Setting up a website and e-mail

Website setup

When you registered your domain with our recommended agents, 123-Reg or Easily you will have had the opportunity to purchase email and web hosting. If you did not make these purchases on registration you can go back to these sites and purchase hosting for your domains or, due to the fact that these registration agents give you control over you're a and MX records; you can choose hosting elsewhere and then point your domain to your host of choice.

When choosing a website host there are several things to consider before making your purchase.

1 - Windows or Linux? The first question often asked by hosting companies is “Do you want a linux package or a Windows package?” If you do not know the differences, then the chances are that it will not really matter which you choose! Linux hosting always used to be the more reliable choice due to the unreliable nature of IIS (the web server package for Windows) and that Windows servers were more likely to get hacked than Linux servers. Both systems are now extremely reliable with IIS 6 greatly improving the reliability of Windows servers, so the main difference in Windows or Linux hosting tends to be the choice of scripting languages and database options allowed, more information regarding this can be found below.

2 - Amount of space. How many megabytes or gigabytes of storage space will your domain host give you in the package? For most small businesses running a static 10-15 page website 15-20 Mb is probably more than enough. As most of the starter packages offer around 100 Mb of storage space even the lowest priced package should have enough space for hosting your site.

3 - Scripting Languages. If you want to do more complex things on your site like send mails from forms, use simple content management systems or create password protected areas on your site then it's likely you will need access to a scripting language and possibly a database (see point 4). The main scripting languages used on servers are PHP, Perl and ASP / .NET. If you have PHP or Perl scripts you need to use on your site then the chances are that you could choose either a Windows or Linux hosting package, although some Windows packages we have seen do not include Perl scripting access. If you wish to use ASP or ASP.Net scripts then you will need to choose a Windows hosting solution.

4 - Database access. If you want to set up a more complex content management system, run a blog such as WordPress or use a complex login system then you will also need database access. Most off the shelf web systems use the MySQL database engine and this is usually available on both Linux and Windows systems. If you have data in MS Access databases or wish to use MS SQL then you will have to choose a Windows hosting package.

5 - Cost. If cost is your only deciding factor, in as much as the cheaper the hosting - the better, then you will usually find that Linux hosting packages are for you. They are cheaper than Windows packages because with Windows servers a licensing cost will be incurred by the server host for using the Microsoft Server operating system.

Once you have chosen your hosting package if you have used a host other than your domain registrar then you will need to point the A records for your domain to the IP address of your server's host. This is easily completed through the online control panel if you used our recommended registrars.

Once your domain name is pointing to the host you will be able to connect to the server using ftp and place files on the server, to be downloaded or viewed in a browser. Making websites is relatively easy once you have learnt the HTML syntax, or, if you are not inclined to learn how to do this you can either purchase a web design template and change parts of this to add your own pages and content. Alternatively, you could hire a freelance web designer from our directory!

E-mail setup

As with website hosting, there are many e-mail hosting packages available and there are several things to consider when making a purchase.

1 - Number of accounts. Some e-mail packages are for a single e-mail name and some will allow you multiple 'POP3' accounts. A POP3 account is a single account that you can connect to using Outlook or Outlook Express and to send and receive e-mails. This does not necessarily mean that you cannot receive e-mail for lots of different e-mail addresses though as these often come with the ability to use aliases or operate a 'catch all' account.

Email aliases might allow you to set up extra names, e.g. sales@yourdomain.co.uk and route those to another email address, e.g. yourname@yourpersonalemail.co.uk. The problem with catch alls is that you will not be able to send an e-mail from sales@yourdomain.co.uk unless you specify this as the sender and reply to address in your email client.

A catch all basically means that any email name can be mailed to and this will be sent on to your main email account for this domain. Again you will only be able to send from the one account and unless you change your email program settings; you will not be able to send mails from these names. We do not recommend setting up catch all e-mail accounts as spammers tend to send mails to lots of names on a particular domain hoping that some will get through. Therfore allowing a catch all to operate can lead to lots of SPAM.

There are many providers out there which charge a low fee to operate a number of POP3 accounts, so it's worth shopping around for the best deal to suit your needs.

2 - Amount of space. Often accounts are labelled as having a certain amount of e-mail space available. This only really becomes an issue if you are away from the office for long periods and use web mail to access your e-mail. Usually you will use a mail program to download your e-mails to your computer, removing them from the server. Once your mailbox limit is reached e-mails are usually returned to the sender with a message saying 'mail box is full' and this can dent your company's professionalism, so ensure you get as much mail storage space as possible!

3 - POP or IMAP. As well as POP or POP3 e-mail you may also see providers that offer IMAP accounts. This is a service where the e-mail is stored on the mail server and all your folders and mail is kept there. This can be helpful as it saves you having to back up your e-mail data in case of system failure, but it has drawbacks: if your internet connection is lost you cannot see these emails and also, do you trust your provider not to accidentally delete these mails? Providers have been caught out before through not backing up data, so we always recommend being in control of your own data and making sure backup procedures are in place.

4 - Webmail. Not all e-mail providers allow access to a webmail system. Webmail means that you can access your e-mail account through a web browser so if you are on holiday or working away from the office you can still read and send emails without having to take your PC or laptop with you.

5 - SPAM and Virus filtering. Finally try and make sure that you choose an e-mail host that actively filters your mail for SPAM and viruses. Blocking viruses before they even reach your PC is a great way of staying protected, while marking mails as 'potential spam' to allow filtering of mail once it reaches you is a great time saver.


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