Web sites must be hosted on a computer that is connected to the Internet. Domains, the alphanumeric names given to Web sites, must be registered and assigned to the site. Otherwise, it we be much more difficult to locate Web sites and practically impossible to address e-mail messages.
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Who Manages Domains?
A domain is managed by a registrar, such as GoDaddy.com or Network Solutions. Annual registration fees for .com domains typically range from $6.95 to $25. The registration cost varies, based on registrar’s desired profit margin; however, the higher-priced registrations usually include a private data record, which hides the registrant’s contact information and reduces the opportunity for spammers to collect the data.
Who Hosts Websites?
Small and medium-sized businesses contract their Web hosting services to a provider (such as my company). The hosting company is responsible to provide storage space for the Web site’s files as well as e-mail services. Services for site hosting and e-mail range from $5 to $500 per month; however, in the ranges below $25 per month, the service will likely be unreliable, as the hosting company has a business model built on high volume, and the company is willing to accept consumer accounts. In the range of $25 and up, the hosting company probably serves only business clients, and is willing to invest the effort and equipment to ensure that fail-over systems (live backup servers) are available, so any given Web site or e-mail account will not go offline during routine maintenance or an individual server’s failure.
How Does E-mail Work?
Incoming e-mail messages to a specific domain, such as firstname.lastname@example.org–is received by the Web host’s e-mail server. From there the incoming message may take one of three paths:
- Individual messages may be filtered transferred to a specific e-mail account on the host’s server.
- Individual messages may be filtered and transferred to a specific e-mail account on another host’s server (i.e. gmail.com, yahoo.com, hotmail.com).
- All messages may be transferred to another e-mail server (i.e. a corporate Microsoft Exchange server). This option is controlled through the use of an MX record, which automatically forwards all incoming messages to another e-mail server.
Who Routes Outgoing E-mail?
Outgoing e-mail messages may be handled by either the user’s ISP (the company providing Internet connectivity) or the hosting company that handles the Web and incoming e-mail traffic. There are pros and cons to both alternatives; however, I usually recommend to my clients to use my SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) server for their outgoing e-mail messages, as does not require any software modifications when notebook computers are moved from one ISP to another (as happens when one uses multiple public Wi-Fi hotspots). If a corporate users transmits e-mail through a Microsoft Exchange server, this user will likely have to reconfigure his or her notebook computer, when traveling, unless the corporation has also included access to the Microsoft Exchange server through a VPN (Virtual Private Network). This is common, but it adds a level of technical overhead that can reduce performance.
What about a Virtual Private Network?
Both in my office and when I travel, I send e-mail through either my corporate or personal Web sites (or the UOP e-mail servers). I use my VPN access solely to access files on my network file servers. BTW, I use the Hamachi VPN software, because it offers the highest available security through digital encryption, and it works with all Wi-Fi hotspots, including those at UOP onground campuses.
While I will hold e-mail messages for my clients, if they do not have a Microsoft Exchange server, it is a big responsibility, and I have invested many hundreds of hours each year and wheelbarrows of money to make sure my e-mail servers have redundant systems and at least three OC-3 telecommunication lines. It is by not means a cheap proposition to host e-mail accounts. Most companies can accept that their Web site is offline for maintenance, but if the e-mail is disrupted…I cannot imagine what would happen! 😉