Many small businesses buy all-in-one domain service from a single company. While that can be an easy solution, it’s important to understand that there are actually four separate services involved. Sometimes it makes sense to purchase those services from different companies. Here’s a quick primer on the four components of domain management.
Domain Name Registrar Hosting
At the top level is the company that hosts your domain name, the registrar. You pay them an annual fee and they reserve your domain name, registering it so no one else can use it. They also maintain a list of Domain Name System (DNS) servers for the domain name. For example, mcbsys.com is currently registered with Google Domains. Google Domains points to DNS Made Easy as the DNS host.
The Domain Name System (DNS) is the address book for domains. It tells people looking for your web site what IP address hosts the web site. And it tells people who want to send you an email what IP address hosts your email.
Almost all Domain Name hosts also offer DNS hosting, but sometimes independent, third-party hosts offer greater flexibility for managing DNS. I’ve been quite happy with DNS Made Easy for several years. (Note: that’s an affiliate link; I’ll get a commission if you buy a plan, but their free level may be all you need.)
The mcbsys.com DNS records at DNS Made Easy point to a virtual machine (hosted on Microsoft Azure) for the web site and to Microsoft 365 for email hosting.
The third component of domain management is your web site. There are lots of options for hosting web sites. The most common scenario for a small business is to use a shared web host, meaning that web sites for dozens or thousands of companies are hosted at the same IP address. That’s inexpensive but can be problematic when a scammer hosts a site on the same server: the IP address may wind up on a blacklist, which could mean your email will be flagged or rejected.
MCB Systems’ web site is hosted on a custom virtual machine running in the Microsoft Azure cloud.
The final component of domain management is email hosting. This refers to the site that receives your inbound email and forwards your outbound mail to its final destination. Usually the host also stores your email history so you can access it from anywhere using a browser or email program. Many domain name hosts also offer email hosting, but again, that can become problematic if scammers use the same email host. The most popular third-party email hosts are Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) and Google Workspace (formerly G Suite).
Domain management is the key to your online presence. If someone takes over your domain services, they “own” you—they can deface or redirect your web site, put viruses on your web site, block your emails, send emails in your name, hack into all accounts that are secured with your email address, etc. Be sure to use a complex password with each domain management account and secure the accounts with two-factor authentication. (2FA).
Contact MCB Systems to discuss managing your domains!