We originally published this post in May 2016 under our former brand Laura Hunter Design. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the different roles in the world of website design, build, hosting and maintenance and hopefully this post makes things a little clearer.
If you have a a website it is always worth knowing a bit about how it works, because if it stops working would you know what to do?
If you don’t have a website, but are thinking about it, here is a quick guide to domain names, hosting, webmasters and why you should think about who will be looking after the security of your site.
Your website domain name (the URL or link you see in the address bar of your web browser) is not a one-off buy and you will need to renew the ‘hire’ of it every few years. To do this you need to go through a registrar. You can do this directly yourself, but then you need to remember to renew your registration, or you can leave it to your website development company to do it on your behalf.
If someone else has registered your domain name it is always worth checking that they have registered it in your name. There have been a number of occasions companies have come to us to update their website has been registered in someone else’s name. If you have a domain name and you are not sure if it has been registered correctly, you can check through nominet here.
Website hosting is like renting a room where your website can live on the internet. So of course, unless you are very lucky, the rent will not be for free. Like rent your hosting fee should be paid regularly to keep your website online. You can arrange hosting directly (just google website hosting to see the numerous companies where you can buy hosting space from) or via a reseller who will often package up hosting with other services such as website backups, virus scans and security updates. When buying ‘hosting’ always make sure you know who you would go to if the website went down and whether back ups of your website are made. It may look an attractive option to go directly to a web host to buy your hosting, but would you know what to do if your website was hacked or went down?
So your website is up and running, why does it need maintenance? A website is a bit like a car which needs regular servicing! If you just leave your website it can become vulnerable to hackers. Regular security upgrades should be made to protect your site and regular backups ensure that you have a copy of your site, in the event that your site is hacked. Even with tight security websites can still be hacked, but as long as backups are taken a site can be recovered. Some people think backups are unnecessary – that is, until they lose something important to them.
Webmaster is the term used to refer to the person or team maintains the content of the website. This could be you, the owner of the site, or you may choose to leave this to a website developer, who will ensure that all changes are in line with the original design.
The webmaster can be someone completely different to the web host, as they are two distinct roles, and should ideally be someone who is experienced in writing content optimised for search engines. Remember a website is never ‘finished’ needs to be kept up to date and relevant.
If you have any concerns about your website, we are happy to give you site a free basic website health check or advice on the best hosting and maintenance package to suit your needs.