When you need to buy a domain name for your website, there are lots of options. In this article, we will cover what a domain name is and how it connects to your website files and email.
First things first, we need to make sure you know that a domain name and web hosting are two different things, and secondly, they can be with two totally different providers.
What is a Domain Name
A domain name is your web address. It is what the web browser on your computer uses to cross reference to the IP address of your web server, your email exchange, and any custom DNS records you may have in place.
For example, when you type in our domain name – drivesocial.com.au – your web browser will identify where our web records are held, and what they contain. If sending an email to us at email@example.com, it will recognise the domain after the @ symbol, and then look for a mail exchange record or MX record.
In this case, we use Google Gsuite, and therefore the MX records will point that email traffic to our Google servers.
For website traffic, whilst our DNS records are with Australian web hosting provider Digital Pacific, they will point the web traffic to our cloud hosting server at Cloudways. This is done using an A or CNAME record.
The same type of action occurs when you have an online shop that we built with Neto or Shopify. As these are hosted services, your domain name records will point to the Neto or Shopify servers via a CNAME record. It will not matter when you registered your domain name, or where your DNS records are managed.
The most common DNS records that are linked to a domain name include:
- A – Host Address
- AAAA – IPv6 Host Address
- ALIAS – Auto Resolved Alias
- CNAME – Canonical Name for an Alias
- MX – Mail Exchange
- NS – Name Server
- PTR – Pointer
- SOA – Start of Authority
- SRV – Service Location
- and TXT – Text record.
Each one is used to tell the browser or application a specific piece of data that will direct it where to send that traffic.
How Does a Domain Name Connect to Web Hosting?
Using the records mentioned previously, a domain name is connected to website files on a web hosting server. With majority of shared hosting, this is achieved by setting the nameservers to point to the hosting companies servers.
With platforms like Shopify, Neto, WPengine, etc. connection is usually by a CNAME record.
With Cloud Hosting such as Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services, Linode and Digital Ocean, redirection is by an A record or IP address of the hosting server.
Are All Domain Name Registrations the Same?
No, domain names differ usually by what follows their name. ie. For Australian businesses, access to the “.com.au” suffix.
Certain domains have pre-requirements like “.org.au”and “.edu.au” and “.gov.au”. Of course these addresses cannot be registered by just anyone, and the owner must prove they are entitled to that domain suffix, such as a non-profit, educational institution or government agency.
The costs vary with different domain types, but are registered in the same registries that browsers connect to. For the “.com.au” suffix, registrations are managed by auDA, a government endorsed company. For others there is ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) who manage the name spaces and numerical data associated with domains.
For Australian trade and business, holding an Australian business registration like an ABN or ACN, the “.com.au” suffix is available.
Do I have to Register my Domain Name with my Web Hosting Provider?
Simple answer is no. Whilst it can be simpler to have all your web services together like domain name registration, DNS manager and web hosting server, it is also very normal to have all three services with different providers.
In some instances, this can prove useful for redundancy. ie. If your email and web hosting is on different servers, when one goes down it won’t necessarily affect the other.
we chose to different providers for each service we use. Our DNS and Domain registration is with one, our Email services are with another, our website files are with another, and our client servers are with another one again.
Get the Best Price on a Domain Name
When we talk about website speed and SEO, you might think that the domain registration could play a part.
You will find that the delay in loading is not from the browser identification of your domain name and domain records, rather your web hosting server or files.
We recommend getting a good price on your domain name. Godaddy have the “.com.au” domains on sale for $15.95AUD per year (limited time offer). If you are building a website with us, we can also look at including the first two years on us.
There have been many customers who have paid more than $100 for an Aussie domain name, and it makes no difference in terms of speed or efficiency. If buying a domain privately, as you may want to buy an existing domain, or a special name that has already been registered, you may pay more. Much like custom number plates sold privately.
But for the majority of Australian business domain names, you would pay between $20-50 per year.
How to Connect Your Domain Name After Registration
Once you have registered your domain name, you need to work out your web hosting and email server options.
This is what will determine what DNS records you need.
If you are purchasing standard shared web hosting, like our Linux-based shared packages from $5/month on Namecheap, you will not need a separate DNS manager. You can just point your Name Server records at the hosting server.
If you are using a hosted solution like Shopify, Neto, WPengine or cloud hosting, you will need to add a DNS manager. We have these for under $2/month. This will allow you to add the necessary A and CNAME records.
Do I need Domain Privacy or other Addons?
Even through DriveSocial Domains, you will be offered additional services at the time of registering your domain name. This is just to make the whole process of setting the records easier.
This could include Domain Privacy which hides your business details when people do a domain lookup. For Australian businesses, your details will shown with “.com.au” registrations.
You could also add the DNS manager at this point, or take up a service like directory listings, website builders, SSL certificates and more.
How Do I Get an SSL Certificate?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is the encryption between your website and the user’s browser.
Not only is this good for security, but Google also recognises it as a positive in SEO audits. Banks and websites that collected your personal data were among the first to use SSL, but now it is on most websites we visit. You may recognise a site that has an SSL certificate by the small padlock in the browser address bar or “https://” in front of the domain name.
To get an SSL certificate, you can choose a web security company like Comodo or through your web hosting provider.
They usually come with an encryption level, a warranty amount to cover fraud, and requirements such as identification checks or domain ownership checks.
Once again, a standard SSL Certificate will suffice for most business sites not collecting a lot of data. For eCommerce stores or sites that collect sensitive information, we would recommend an SSL certificate with higher encryption and features.
Whilst a domain name is very important in terms of your branding, your website getting found, and for business services like email and intranets, it does not need to be a costly experience. Save your money and invest in better hosting.
We hope this quick guide helps you understand more about Domain names.