In todays' New York Times, David Pogue reviewed an updated version of Microsoft's Office Live Small Business, a suite of online services for making websites (I'm simplifying a bit).
He failed to point out an important defensive computing aspect of any website, divorcing it from the domain name registration. In addition, trusting Microsoft to handle domain registration is not your best option. To fully understand this, some background is required.
A domain name, such as CNET.com or JavaTester.org is a unique name on the Internet, one that is used for both e-mail and a Web site. Conceptually speaking, all domains are registered in a big master file in the sky. Hundreds of companies, called registrars, are authorized to register domains into this huge master file. Registrars offer many services, but simply registering a domain name ranges from roughly $9 to $35 a year.
Associated with each domain is a pointer to the computer running the Web site and a pointer to the computer that receives e-mail sent to the domain. The pointer system is called DNS, for Domain Name System. The pointers are indirect. That is, rather than pointing directly to the computer(s) with the Web site or e-mail, they point instead to server computers running DNS software.* A company that hosts Web sites is obliged to run a DNS server computer to handle the finger-pointing for all the Web sites under its control.
A small business setting up a new Web site is likely to be tempted by the one-stop shopping offered by Office Live Small Business. Many registrars host Web sites and any company hosting a Web site will also register a domain name. But, you are better off getting these services from different companies.
My JavaTester.org Web site, for example, is hosted at a company called A2 Hosting and the domain is registered with GoDaddy. A2 runs a pair of DNS server computers, ns1.a2webhosting.com and ns2.a2webhosting.com, which GoDaddy associates with the domain in the big master file in the sky. (If you want to impress your friends, the ns1 and ns2 computers are technically referred to as authoritative name servers.)
For one thing, using two companies makes it easier to switch Web site hosting companies in the future, should the need arise. More importantly though, it insures the domain is yours.
There have been times when a Web site hosting company registered a domain in their name rather than in the name of their customer. For example, instead of my JavaTester.org Web site being registered to me in the big master file, it would be registered to A2hosting.** In this case, it is not my domain, even though I paid for it. For a small business, this can be a really big deal.
What about e-mail? Companies hosting Web sites can also provide e-mail, as can most registrars. Then again, you don't need either one, you can have a third party handle e-mail for your domain.
Microsoft, Office Live, SB, Small Business, Office Live Small Business, DNS, Domain, Domain Name System, GoDaddy, Registrar, Reviews