It comes time to move your website, or set up a new website and suddenly there’s a lot of very technical questions and lots of logins and settings you need to know and whenever you ask one of the people you thought was handling it they point to someone else. It can be a very frustrating and confusing time, and we understand that.
Questions we often hear from business owners are “Who owns my domain name” or “Can you give me access to my server”, “How do I log in to my website?” or just “Can you let me have my website?”,.
So we have created an end to end guide on who does what and is responsible for each element. Below is a total overview of who owns what and who you need to speak to to get access to each element in the website ‘chain’. Understanding the structure of a “website” and how each element works ensures your are fully informed about how it all slots together and who to speak to about what element.
There are 3 main areas that you need to have in place for a website to work.
1) Your Domain Name
2) Your Website Hosting
3) Your Website
Here is a brief explanation of each element so you understand who is responsible for what to save you time when looking for your various logins.
1) Your Domain Name
Everything starts online with your domain name and the company you “buy” it from is your domain name registrar, in fact you do not buy it outright, you register it for a period of time and then have to renew your registration annually, bi-annually or can extend your use of it for several years at a time. We recommend you register for 5+ years, cost is negligible but it indicates to Google that you are going to be around for a while, like taking a rent on a store for several years gives your customers confidence in your plans for the future..
When you register your domain name you have to tell the internet where your website is hosted by setting the Domain Name Server settings, or DNS Settings. The DNS settings can be a server name or an IP address and usually has two or more settings, DNS1 and DNS2 also known as NS1 and NS2 and look like this;
or ip addresses like this
Whoever is hosting your website should be able to give you the DNS settings for their hosting server set-up. Your DNS settings has two elements
A records = website traffic
MX records = email traffic
You can set your DNS to point at the same DNS “address” or set your DNS setting so that A and MX records go to different addresses, sending website traffic to one server and mail traffic to another. Often people do this if they wish to use something like Google Mail or Outlook to handle their emails.
To change the domain setting you need to log into your Domain Registrar account.
How do I find my Domain Registrar Account?
Sometimes we handle the domain on behalf of the customer, ensuring it is renewed and any issues get resolved with our tech support, but where is your domain registered?
It is quite simple to find out.
Each “domain”, .com, .co.uk, .org etc. is known as a Greater Top Level Domain, or GTLD. When you buy/rent a GTLD domain the domain registrar you buy it from is a retailer, who rents you the domain for a period of time.
The retailer (or reseller) buys their GTLD domains from the wholesaler who is known as the Domain Registry. This organisation administers and manages all aspects of their GTLD domains. For .co.uk domains the Domain Registry is Nominet, for .com it is Verisign and these two resources allow you to check every aspect about your domain name.
To find out your domain name details look here
For .co.uk Domains https://www.nominet.uk/whois
For .com Domains https://www.whois.com/whois
For other Domains visit https://whois.icann.org/en
Or search google for “.nnn domain name registry” where .nnn is your domain name GTLD
When you search for your domain the search results will include the company or person who registered the domain and some facts about them including;
This tells you what company registered the domain on your behalf and what the expiry date of the domain name is and the name servers, so you can figure out where your website is hosted.
Individuals are allowed to “opt out” of public domain records but companies are not, however if you have any dispute then you refer your case to the GTLD domain registry for settling the dispute or providing you with the information you need.
This then tells you who your domain registrar is and who you need to speak to to gain access to your website domain name.
2) Your Website Hosting
Once you have your domain name you need a destination for the traffic that will visit it to go. Some domain registrars also offer hosting, but you can host your website anywhere on the web that provides this service and has a DNS server record.
When you have your domain name you now need to go and buy some hosting and once you purchase hosting there will be a specific DNS server setting for your hosting server. You take that setting, go back to your domain name and set the DNS server settings so that the traffic from the domain name ends up where the website is when they enter the domain name into their browser.
Once you have your server set up you will be able to log into your server control panel and manage your hosting. Not all hosts give you that access, we do, this allows you to manage your own website hosting if you need to, if you handle the emails you can add email addresses, review server logs, check security and many other aspects of managing your hosting on a web server.
When things go wrong you can go in and fix them if you have the technical skill, you usually also have technical support by the hosting company in the form of email, or phone. However if you host the website yourself you will be responsible for many aspects of the server maintenance and management and as you scale your server will need more resources and more management and fine tuning for your needs.
To find out who hosts your website you can do a Whois “lookup” as detailed in section one above. Find out whose domain name servers the domain name is pointing at and then from there figure out who is hosting your website.
IF you allow a third party to register it for you make a note of the date it was registered and for how long and place a date in your diary for the renewal date and remind whoever registered for you on your behalf that the domain needs renewing before expiry.
ALWAYS make sure the domain is registered in your name, unless your SPECIFIC name is the owner of the domain name it is technically not your property. If a dispute arises you will then have to enter arbitration and provide evidence to the Domain Registry that shows categorically that you paid for it to be registered, this is not a simple or short process.
Domain names and domain name registration and renewal are not the responsibility of your website hosts or your web developer unless they specifically state they will renew your domain name. It is ALWAYS best for YOU to register your website domain name.
3) Your Website
You have your domain name, you have a server for hosting the website and now you also have the website installed and operating on the domain. If the website has an admin area then you will have admin logins to help you manage the content and media used and ensure the site is kept up to date and relevant.
You will usually go to a specific login URL like DOMAINNAME.co.uk/wp-admin for WordPress websites, which can vary but that is where you go to login to your website.
Depending on what your set-up is will depend on who manages the website for you, it could be you personally, or a staff member. It could be an independent third party specialist contractor (like us), marketing company or an IT firm. If your website gets hacked, broken, spoiled in anyway or unresponsive after an upgrade then if you do not have a specific support contract in place you may need to pay to have the site fixed.
Website management, upgrade or backup is not the responsibility of the Hosting company unless you have a specific website management contract with them.
Hopefully you now understand the architecture that underpins your website and who supports what aspect and who is responsible for what giving you clarity around who is responsible for what elements.
Here’s a handy Infographic to help you determine who to contact when