What You Need to Know About Hosts

In the past twenty years, I’ve seen good web hosts and bad web hosts. At some point, even the best of web hosts can have problems. After all, they are computers (problem #1) being managed by humans (problem #2). The key difference between a good and a bad web host boils down to two main issues: ease of use and customer support.

Some interfaces may seem obvious to geeks, but the rest of us are fumbling around trying to understand the vocabulary and find the right button to click. In addition, if I do need help because a website is having issues or I can’t figure out how to do “X”, I want support to be available quickly. Maybe I have high standards, but I also want my support to be friendly, easy-to-understand, and extra helpful. Oh, and honest. Yes, I’ve had hosting company support staff actually lie to me. More than once, sadly.

It also disturbs me that the web industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world. Think about it—those machines are running non-stop (hopefully), 24/7, and consume a lot of energy. Some web hosting companies try to offset their carbon emissions through using EnergyStar servers and renewable energy sources. Other web hosts choose to disregard their environmental impact.  I recommend looking for the prospective host’s environmental policy to help you with your selection.

Hosted vs proprietary platform

Some websites can be easily built using proprietary platforms like Squarespace, Wix, or Weebly. This platforms create extremely user-friendly interfaces so you never have to deal with code or anything that looks remotely “techie”. Squarespace even provides a decent level of Search Engine Optimization and has good customer support. I admit I like the platform and understand why it’s so popular.

The main problem with proprietary platforms is ownership. You don’t actually own your website—the platform company owns it. If they decide to make changes, you can’t do anything about it. If they get sold, merge, or make executive decisions to change their offerings, you’re stuck. Worse yet, if they go out of business or you decide you want to use another host, your website is gone. Period. You can’t move your files to another web host because your website was built on their proprietary system.

Primarily for this reason, I recommend using a traditional web host. Even if you have to pay a little bit extra to a developer to get it set up, it may save you money and prevent headaches in the long run.

What You Need to Know About Domains

Many people have questions about domain names and web hosts. Today I start a series of posts to answer the questions most often asked.

Domains

Your domain name is what people type into their browser to find your website. It is not your actual website but rather points people to the location where your website files are stored. Your domain name can also be used for your email accounts.

Because domain names are so important, you must register your domain name through an approved domain name registrar, like GoDaddy. Each year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will ask you to confirm the contact information in your domain registration is accurate and up-to-date.

Although many web hosting companies offer free or discounted domain name registration, you may want to think twice before accepting their offer. If for any reason you become dissatisfied with that host, it will make it more complicated to move your website to another host if your domain name is registered through your hosting company. In addition, some domain registrars intentionally make it difficult to transfer.

What do you need to know about domain name registrars?

Domain Registrars

When you order a domain name, you authorize the registrar to be your designated registrar. Only the designated registrar make changes to the registry database. If you choose to switch registrars, you must go through a domain transfer process that is governed by various policies. Some registrars make this process easier than others.

While domain name prices vary, when you order your domain name, the registrar must pay an annual fee to Verisign and ICANN. GoDaddy is probably one of the most well-known domain name registrars due to their massive amount of advertising, but they are not your only option. Many of the commercial domain registrars are actually resellers for larger companies.

In 2014, Google began offering domain name registration to better help small businesses and non-tech people quickly and easily establish their domain names. It’s not the cheapest registrar, but it’s easier than some others to use.

I’ve used GoDaddy for years, despite their annoying ads, because they are fairly easy to work with if you need to make changes quickly and offer good customer support.  Still, I’m excited to see Google enter the game.

Whether you decide to use GoDaddy, Google, or any of the other abundant domain registrars out there, the hardest part of the process may actually be choosing your domain name.

Choosing Your Domain

In the early days, it was fairly easy to get your domain name of choice. Now that there are a bazillion websites out there, it’s much harder to find an available domain name. At least, a domain name that uses real words. This is why so many new startups are inventing words to name their company—nonsense words may still be available as a domain name!

When I meet with entrepreneurs or early stage startups, I generally recommend they don’t name their business until they see what domains are still available. Finding relevant words for your domain will require creativity. It needs to be easy for your audience to remember and use as well as reinforce your overall brand experience. I like how some businesses build their brand through specific domain names like millercares.com and callbowman.com. If you see a domain name you’re considering is available, snap it up. Next time you look, it may be gone.

So, now that you have your domain name, how do you point it to your web host?

Nameservers

Every computer has an IP address. (Not sure what your IP address is? You can find out here.)

A nameserver is a computer that is permanently connect to the internet and translates domain names into its corresponding IP address. That’s why you can type in www.mydomain.com instead of a 10-digit number.

When a domain name is first registered, it is said to be “parked”. It uses a default set of name servers from the registrar. Your web host will have it’s own IP address, so you will need to login to your domain account and “point the nameservers”, replacing the default or parked nameservers with the correct nameservers for your web host.

It’s not difficult, though some registrars make it easier to do than others. This is a good example of how Google’s user-friendly interface makes it easy.

You’ll need your domain name before you set up a hosting account, but you can’t point the domain’s nameservers until you have a hosting account set up.

 

Do you have a great domain and are ready to start working on your new website? Contact me today for a free, helpful Website Pre-Planning Guide: pam@bigvisiondesign.com

How to Use E-Signatures

While the concept of using technology for a legal signature isn’t new (morse code was the first), a growing number of businesses and organizations are looking for a way to quickly obtain a legal signature without requiring you to be physically present.

Electronic Signatures Overview

Regulations for digital signatures may vary by location, but essentially the requirements are:

  • The signatory can be uniquely identified and linked to the signature
  • The signatory must have sole control of the private key that was used to create the electronic signature
  • The signature must be capable of identifying if its accompanying data has been tampered with after the message was signed
  • In the event that the accompanying data has been changed, the signature must be invalidated.

Finding Your Best Solution to Digital Signatures

I’ve done several electronic signatures, some which used a scanned graphic of my written signature and others which used typed text for my name. The main criteria is method to obtain and use of my signature complied with the U.S. laws.

Here’s a diagram of how the process works.

My personal experience with electronic signatures has been through using Adobe Acrobat DC. I use Adobe Creative Cloud products every day, so Acrobat DC comes bundled with it and I don’t have to pay extra.

Nitro allows unlimited signatures and documents for free, and works with cloud storage like Google Drive and Dropbox.

After looking at several paid solutions for electronic signature, Hello Sign seems like a winner. It’s free if you only need 3 or less documents per month, and $13/month for unlimited.

RightSignature looks like another good option, though there is no free version. Still, at only $11/month for unlimited, it’s pretty reasonable.

All of the above methods allow you to get started right away. Whichever solution you choose, electronic signatures help you to get important documents signed quickly regardless of geographic location.