Domains, DNS and hosting: what you need to know to keep control of your digital assets banner

Domains, DNS and hosting: what you need to know to keep control of your digital assets

Feb 26, 2024 Tech blog

What many people don’t know is there are three separate aspects to hosting a website on the Internet:

  • registering your domain name

  • the domain’s DNS

  • the website files

It’s important to understand the difference between these elements to ensure you keep in control of your digital assets and have the access you need when you need it.

What is a domain

The domain represents your identity on the internet … eg mybusinessname.com. In this example, the .com represents what is termed the Top Level Domain (TLD), you cannot make up your own TLD, but there are many to choose from on the Internet. Prominent ones commonly used in Australia are: .com, .com.au, .au, .net. A domain name is purchased through a domain registrar, which is a business that manages domains and assigns IP addresses to them. Some well known examples of domain registrars are GoDaddy, Crazy Domains. When buying a domain you do not gain ownership of it, but rather reserve it for a certain period of time - between one and ten years - during which time no-one else can have that name.

Therefore when you purchase a domain, you need to keep a record of where you purchased it and register it with an email address that you monitor regularly so that you receive renewal notices. When you purchase a domain with IT Basecamp we manage the registration process and renewals for you.

In Australia, any domain ending in .au is governed by auDA, the not-for-profit organisation established by the Australian Internet community. AuDA ensures that .au domains are only made available to recognised Australian businesses. This provides a level of trust that any domain you see ending in .au belongs to a legitimate business.

Once you have purchased a domain you can choose to do a number of things:

  • hold it but take no further action

  • host the domain with a hosting provider and use it to operate services such as email accounts and websites

  • host the domain with a hosting provider and load website files to create a website

What is DNS hosting

Everything on the Internet is located by numeric identifiers (IP addresses of systems/servers), but we humans all like to use common names to find things. What DNS, or Domain Name System, does is provide a means of translating the common names we use into the IP addresses used by the computers/servers that process our requests. It's essentially a map of names to resources. Once you have purchased a domain name, you have to host the domain DNS with a hosting company to be able to tell the Internet how to locate your services.

What is website hosting

Hosting a domain and hosting a website are two different things. Your website files - meaning your website content like articles, images, and videos - need to be stored on a server that the domain name points to. It’s up to you whether you want to manage your domain and your website through different providers or if you want to migrate them to one location, but what’s most important is that you know where your domain and your website files are hosted.

Protecting your brand

It is common for businesses to own multiple variations of their domain names, like .com, .au, and .com.au. But why would you want to pay for three different domains if you only need one website? The answer is simple: it’s an easy and effective way to protect your brand. If you own a domain, nobody else can use it. You are protected both from a competitor setting up a website on a close variation of your name possibly in the hopes of leveraging the strength of your reputation, and from cybercriminals impersonating your brand. Imagine if customers receive an email from yourbrand.au instead of yourbrand.com.au … how many will notice the sending domain is not actually from you? This allows criminals to potentially exploit your reputation and customer trust for their own gain. And if domain names representing your brand are left available for purchase, the technical requirements for doing this impersonation are readily available.

Once you own these spare domains you can choose to put them to work for you. You might implement a redirect, which leads individuals from one domain straight to the one that you want them to end up on. For example, you can redirect the .com and .au domains so that all users automatically end up on the .com.au domain where your website is hosted even if they’ve typed in the wrong variation into the browser.

You can also use them as aliases on your email accounts. Both Microsoft 365 and Google allow you to define ‘secondary domains’. It doesn't cost any extra in email subscriptions but, once set up as an alias, you can use either domain to give to people and you will still receive your emails within the one email account. For example, you could have admin@companyname.com.au as the primary email and info@companyname.au as an alias. Emails to both accounts would be received in the primary email account.

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