might link to example.com

These are the ‘top 4’ DNS records, but if you’re that way inclined you can have a look at the full list on this Wikipedia page!

What is TTL?

Sadly, it’s not something as fun as ‘Totally Terrifying Lizards’ or ‘Tiny Tearable Labels’ - instead TTL means ‘Time To Live’.

TTL is the value in a DNS record which determines the number of seconds before any subsequent changes will take effect. Now for some maths, as it’s measured in seconds, a TTL of 86400 will mean that any changes will take 24 hours to be fully implemented.

Want to find out the TTL for a site? There are a number of ways to do this, but perhaps the easiest way is to use a third party site like http://who.is/dns. Using Selesti as an example we can look at http://who.is/dns/selesti.com, and see that all changes have a TTL of five minutes.

The simplest way to explain TTL is like a cache, as once the TTL has expired all new data/changes will come into effect, removing the older version.

Web Hosting

Web hosting is the service which allows files and databases to be stored on a server and accessed through the internet - i.e. the website itself.

There are two main areas that need to be taken into consideration with web hosting:

Files - the types of files and the size of them will affect the cost of any hosting, as with any other service; if you want more it’s going to cost more!
Database - how much data do you want to store in the database? This needs to be considered again for size and cost reasons

You may often find that those hosting multiple sites do not allow you FTP access to the server on which they are hosted, just like us. This is for security reasons, not because we expect people to hack in to other sites on the server necessarily, but in case their data is compromised. It’s also a developers worst nightmare when changes are made to a site without any version controls!

Email Hosting

Simply put, an email hosting service is an internet hosting service which operates email servers. This often comes at a cost for premium email service, although there are free options, such as webmail sites, which are supported by advertisements on the page. These are ideal for Small and Medium Size (SME) businesses.

Email hosting services are best for larger enterprises, and are generally run on their own equipment, and use software such as Postfix and Microsoft Exchange; technological offerings of different providers can vary, allowing choice dependant on the needs of the business. Most email hosting providers offer advanced premium email solutions hosted on dedicated custom email platforms.

Email offered by most webhosting companies is usually more basic standardised POP3 based email, and almost all webhosting providers offer standard email hosting.

Domains

There are a range of steps that you have to take when creating a website, one of which being selecting a domain! After all, you want to make sure that it’s relevant to you or your business, not just for SEO reasons but also to make it easy for people to find you directly.

What is a domain?

As we’ve seen above the DNS points domains to a specific IP address on which a website is hosted. The domain is the unique address which identifies the internet resource as a website, like a postal address - and it’s much easier than saying “want a website from Selesti? Go to 80.244.178.15!”

Registering a domain

This is done through a domain registrar funnily enough, such as 123reg or GoDaddy. On these sites you can check whether the domain is available through a search, and purchase the domain licence for a period of time - you will need to renew periodically to ensure you don’t suddenly lose your unique domain!
We hope that this has helped you to understand a bit more about hosting and domains! Whilst it’s something our development team work with every day, it can easily become a mess of acronyms and IP addresses. So if you want to learn more, or just want someone to sort it along with a swanky new website, give us a shout!