Are you confused by all the shit you need for your website? In this guide, we’ll teach you all about domain names, website hosting, FTP / SFTP, HTTPS, SSL, and how they all work together.
A domain name is the name you register for your website. It’s what you’ll see in the URL bar in your web browser. You purchase your domain name from a domain registrar.
When you purchase a domain name, you need to provide your name, address, and contact information. The WHOis.net database publishes this information. This database is helpful if you’re researching a domain name’s availability.
We recommend Hover for domain registrations. Hover includes domain privacy with every domain. If your domain is private, your contact details will not be published on WHOis.net. Many other domain providers charge you for domain privacy. (GoDaddy charges $7.99 / year)
Website host / server
Your website host stores all of the files needed for your website. Similar to a folder on your computer, it will often have subfolders with different kinds of files like images, code files, and more.
The structure of these files is important. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, do not delete or rearrange folders on your server. If you do it anyway … make a backup first!
Our favourite hosts for WordPress websites are Flywheel and WPEngine. Both of these hosts offer great, friendly and helpful support. WPEngine is available 24/7 and Flywheel is available during business hours Monday to Friday.
FTP / SFTP
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and SFTP stands for Secure File Transfer Protocol.
To access your website’s files, you connect using an FTP program. To connect via FTP, you’ll need your server’s address, plus your FTP username and password. If you’re not sure where to find that … ask your website host. They’re there to help you.
We recommend Transmit ($34) for FTP. It saves your connections and has a helpful sync feature for uploading files from your computer to your website host. Some great free options are Fetch, Cyberduck, and FileZilla.
DNS (Domain Name Servers)
DNS is what connects your domain name to your website’s server. This is often called “pointing” your domain.
Your website host provides the DNS settings needed to point your domain to your server. Then, you enter the DNS records on your domain registrar’s website. Next, you wait for the domain to propagate.
If you can’t find the DNS settings, ask your website host or domain registrar’s support team.
Domain propagation is the time it takes for your updated domain settings to take effect. This can take up up to 48 hours. In our experience, it’s usually about 4 hours. Sometimes, it takes effect within minutes.
Look at the beginning of any website link and you’ll see either http:// or https://. Websites using HTTPS encrypt the data between your web browser and the website’s server.
Google favors secure websites. Using HTTPS for your website will give you a slight search engine ranking boost.
To use HTTPS on your website, you need an SSL certificate. Getting an SSL certificate used to be complicated and expensive. Now, lots of website hosts offer free SSL certificates (including our favourites Flywheel and WPEngine).
Any website that processes payment, or requires a password to log in should use HTTPS. That means if you have an online shop or membership website, you need an SSL certificate. This ensures everyone’s private information is encrypted.
If you’re not running an online store or membership website, you don’t need an SSL certificate. However, if your website host offers them for free, we recommend getting one. Because …. why the hell not?