Networking optimize

Who hosts your consultancy's domain?

Are you an uber-geeky consultant and host your firm's domain on your own server, or do you take advantage of hosting services? Take the poll to let us know what you do.

I've mentioned before that having your own domain name for your consultancy distinguishes your business from the ephemeral because-we're-not-otherwise-employed brand of consultants. I also provided some tips in the article linked about selecting your domain name. Next, you'll want to register your domain and figure out where you'll host it.

Domain registration

Who tells the Internet where to find your domain? That's the question answered by a Domain Registration Service. The task is actually divided into two components: (1) the designated registrar for keeping authoritative information about your domain, and (2) hosting the DNS Start of Authority (SOA) records that map your domain name to an IP address for the global DNS. Most people use a single service to provide both.

Hosting

Most Domain Registrars also provide web hosting, and lots of people take the easy route and use the same service for this as well. On the other hand, consider the level of control you're placing in one vendor's hands: They would have full authority over where your domain resolves and possess your billing information. Should you decide to move your domain to a different host, they'd have an incentive to ignore your requests and plead "clerical error" if confronted. You might have to chop through a forest of red tape to get your domain moved. Thus, it might make more sense to use one service for domain registration, and host separately. If your registrar suddenly moved your domain to their servers, they'd have a hard time claiming that was an innocent mistake. I think I owe Chad Perrin a hat-tip for that piece of advice.

A wide range of hosting options are available, but they fall roughly into one of three categories: self-hosting, unmanaged hosting, and managed hosting.

Self-hosting

You could skip using a service for hosting at all. Buy your own metal and run it from your office. Have your domain registrar point the domain name to your IP, and do anything you want. This is the ultra-geek solution, and it has its advantages. You don't have to pay a fee for hosting. You have full control over what can and cannot run on your server, as well as what ports are accessible in what manner. On the other hand, the costs associated with maintaining your own server can easily exceed what you'd pay for a hosting service. Furthermore, with the freedom to do what you like comes the responsibility to prevent security vulnerabilities and insure uptime and scalability.

If your consultancy provides hosting (and doesn't just resell someone else's services), then you should eat your own dogfood and host your own server. Some geeks also like to retain control at the hardware level. Otherwise, the costs and headaches of server management will probably dictate that you use an external service of some kind.

Unmanaged hosting

Lots of services can provide you with all the hardware and power that you'll need for your domain, then hand you the keys and let you take it where you want to go. Some of these services provide virtual hosting (sometimes with the buzzword "cloud" pasted prominently on the front), which can scale up the actual hardware used to meet demand, and bill you accordingly. These options eliminate the need to worry about hardware, power, space, and physical security, but still have the advantage of full control over the software the system can run.

Managed hosting

Most web hosting services will be more than glad to add on server management features for a fee. Others, especially shared hosts (where your domain occupies part of the same physical system with other domains) will insist on some level of control over the operating system as well as what applications get installed. Managed hosting is always a question of degree, so in a sense Unmanaged hosting is just a special case of Managed hosting, in which the managed part approaches zero. At the other end of the spectrum, web hosting services often offer to manage everything you'll ever run on their servers, including custom applications.

It can make sense for consultants, even those who manage servers for their clients, to use a service to manage their own domains. Operating system updates, security, and scalability issues can eat up a lot of time you could otherwise bill for client work. It depends on how much control you wish to retain, whether you could view these activities as self education, and the costs involved.

Personally, I use a lightly managed shared host for my domains (camdensoftware.com, chipsquips.com, chipstips.com, and par4kidssake.org). The amount of traffic I get doesn't justify a dedicated or scalable server (yet), and I'm happy to let my web host manage the operating system. I get SSH access to a privileged account on my domain, running in a jail. All of the scripting languages and database managers I need came already installed. It's all I really need for now, but if I wanted to do more with my public sites I might switch to a less managed option.

How about you? Take the poll below and let us know.

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

17 comments
www.indigotea.com
www.indigotea.com

Over the years, I've gone from individual accounts, to a reseller account, and finally this year, a VPS of my own. I use a VPS with Arvixe, and I've been absolutely delighted with their support. I tested and compared their service for a year with one individual account in order to evaluate them as a hosting provider before making the switch. The support and communication with Arvixe support was on the money, while I fought constant outages and headaches with my reseller account with another small business oriented hosting service. After a year, I was firmly convinced to make the switch. I love having a VPS; for me, it's the right balance between control of the environment for the unique needs of my customers, and having someone else handle the server maintenance, which allow me to avoid having to acquire additional staff for that purpose. It does help that I'm the community liaison for two of the .Net open-source apps (mojoPortal and nopCommerce) for Arvixe, but the fact that they keep people (like me) who are experienced with these apps to ensure good customer service is something I've never encountered with any other hosting company.

ian
ian

All of my sites, and those of my clients, are managed. I added reseller hosting (also managed) as one of my provided services over four years ago but after re-evaluating decided it was more hassle than it was worth. I've never used GoDaddy, except where they were a client's registrar, so I cannot comment on them. I have used Hostgator in the past and found their customer service exceptional.

emgub
emgub

Does anyone have recommendations for very low or no cost hosting for a non-profit, small, civic organization? I have looked at various offerings, however, the ones that I found provide a URL like www.something.com/yourorganzation. They frequently charge as much as a traditional hosting service to transfer to a custom URL like www.yourorganization.com. Thanks.

jbitgood
jbitgood

Don't waste your time in areas you're not an expert. Self-hosted and self-designed sites look unprofessional and amateurish more often than not, so do it right. Work with your marketing person to get a solid idea of what you want to say and how, then have them find a good designer to put it all together. Let them worry about the setup and maintenance while you go make money.

Pgoggin
Pgoggin

1&1 I cannot recommend, poor service, rude & unhelpful. HostRoute I highly recommend. Helpful, very quick response to questions, excellent service.

bp1argosy
bp1argosy

I've heard really bad things about GoDaddy myself recently, when I was looking for a new managed host for my web presence. By the way, Chip, I moved myself into the .info domain when I found my new host; it was an attractive sign-up package, and I think it makes a lot of sense for consultancies to be in the .info domain. What do you think?

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

I host all of my sites on Doteasy.com, The cost of the domain is on the high side but in return you get a basic web site capability plus email. If you want full service including unlimited bandwidth/storage the cost is quite reasonable. I've never had bad service from them. Glen Ford http://www.vproz.ca

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

... is that it has acquired a reputation of being used by spammers and link-farms. I've also found that people tend to memorize the host name and assume the TLD is .com.

apotheon
apotheon

GoDaddy is a horror story. I think that sums it up. Thanks for the mention, by the way.

emgub
emgub

I took a look at doteasy.com. It does offer the function and price points that this thinly funded organization can afford. Thank you.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

In fact, I'm starting to filter all e-mail from .info domains, since I have yet to see anything to come from one that was not spam.

nelsonhoover
nelsonhoover

Even for myself, it's the first thing I'll try unless I make a conscious mental effort to remember that a certain site is .net, .biz, etc. For hosting, I've had fairly good experience with HostGator.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

I use them for registering names, but that's it. Inherited a client that was using them for hosting, and it's been a constant pain. Have since moved their hosting elsewhere.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I've heard bad things about GoDaddy, although it has been my good fortune to have never experienced their service.

apotheon
apotheon

I certainly wouldn't use a .info domain for anything that requires a lot of email communication. It might be useful for some web-only purposes, though. Just don't use it for a consulting business site (which is really the topic of discussion here, I guess).

apotheon
apotheon

I don't register with GoDaddy, either. It's not just about hosting. GoDaddy has been known to do things like "repossess" a domain name at the request of a third party (like MySpace in one famous incident) when there has been no wrongdoing on the part of the domain registrant, then offer to give it back if the registrant pays $300 in "penalties". Check out the story for NoDaddy -- which used to house a lot of horror stories about the bad things GoDaddy has done to its customers: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/07/12/godaddy_shuts_down_nodaddy/ edit: I actually use pairNIC for a lot of domain registration. So far, the company seems like a pretty stand-up, honest, low-key, substantial operation.