Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Webinar #11 – Mastering Your Own Domain

This recent Ask Leo! webinar
covered a topic that I’m asked about frequently. Building on a live presentation
I did a couple of months earlier, I walk through the process of:

  • Coming up with an available domain name
  • Registering a domain name
  • Signing up for shared hosting
  • Connecting the registered domain to the hosting server
  • Setting up WordPress
  • Setting up email accounts and forwards
  • Answering attendee questions

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!


View in
HD (1280×720)

Transcript

Welcome to webinar #11, ‘Mastering Your Own Domain’. What I want to cover
today is basically the process of registering a domain name like ask-leo.com or
notenboom.org or Microsoft.com or setting up some hosting for it. Maybe
connecting some email up to it; basically understanding how those pieces all
fit together. What I’m going to start with is actually something that is a step
in front of that process. I’m not sure if this will take the entire hour or
not. This is actually built off of a presentation I gave live to a conference a
couple of months ago.

I actually did everything you’re about to see here in about 35 minutes so
I’m certainly going to be open to questions as we go throughout, but if we don’t
fill up the entire hour, actually that’s going to be OK because normally, we
take these webinars and cut these into segments. I’m not convinced that this is
a webinar that’s going to make a lot of sense as a bunch of segments. So if it
turns out to be less than an hour that’s OK for the people who are going to
come along behind and view this thing online.

So with all of that out of the way…Master Your Own Domain! The place that
I want to start with is actually a service called Bustaname.com and in
fact, let me highlight the name of that. B-u-s-t-a-n-a-m-e is just a web
service. It’s the one site you can go to that will help you work through some of
the possibilities of finding a domain name that’s actually available. Now, I
actually have this live in this other window.

Here’s the concept behind the tool: we all know that good internet domain
names are things that are typically words or combinations of words that come
together and make sense for whatever topic you might want to be setting up a
website about. The way this works, I’m going to throw in a few words, ‘star
wars’, ‘trek’ and ‘duck’. So these are four words that might relate to a
website that I might want to put together.

What Bustaname’s doing is it’s actually going out and finding out which
combinations of those words are available in the .com domain and you can see
that right away trekduck.com is available. So if that, you know, rings your
bell, if that’s the thing you’re looking for, then you’re done. Scrolling down a
little bit, they have additional options to do things like use three-word
combinations. So now all of a sudden we end up with a list of additional domain
names that are all available.

They are all being sorted alphabetically, so right away we can see that
startrekduck.com is available so if that’s the kind of thing that you want to
go off to. The one that surprised me is, gosh, there was one available when I
ran through this this morning, that just surprised me, oh yeah,
startrekwars.com. There’s a domain that I would have expected would have been
picked up long ago.

So, the idea here is that and you can see here that you can actually search
the .net domains as well; you can have it include dashes, check with hyphens,
and you can see with all of these different options. Now all of a sudden based
on these four words that I’ve thrown in, there are all of these domain names
that are available, that you could (if it speaks to you, the domain name for
whatever you’re putting together) – you could then go out and purchase.

So this is a tool that I like to come back to from time to time when I’m
trying to come up with a domain to consider for a site or a project. Obviously,
if you’re looking for a domain name that’s based on your name, you can do the
same kind of a thing here. I could throw in ‘Leo’ and ‘Notenboom’ and see what
kind of options are available for me. Fortunately, the ones that I care about
that, I’ve already purchased.

But that’s the idea here. Just to get some ideas for what kinds of domain
names are available. It’s a place where I see a lot of people get stuck. So
having done that, you can buy the name through Bustaname if you want to and in
fact, it’s one of the ways that they support this free service. I’m actually
going to walk us through doing that separately. So here in this example, I used
the three word phrase ‘ask leo books’. You can see that there were a bunch of
different options that were available.

askbooksleo, askleobooks.com are all available. I decided to go with
askleobooks.com. So, my next step is to purchase the domain name. Now purchase
is a misnomer. What you’re really doing is renting or leasing the domain name
for a period of time. We’ve already seen that askleobooks is available. I come
here to my regular registrar. I use simpleurl.com. I’ve used them for many, many years. They
are not the cheapest. They are going to be a couple bucks more than some of the
other registrars that are out there.

But I have all of my domain names here so I continue to add names to it and
the reason I stay here is they have support. There is a person, George, I’ve
probably mentioned George before. If I have a problem, if I have a question, I
get a response from George; it’s great. They are actually a reseller for
another domain registry called enom and I use this as my example only.
Obviously, I trust, support, and recommend simpleurl, but if you would prefer to
go to a different registrar that’s fine too. Enom, GoDaddy, NetworkSolutions:
as we’ll see in a moment, there are many, many ways to actually purchase or
lease your domain name.

But I want to use this as an example as a standalone registrar that I’ve
been very happy with. So, we start with a search for askleobooks.com. We have
to do a search, even though we already know it’s available and you can see that
right away that simpleurl tells me that all the variations of askleobooks.com,
.net, .org, .info, etc are all available. In this case, while I’m really only
going to do is click on askleobooks.com and add that checked domain to my
order. Once you’ve placed your order, you then need to provide domain contact
information.

Now, I’ve blurred out a bunch of information here that’s because LastPass that
you can see at the top of my screen there, filled in a bunch of private
information: my name, my address, my phone number, and so forth. The problem is
you want to go in and change all of that information. When you register a
domain, you’re going to provide I think it’s four or five different sets of
contact information. Most frequently, they are exactly the same; all of them are
exactly the same.

But you have the option of having it be different. What’s important to
realize about that is that unless you take additional steps later, that
registration information is public. You can do a lookup on any of the domains
that I own and you will find the information that I’ve listed here. I’ll
describe why this matters and what you can do about it in a moment.

I’ve taken on specific approach here and I want to discuss that in a little
bit more detail in a moment. So, you’ll have to fill out this information about
contact information for this domain. You will then choose how long you want to
register it. I register new domains for at least three years. My reasoning has
to do with Search Engine Optimization. You may not care about this, but I do. It
is my belief that if you register a domain for the minimum term which is
typically one year, then the search engines (mostly Google) don’t give it quite
as much authority, or relevance, or weight as if you were to register it for
something longer.

I default all of my purchases for three years; I buy it for three years. For
domains, I know I’m going to have, as far as I know, forever. Then I will go
for whatever the registrar’s maximum term is and recently, I think it was last
year, I ended up extending the registration on ask-leo.com for a full 10 years;
the maximum that they allowed me; notenboom.org, a full 10 years. I mean that’s
the, I’m gonna own that domain until I die.

So, pick a term that makes sense for you. If you’re just dipping your toes
in the water, you’re just trying to try things out, you don’t really care about
search engines and that kind of stuff, go ahead and do it for a year. In a year,
you’ll have an opportunity to renew and at that time, you can choose a longer
term if that makes sense for you.

I want to talk specifically about WhoIs protection which is what I was
alluding to earlier. Let me zoom in on this real quick. WhoIs protection is
basically a way of hiding that registration information that I showed you
earlier. Remember that I said that the registration information is public
information; anybody can go to any of several different web services and look
up the registration information for a domain and that registration information
will be presented.

There are two approaches: one is to pay a little extra for something called
WhoIs protection, which is what we’re looking at here at my options at
simpleurl. You end up paying a little extra for that; I think it ends up being
a couple bucks a year, and what they do instead of listing your contact
information, they list their contact information or the contact information of
a third party, an intermediary.

The deal is then that third party has your real contact information and when
contact is attempted, should it ever happen, then they forward the information,
they forward the contact with them on to you. Now this is important in both,
regardless of how you do registration information because if the contact
information is invalid (in other words, if you put in a bogus phone number, a
bogus address, or a bogus email address), you can actually lose the domain.

It is required that the domain contact information be a way of contacting
you. So that’s why if you’re not doing what I do (which I’ll describe in a
moment) and you want to make sure your information is not posted publicly, WhoIs
protection might be something you want to look into.

Now, I don’t use WhoIs protection; my approach has been slightly different.
I have a PO Box which then removes my mailing address, my home address form all
of this registration so it’s a PO Box in Woodinville. I’m not shy about saying
I’m in Woodinville. It’s a big enough city. So, PO Box 2841 is an acceptable
mailing address for domain registration.

The phone number that’s listed on domain registrations is not my home phone
number. It’s actually my Maxemail.com phone number which is my fax number which
takes voicemail that is then emailed to me. So it is a valid way of getting in
contact with me. It’s just not associated with my house; it’s not associated
with the telephone that I actually pick up.

So that’s the other approach to doing this. If you don’t want to go through
a WhoIs protection type service, you can look into creating information that
you feel comfortable having publicly posted. And, the bottom line is if you’re
comfortable having your home information or whatever your business information
is not uncommon… if this is a business, having your business information part
of the registration, on public record, then fine, you don’t need to worry
about this at all.

But particularly for people who are registering domains for the first time
who don’t realize necessarily what’s going to happen with this information they
are providing, this is something that I think is important to be aware of.

Now, domain email – domain forwarding, in this particular case. Different
registrars offer different service. In this one, what I believe they do is
after you’ve registered the domain, if you do nothing else, all email sent to
any email address on that domain can be forwarded to an email address that you
specify.

In many cases, that may be enough. If you’re attempting to purchase a domain
simply for email so that people can always know that this email address that
they have that is your domain will never change regardless of what email
service you happen to be using whether it be Gmail or Hotmail or whatever, then
email forwarding may be sufficient.

It may be enough to say, ‘You know what, when email comes into this domain
of mine, send it to my Hotmail account and I’ll deal with it there; send it
over to my Gmail account and I’ll deal with it there.’ Other registrars may go
so far as to provide specific email boxes, so that you can actually set up
specific email address on your new domain that will then forward to specific
email address, so this default that I use as a catch-all; any email address on
your domain will get forwarded to an email address that you specify.

The next level is to be able to specify specific email address on your
domain that then get forwarded to specific email addresses that you specify. In
the case of simpleurl, I believe that’s an extra cost fee.

Website. By default, when you sign up, when you purchase a domain, if people
go to that website, for your new domain, what they will land on is a parking
page. It’s a parking page that in this case says, “Hey, you just purchased a
website from simpleurl; the owner hasn’t set it up yet, but here it is.” So
there’s a website that’s kinda sorta hooked up.

Many registrars will also offer actual web hosting. In other words, you can
host your website with them. They’ll provide a place for you to put whatever it
is on your website. I’m going to separate that out here because I want it to be
clear, what parts of the process can be separated out or can often easily be
separated out. So in this particular case, after we purchase this domain, it’s
simply going to go to a parking page, until we do something else.

Naturally, we’re purchasing something here so here’s my summary from
simpleurl. In this particular case, I’m buying askleobooks.com. I’m buying it
for three years. It’s going to cost me $35. I’m not specifying where to forward
web traffic and I’m not specifying where to forward email because those are
things that we’re going to be handling here in a few minutes with some follow
along steps.

And, of course, they want your credit card information so that you can
actually pay for this and no, I’m not going to show you mine. Now, like I said,
this was done in real time originally. This in the case of some registrars, is
almost instantaneous. You make your payment; they verify the credit card and
you get your domain right away. Simpleurl- there’s actually like a three to twelve hour
lag between (they say it’s 3 to 12 hours. In my experience, it’s on the order of
20 minutes to maybe six hours) to actually process your purchase.

So, for the purpose of this example presentation, I have been purchasing
askelobooks for the duration of this example, what we’re going to be looking at
is askleopodcasts.com, which is a domain I purchased the day before I actually
did this presentation.

So now we own a domain. We’ll get a notification. Yep, here you go, you got
your email, you got your domain. It’s askleopodcast.com. It’s yours. You’re
ready to go. Well, you’re ready to go where? Now, we need to go and figure out
where that domain is going to live and by where it lives. I mean what server
will the domain’s website be hosted and what server will the domain’s email be
processed? If you don’t want to do it by whatever options that are offered
through the web registrar, what you’re looking for is hosting.

Now, I use and recommend BlueHost. There are a number of hosting services, like BlueHost.
There’s DreamHost, there’s Host Gator, there’s One and One; there’s a bunch of
different web hosting services and I’ll describe exactly what this means when I
say this kind of hosting. You’ll notice that when I took this screenshot, they
had discounted their $6.95/mo to $5.95/mo. In reality, as we’re recording this,
they’re down to $4.95/mo. So things have gotten pretty cheap.

To make a purchase with BlueHost, in our case, we’ve already purchased a
domain name which is we’re in the center under this part that says ‘I have a
domain name.’ I enter the domain that I already own, askleopodcast.com. Many of
the hosting companies, obviously BlueHost is one of them, will also act as a
registrar. They will also offer to actually allow you to purchase your domains
through them. If you feel comfortable doing so it’s a perfectly valid way to
purchase a domain name.

I definitely want to be clear here about what pieces of this puzzle don’t
need to be tied together. So we have a domain name so we’ll enter it in there,
askleopodcast.com. Click on Next. Once again, you’re asked for information. Now
this is your account information with the hosting company; this is not public
information.

Notice that they are also offering an upsell. And we’ll actually talk about
this several times. Simpleurl, one of the reasons why I like them is when we
purchased the domain, there were very few, very low key upsells; things that
might actually make sense if you wanted them, but they’re not in your face about
them. They’re not throwing things at you that you don’t need.

Many other registrars are very aggressive in what they try and sell you
along with your domain. Hosting is actually no different. In this particular
case, you can see that as we’re entering our account information, we’re also
offered to say, “You know you’ve also got askleopodcast.com but did you know
that .net, .org, .info and .biz are also available? And would you like us to
register those for you?’

Again, I’m one of the rules of thumb that I will suggest that you walk away
with from this presentation is if you’re not sure that you need one of the
upsells. You don’t. Just say no. These are always things you can get later if
you need them. But do realize that it is common practice to share an offer, all
sorts of things, and we’ll see more as you go through this process.

In order to get that $4.95 or as I was doing this, the $5.95/mo package you
do have to go up front for 12 months. I chose 24 because I’m going to be doing
this for awhile. Again, there are upsells: sitelock, sitebackup – don’t need
them now, get them later if you decide that they turn out to be something that
you’re interested in but not necessary and of course, credit card.

Once again, more upsells as you leave. If there’s a couple of them here;
they’re showing you sitebackup pro that we declined on the first page. Things
like dedicated IPs that you don’t need; an SSl certificate that you don’t need.
SEO is one of those things that domain hosts love to try and offer you as an
extra cost and add-in. Even if you cared about SEO, I strongly suggest you not
choose the offers that are made by the domain hosting companies as you purchase
a domain.

SEO has changed so much in the last 12, in the last 12 to 5 years. It’s just
one of those things where you can typically do it yourself with just a couple
of rules of thumb that will save you a ton of money in the long run and you’re
not really guaranteed that any of this SEO stuff would even pay off.

And for the record, SEO stand for Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine
Optimization is the process of trying to essentially get your site to rank
higher in the search results when people are searching for something. There’s a
bunch of techniques: black hat, white hat, but the bottom line is you don’t
need it here.

You’ve got an account; you’ve got it created. You now have something at Blue
Host; you have a place to host your website. They give you an option for a tour
of there offering. That certainly something you might want to consider the
first time around. We’re not going to do that here because in reality we’re
going to focus on just a couple of very basic and very simple things.

But, the bottom line is that you now have a place to host your website! What
you’re looking at here is the control panel. It’s actually the product name
that they use is called CPanel; you can see it up there in the upper left.
CPanel is what’s called server management software. And in fact, not only do
you find it on shared hosts like this but even on dedicated hosts. CPanel is
the server management interface for example, that I use for ask-leo.com. It’s
where I set up everything you’re about to see here that we’ll walk through.

So, we have a domain that’s registered and now we have a server that’s ready
to host that domain. Next we need to connect the two. So, down at the, in Blue
Host’s case, on the left hand side, down the bottom is the place where you find
something called the shared IP address.

Zoom in on that real quick so you can see what that looks like. It is a IP
address. It is the IP address of the server on which your website will reside.
It is the IP address of the server that will process emails sent to your
domain. Now, why is it called shared? That goes back to when I talked about
this being a common type of hosting. One of the things I did yesterday was to
quickly look up and see how many other sites are on this same server.

Sameip.org is one online service that will basically take an IP address and
tell you what other domains are mapped to that IP address. I will warn you that
all of the services I’ve found are notoriously inaccurate. So I wouldn’t
necessarily use this for a economical list of the domains that are on that
server but it does give you a concept of what’s going on here.

Shared hosting is just that; there is a box, a server; it’s nothing more
that a PC; probably a pretty powerful one, along with thousands of other PCs in
a data center somewhere, and you are sharing that box with somewhere 10, 20,
couple hundred; I’ve seen as many as 1000 different websites all sharing the
same server. That’s why shared hosting is so cheap because you’re sharing this
hardware, a costly resource, with a bunch of other people.

The downside of shared hosting is, normally for most people, not a downside
at all. The server isn’t going to be as fast. If you suddenly get a large
amount of traffic, it may not be able to handle it as quickly as some of the
other options. The other side of it is some other site that shares the server
gets a sudden influx of traffic, that could impact people’s ability to get to
your site. By and large, it’s not a problem.

Things are typically distributed in such a way and controlled in such a way
that for the money it’s a great value and it is a good way of getting
inexpensive hosting for a website. So all of the hosts that are in this
category of shared hosting when I’ve talked about BlueHost, DreamHost, Host
Gator, a bunch of others, that’s what they’re doing; they’re all doing this
kind of shared hosting.

There are other types. There is dedicated hosting where you can actually
rent a full PC for yourself. I did that for Ask Leo! for many years and there’s
also now virtual machines, virtual private servers they’re called which is
essentially a combination of the two and that’s what Ask Leo! has right now.
It’s a virtual machine that is a complete dedicated server to you except that
since it is a virtual machine it may be on a piece of hardware that has more
than one of these virtual machines for other customers of the hosting
company.

But those are the kinds of things you would look into only if you really had
high traffic, high load and high complexity website. For the average small
business, for the average home user, shared hosting is absolutely the way to
go.

So we have an IP address. Now we need to go map our domain to that IP
address. That brings us back to simpleurl, our registrar. They are the ones
that manage, at a very basic level, the DNS (Domain Name System) entries for
your domain. You can see here that they have towards the middle of the screen,
something called the domain manager and that’s where we go.

For a domain manager, what happened here is in simpleurl’s case, it lists
all of the domains that I own, and yes, I’ve got a few. But for each domain
there is then a control panel. The control panel then is where you specify the
DNS entries for that specific domain. In this case, all we’re really going to
do, the most important thing is edit DNS hosts (you can see where the mouse is
hovering).

The current settings are what control simpleurls’ parking page, in other
words, there the entries are set up by default so if somebody tries to go to,
in this case askleopodcast.com, they will actually end up on a page that’s
provided by simpleurl.com/parking, a parking page.

What we do instead is we edit the host records and instead of them being
frame records, we change them to be what are called ‘a’ or address records. So
it’s really simple. All you’re really doing is setting up www.yourdomainname
with an address of the IP that was given to you by your host and then @ sign in
this particular case is used as catchall for nohostname. Again, set up an ‘a’
record to go to that IP address and then update host records.

What that does now is that tells the world that askleopodcast.com, if you
want to go to askleopodcast.com, here’s the IP address of the server that
claims to host that site, this is where the data for that site comes from. Now
there’s one other record that I’d also like to change. It’s optional but I
suggest in general that you do it. It’s ok to skip it if you’re
overwhelmed.

It’s again, one of those things that’s easily gotten to later. I also set up
set up what’s called an MX record and in simpleurl that’s a little bit further
down the page. But what this is doing is it’s telling the world that if you
have mail for askleopodcast.com that is handled by askleopodcast.com. So it
seems like that would be the only possible answer but in reality, it is not at
all uncommon for email for a domain to be handled on a server that is not the
website for that domain.

A great example is I can absolutely tell you with 100% certainty that the
email for Microsoft.com is handled by a completely different server or
potentially set of servers than the website for Microsoft.com. And this is how
you do it; this is how you do that. Now this is a default, if there isn’t one
of these records, we’ll end up going to askleopodcast anyway. I’m kinda anal, I
like the safety of being able to say ‘yes’. I really mean that email for this
domain goes to this specific server. And at that point, if we now go to
askleopodcast.com, in fact you can see it in the upper left. We’ve now gone to
askleopodcast.com.

We’re still seeing a parking page but this time it’s the parking page
provided by BlueHost. You can see BlueHost’s banner across the top. So what
we’ve successfully done so far, is we’ve purchased a domain, we’ve set up
hosting and we’ve actually connected the domain name to the hosting server. And
the server is now serving up the web pages for the domain that we just
purchased.

Now, this is where you’ll end up making some choices. You can, at this
point, if you like, simply edit HTML and upload HTML files to your website.
And, in fact, a little later in the presentation, I’ll give you a little
pointer to the file manager that will let you upload files, download files, to
and from your website.

One of the approaches that was relevant for the original audience for this
and I think it’s very relevant for most people is to allow the hosting service
to set up for you automatically a content management system like, in this case,
WordPress. WordPress most people think of as blogging software. And if you’ve
ever been to glossary.ask-leo.com or mailyourinterview.com or my personal blog
leo.notenboom.org, these are all done with blogging software; they are all done
with WordPress.

In reality, ask-leo.com is also done with blogging software although it
doesn’t happen to be WordPress. This kind of tool is actually a very nice way
to let you get a website set up; set up fairly quickly; have it look fairly
decent and let you focus on what you need to focus on – the content. The stuff
you want to say rather than the mechanics of how you want it to look.

So what I’m going to walk through here is a quick install of WordPress. That
will actually allow you to have a very quick install of WordPress. I clicked on
that and that came to this page, which basically talks a little bit about
WordPress. We’re going to click on ‘install a brand new version’. Once again,
there are some options, some upsells I see three there for plug-ins and themes
I suggest you turn them all off. Particularly with WordPress it is extremely
easy to add any of thousands of different plug-ins later.

In step 1, we definitely always want to be using the most current, stable
version of WordPress. In this case, we’re also installing WordPress to be the
default content provider for the entire site. In other words, I’m not going to
put WordPress in a folder, it’s going to be right there at the front of the
site when somebody comes to visit.

And of course, there are the terms and conditions down at the bottom that we
never read but click that we have any way. And that’s it; WordPress is
installed. If you’ll notice on this screen, what they have provided then is the
site URL which is of course exactly what we told it. The login URL. WordPress
has set up for you an administration account and that’s the URL to go to it.
And they’re also telling you the username and password to log in as to manage
your WordPress installation.

If we don’t even do that; don’t even go to WordPress administration or
anything, we just go back to our site, askleopodcast.com, and hit refresh, what
was once a parking page, has now been replaced with this WordPress generated
content. At this point, you have a blog. You have a website.

We can go login to WordPress which as you can see from up above is that url:
askleopodcast.com/login.php. You can login with the username and password that
you were given. You were given the administration interface to WordPress that
will allow you to start playing with (if you want to) the look and feel or you
can just get down to work and start posting content.

So, you’ve got a website; you’ve got a blog; you’ve got something online on
the internet. Let’s talk about email real quick because this is actually one
the other approaches, one of the other reasons that people often look towards
wanting their own domain name. If you’ve not used any of the email forwarding
options or occasional hosting options back at your registrar, you can use this
type of scenario to set up your own email accounts.

All I’m doing here is setting up an email account. Quite literally, an email
account. I’ve set up leo at askleopodcast.com. I’ve given it a couple of
passwords and I’ll hit create account. What that allows me to do then is once
it’s been set up, you can again, BlueHost, CPanel, configure email client, that
then provides you with the information you need to configure your email
program.

So what we have here is an email account on my own domain name,
askleopodcat.com that I can go now grab Thunderbird or Outlook or any number of
different email programs that run on my PC or email services that say, run on
your phone and tell them, ‘You know what, download email from
mail.askleopodcast.com’.

Send email through mail.askleopodcast.com and here are all of those settings
that you would normally need when you’re configuring an email program. They do
have some auto configuration links up above but you get the idea that the
information you need to actually start using a real, honest email account on
this domain that you’ve just purchased, is now all available and ready for you
to set up.

There is one assumption that CPanel makes that I don’t like that I’m going
to point out here. You’ll notice that they say ‘incoming mail server as
mail.askleopodcast.com’. You can either ignore that and use askleopodcast.com
instead or you can go back to your domain registration, your DNS entries, and
actually create another entry that looks exactly like the www entry except
instead of www it says ‘mail’ and that will then define this sub-domain called
mail.askleopodcast.com and point it as the same server so that these
instructions will actually be correct.

So what we’ve just described is a real email account. I call it ‘real’ email
account because what happens is email sent to you is collected on your server
until you download it with an email program or access it with an email program.
And when you send email it is sent through your server; your shared server. The
other approach that many people find preferable in some cases, is to do what’s
called email forwarding.

So, there are forwarders that can be defined. What I’ve done here is I’ve
defined leonot at askleopodcast.com to automatically forward to a different
email address; to automatically forward to my Gmail account. What that allows
me to do is have this domain but now have to rely on it for any email
services.

And in fact, if I’ve got a Gmail account that I’m using anyway, this is
often a very effective way to get spam filtering. As I’ve said to several
people, Gmail is perhaps the most effective spam filter, that I’m currently
aware of. So forwarding your email to Gmail and letting it handle all of those
details is actually a pretty effective way of both using email but protecting
yourself from the gobs of spam that are out there.

So what will happen here is email will get sent to leonot at
askleopodcast.com will get sent to my server but then my server will then
immediately say ‘Oh, this needs to go to leonot at gmail.com’ and just forwards
it on. The good news is also that you can configure Gmail to send from leonot
at askleopodcast.com; you can actually configure it to use your address as the
‘from’ address rather than the Gmail address.

You can also it configure it to send through your server as well. I
mentioned file management earlier. Not everybody wants to run WordPress; I get
that. And there’s certainly lots of tools besides WordPress from a beginner’s
point of view, I absolutely suggest that WordPress is a fine, fine way to
start. If on the other hand, you already have HTML files.

You kinda, sorta know what you’re doing in creating a website, then what you
would probably want to end up using is the file manager. This was just a click
on that CPanel homepage that brought me to this file manager which looks like a
lot of file manager; it looks like Windows Explorer in many ways. You can see
that we’ve got the folder Public_Html open. That is the folder that contains
your website.

The files that we’re looking at here, everything from CGI Bin on down
through Index.php, WP activiate and so forth, those were all provided by
WordPress. I’m sorry, CGI bin wasn’t but the other files were all provided by
WordPress. You could replace those with your own; you could put your own .html
files here and that’s you could go about managing your website.

I just wanted to point this out for people who aren’t necessarily ready to
plunge into something like WordPress but who did want to at least be able to
upload simple HTML files. So, that’s it in a nutshell; that was a very fast
overview of setting up a domain and by setting up I mean we started by
investigating what the possible domain names that were available was; we then
went and purchased the domain; after, purchasing the domain we went and
purchased hosting for the actual server that would host both the website and
process the email.

We then went back to our DNS entries and connected up the registration of
our domain with the physical hosting so that when people looked for our domain
they are directed to the correct server. And then once on our server, we set up
content management system, in this particular case, WordPress as a very quick
way to setup a powerful way to manage content that you might want to present on
the internet.

At this point, after I get a little bit of water in my throat, I want to
open it up to questions. If you have any questions about this process, I would
be very happy to answer them now. Just go ahead and type them into the question
box.

So, did you say that WordPress is free? I didn’t say it but
WordPress is free. It is free software that comes with, in this particular case
it comes with the hosting package, it is…a lot of the hosts I talked about
the most are offering it in this one-click quick install kind of mode because
it is a value for them to provide to their customers.

Even if they don’t, WordPress itself is free. You can download it from
WordPress…I keep getting ‘com’ and ‘org’ confused…I think it’s
WordPress.org where you can get the software and install it on your server and
it’s actually straightforward if you’re doing it manually. But WordPress by
definition is free. It’s one of the reasons it’s become so popular.

How about updating WordPress? Yes, updating WordPress is
one of those things that you will want to be on top of. They do a very good job
of notifying you when new versions are available. And on hosts like this,
updating it is actually not that hard. I do recommend that you keep WordPress
up-to-date. Typically, when websites get hacked when WordPress hosted, excuse
me, when websites running WordPress get hacked, it’s usually because they are
running a very out of date copy of WordPress in which vulnerabilities were
discovered and not patched.

What do you think is the best web host and why? I’ve gone
back and forth on that. I obviously recommend and have demonstrated BlueHost
here and if fact, I’ve got a BlueHost account. And I use it for a couple of
clients. I’m pretty happy actually suggesting any of those big three that I’ve
talked about: Blue Host, Dreamhost, Host Gator. You will always find horror
stories.

The issue that you may encounter with shared hosting services of this ilk is
that occasionally they’ll have downtime. And they’ll be sadly uncommunicative
about it other than the fact that they’re scrambling to fix whatever the
problem is and the problem isn’t even always theirs. The problem is that they
have, you know, thousands and thousands of customers who are now all pounding
on them for not being up. So, I would stick to those three, if nothing else.
There’s plenty of good hosts out there. I can’t even say that I have a favorite
at this point.

Let’s see. I use Filezilla, you might want to explain a bit about
using FTP to manage your website.
I will simply say that you can use
programs like Filezilla and other FTP programs to upload and download files. I
didn’t want to get too complicated in this overview.

Having a file manager is like having an 80% solution for a vast majority of
users but as soon as you start dealing with lots and lots of files you actually
want to do your management on your PC and upload lots of different things then
you’ll want to start looking into things like FTP programs to do that. In my
case, I don’t even use that. I use something called SecureFTP. And for the
geeks in the crowd, BlueHost actually provides you with shell access; you can
ssh into your BlueHost account which if you’re a Linux geek is just all sorts
of fun.

I’m a little bit unclear about setting up the mail server. Could you
go over that a bit more? Especially the bit about putting in the DNS
numbers.
So I’m hoping I didn’t confuse too much with the MX record.
Let’s forget about the MX record for a minute. As long as you have in DNS an
‘a’ record that points your domain, askleopodcast.com in our example, to your
server then DNS is taken care of for your mail as well as for your website.

In the case of BlueHost, there’s nothing you need to set up in the sense
that the mail server is already running; it’s there and it’s ready to be
configured. All you need to do is go in via it’s interface. The circled part
here is just the interface in CPanel that allows you to define your email
accounts.

The server’s already running; you’ve already got all of the nuances of
whatever it needs to be a mail server already configured and going. All you’re
really doing now is saying, ‘Ok, I want a mail account that says leo at
askleopodcast.com; I want it to be a real mailbox on this server and when it
comes time to configure my Outlook or Thunderbird, these are the settings that
you would use.

It’s really not that terribly complicated; I hope I didn’t make it seem
overly so. But there’s just not a whole lot to be set up.

Does GoDaddy do the same general things that BlueHost does?
As it turns out, they do. BlueHost is primarily a hosting service and there
primarily about having servers and they also happen to allow you to purchase
domains through them if you want to. GoDaddy’s kind of the reverse, right? They
started out as a domain registrar; their whole business was selling or renting
or leasing you the domain names that you might want to have.

And they have since added a variety of services including actual web
hosting. I do not have any familiarity with their actual web hosting. I don’t
know if it’s done through something like CPanel. It would be done through some
kind of server management interface. Whether it’s CPanel or CPanel like
obviously, I just can’t say. I honestly don’t know. The one thing I will say
about GoDaddy is that a.) their prices are usually pretty good and that b.)
they are one of the worst about trying to sell you things that you don’t need
along the way.

So, be careful as you are making a purchase through GoDaddy and when in
doubt decline the offer of additional services. Chances are you really, really
don’t need it and even if you do, services can always, always be added
later.

Would you consider doing a webinar on using WordPress or tell me
where to go to get the info?
I’ll certainly keep it as an idea. I am
not the world’s most experienced WordPress user. I’ve only started using it
extensively say within the last year. All of my new sites that I’m putting
together are WordPress oriented. WordPress.org is probably where I would send
you just to begin with. I’m sure I know there’s a bunch of tutorials and
information out there about it. I just don’t have any links or such off the top
of my head.

Do webservers charge per page i.e. do you only get one page without
initial pages to link to when you start out with just a little site?

Ok, so it’s actually better than pages. BlueHost, the kind of account we just
set up has unlimited pages, unlimited storage, unlimited bandwith, all for that
base price of $4.95 or $5.95 or $6.95/mo, whatever it turns out to be.

Which is actually pretty darned cool and it’s even better than that. The way
that have things set up with CPanel, you can now purchase, go off to your
registrar and purchase additional domains. So let’s say I finally did get
askleobooks.com. I can now host askleobooks.com in this account that I’ve
already set up to host askleopodcast.com. They actually allow you to host
unlimited domains in the same account.

For most people, few people are as nuts as I am. I’ve got 80 some-odd
domains. Most people have less than half a dozen if they have more than one.
That’s a perfect solution; it’s a great solution. There’s a couple of nuances
in how you set things up but the bottom line is that most the shared online
hosting services do not, certainly do not charge by the page. If they charge by
anything, they charge by the site and potentially they will then have
restrictions on how big things can get in terms of megabytes or gigabytes.

In BlueHost’s case, one of the ways that they differentiate themselves or at
least advertise themselves is as having pretty much unlimited everything for
that one account you set up.

When I started out, did I start out with just a little site? Well, sure. Ask
Leo! like any site just started out as just a few pages. In fact, originally,
it was a few pages on a server in a closet here at home, a Windows server as a
matter of fact. And I moved on from there. Hosting at home is typically a very
unwise, mostly for bandwith reasons and as well as management reasons. But,
absolutely. I think you’ll find that almost every site started out small one
way or another.

Leo, will you ever do a webinar on the cost of SEO or advertising
for the common nerd?
I’ll consider it. Again, the problem with talking
about SEO is that it is a constantly changing landscape. There were white hat
techniques that were advocated say five years ago when I was in the middle of
three or four years into Ask Leo! that just no longer apply.

The problem is that all of the SEO techniques often end up getting abused by
folks with less than good intentions to try and promote their own sites. That
used to be, even before I started Ask Leo!, there is a tag in HTML that allows
you to say, ‘Ok, this site, this page, actually is all about these keywords’
and I might use keywords like Hotmail and password, forgot and those kinds of
things.

And in the early days of SEO, that was actually an important piece of
information for search engines to pay attention to but then the spammers and
scammers got a hold of that and they started doing what they call keyword
stuffing which would just have a bucket load of keywords in those meta tags
that were attempting to influence the search engines to say that this page,
even though it’s got a big old ad for body enhancement medications to say ok,
it’s about Hotmail.

So ideally, what they would want to rank highly for Hotmail and then try to
sell you some drug. So, what’s happened in the intervening years is that Google
has done, and I focus on Google because they are the ones that everybody seems
to be using and they seem to be the most relevant. They’re focusing on really
understanding what the content is about.

So in an ideal world from Google’s perspective, you go to the search engine
with a question and they understand the pages, the pages that best answer to
that question and it’s become so much more than just a few SEO tricks that the
best SEO advice these days is to post consistently; post good, quality content
(quality by any of several different measures) and don’t play games that will
get you into trouble. That’s a huge a topic for, there are SEO nerds out there
that will talk your ear off about this stuff. I am not one of them; I’m just
focusing on getting people’s answers.

Any other questions before we sign off for the day?

With that, I will call an end to it and say thank you for attending. We will
be doing another webinar on the first, gosh, second Sunday? I can’t even
remember my own schedule! I’ll be posting information about when our next
webinar will be on Ask Leo! and of course on the homepage. It will be a little
bit quicker since this month’s webinar was delayed one week because of Easter
last weekend. I look forward to seeing you here. Keep visiting ask-leo.com,
listen to the AnswerCasts and leave your comments, I appreciate it. Take care
everyone and have a great Sunday.

Do this

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Less frustration and more confidence, solutions, answers, and tips in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.