What is web hosting?

Web hosting is a very important part of the way the Internet works today. To the end user, the Internet seems to just work all by itself. Many website owners have come to learn that’s not the case at all.

But what is web hosting, really?
Web hosting is a service provided by thousands of companies worldwide. They set up and maintain entire buildings called datacenters, full of computer systems called servers, and you get some sort of access to them via the Internet.

With that access you can upload your websites. Once configured properly, computers around the world will quickly know exactly where to find them.

There are several different types of web hosting providers. Odds are, if you’re just starting out, you’ll need a shared hosting provider for your website. With that kind of hosting, your site could be on a computer along with hundreds of others, but it is the cheapest and easiest way to get started.

Even someone tech savvy, with lots of computer experience, is sure to have many unanswered questions. We hope that most of those questions will be answered by the series of tutorials that follows.

What are web servers? Why are they necessary?

Web servers are computers that have been set up by a hosting company, usually in a facility called a datacenter, like the one shown here. A web server’s sole purpose is to store websites until someone wants to visit them, and then to quickly respond to the visitor’s browser with the site’s contents.
Softlater Datacenter - Dallas 06
A server should be able to respond to at least several dozen requests at a time, if not hundreds. How many websites a server can comfortably host depends on a wide variety of factors, including server hardware and how popular the sites are.

Even the most expensive server hardware isn’t going to be very useful without the software to actually get things done. The key software programs of a web server are also themselves called servers, or daemons.
Most servers used for web hosting have at least these kinds of software servers running at all times:
• an HTTP or web server (to provide the websites)
• an FTP server (for uploading files)• an email server or two
• a database server (for storing information essential to the operation of a website)

You might be wondering… Are web servers even necessary? Why can’t I just run my websites from a computer at home? There are several very good reasons.
Most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) specifically disallow people from running any type of web-related server on their networks. Doing so can potentially get your Internet account suspended or terminated.

But even if that weren’t the case, you have to take into account the upload speed of your connection. While broadband connections are getting faster and faster, upload speeds are usually about 10-20 times slower than download speeds as shown here

When running a server on your computer, your upload speed would directly determine the total download speed shared across everyone accessing your sites. Most likely you’ll only be able to offer up a megabit or two, and even if you’re just hosting a website with pictures on it, that will quickly be used up by only a few people.

A professional server with a hosting provider, on the other hand, could have a connection as fast as 10,000 megabits. You’d have to pay a fortune to get even a 100 Mbit connection to your house, whereas a hosting provider can offer you space on a server with an ultra-high speed connection for a fraction of the cost.

Moreover, most consumer broadband ISPs aren’t reliable enough for hosting websites. You’ll probably want people to be able to visit your sites at all hours of the day, and that won’t be possible if your Internet connection is acting up or your ISP is performing maintenance.

You also have to factor in the costs of running a computer for extended periods, including the cost of any parts that may fail and increased electricity costs.
This completes the tutorial. You should now have a good understanding of what a server is, and why you can’t just use your personal computer as one.

What’s the difference between shared, dedicated, and other types of hosting?

Shared hosting is probably what you’re most interested in, especially if you’re just starting out in web hosting. With shared hosting, you’ll be on a server with potentially hundreds of other accounts. This is the cheapest form of hosting, for the hosting provider and for you.

If your account frequently uses up a lot of server resources, your hosting provider will probably ask you to upgrade to something more suited to your website’s needs.
One option is another type of “shared” hosting called Reseller hosting. This basically allows you to sell shared hosting accounts to other people. Sometimes a reseller server will be less crowded and better suited to websites with high resource usage.

Another option is a dedicated server. This is the most expensive form of web hosting, and will cost you at the very least $40 a month, but probably closer to $100. Since you probably won’t know how to manage the server yourself, it would probably cost closer to $200 per month total for an entry level managed server.

A Managed dedicated server leaves the hardest parts of operating a server to experienced technicians, letting you focus on the website side of things.

On a slightly smaller scale is the Virtual Dedicated Server, also known as Virtual Private Server, and commonly shortened to VDS and VPS, respectively.

What hosting companies do is divide a very powerful dedicated server up into separate “virtual” servers using virtualization software. Each virtual server gets its own operating system, and acts almost exactly like a real dedicated server.

Depending on the hosting provider and the plan you choose, VDSes may not be anywhere near as powerful as a real dedicated server.

It takes just as much work to manage a VDS as it does an actual dedicated server, though, so really the only benefit is decreased cost. A VDS can typically be purchased anywhere from $10 a month up to the price of a small dedicated server.

So, you’ve heard about four of the most common types of web hosting. There are a few others, including cloud hosting, clustered hosting, and grid hosting, but we won’t go into those here.

What is a control panel?

The control panel is an essential part of any web hosting account. You wouldn’t be able to do very much without some sort of control panel — even just a basic one.

Among the most widely used web hosting control panels are cPanel (shown here), Parallels Plesk, and DirectAdmin. Some control panels only run on Linux, some are meant for Windows, and some will work with both types of operating system.

One important note: Just because your computer at home is running Windows doesn’t mean you need to find a Windows hosting account. You only need a Windows account if your website requires features that only work on Windows. Otherwise, a Linux account will work just as well, and with very few differences.

Most versions of Linux are free, whereas you can’t install Windows on a computer unless you pay for a license. Because of this, Windows hosting accounts generally cost a bit more.

Here is another control panel, Parallels Plesk

This is the end of the tutorial. You should now have a better understanding of what a control panel is

What do you mean when you say gigabyte, megabyte, GB, and MB?

The smallest unit of measurement on a computer is the bit. There are almost always eight bits in one byte. These two terms are commonly confused with each other.
To compound the confusion, the abbreviation for bit is a lowercase b, while byte is abbreviated with an uppercase B.

Making things even more complicated, all the compound forms of bits and bytes — kilobyte (KB), megabyte (MB), gigabyte (GB), etc. — can refer to two different values. Sometimes you’ll see kilobyte and it means 1000 bytes, while it can also mean 1024 bytes.

In any case, a megabyte refers to roughly 1024 kilobytes, and a gigabyte refers to roughly 1024 megabytes. At the next level is terabytes, and hard drives really haven’t gotten any further past that at this point in time.

One other important thing you should know is that whenever you hear about the speed of an Internet connection, it’s almost always going to be referred to in bits, whether that’s kilobits, megabits, or gigabits.

Remember, whenever bits is used, you abbreviate it with a small b. So, kilobits = Kb, megabits = Mb, and gigabits = Gb.
So, the speed of a connection would be referred to, for example, in megabits per second, or Mbps. So, a 100 Mbps connection can transfer 100 megabits every second, which equates to 12.5 megabytes per second.

How much disk space and bandwidth do I need for my website?

You probably understand what disk space is, but what is bandwidth? A bandwidth quota is a limit placed on the amount of data that can be transferred each month to and from your websites.
Whenever someone downloads a file or views a picture that you host on your account, it uses up bandwidth. That costs your hosting provider money, and they pass that cost on to you. This graph shows the bandwidth usage, both downloads and uploads, for a month

The amount of hard drive space your files take up multiplied by the amount of people that access them each month equals your bandwidth usage.
So, how much disk space and bandwidth do you need to host your site(s)? That can depend on a variety of factors.
Do you plan to host a lot of big downloads? Maybe a bunch of videos, audio clips, or pictures? All of these can quickly consume your space and bandwidth.
When you’re first starting out in the world of web hosting, it’s probably safe to go for a plan with average storage and transfer limits. You can always upgrade in the future.
Just be sure to always keep an eye on things, as most providers will charge extra or suspend your account if you go over your limits.
This is the end of the tutorial. It should now be easier for you to decide how much space and bandwidth you need.

Why shouldn’t I go for that unlimited plan? Beware overselling.

If you’ve been searching for a web hosting provider, you have probably seen some offers that look very enticing — at least on the surface.

While 500 gigabytes of space and 2000 gigabytes of bandwidth for $3.95 a month or unlimited space and bandwidth for $6.95 a month may seem reasonable to some people, you should know that nearly all plans like that are marketing ploys meant to entice customers into buying them.

The reason providers can offer such exorbitant limits is due to overselling. The companies know that most customers aren’t going to use very much space and bandwidth. For those that do, the company is either large enough to afford it, or it isn’t.

You should be on the lookout for those in the latter category. If the company can’t afford for you to use all the space and bandwidth you’re given, you can count on them having some hidden terms that prevent it.

You may find some sort of clause in their Terms of Service agreement that states that you may only use a certain percentage of your space or bandwidth, or something like that. They won’t allow you to get anywhere near the advertised limits before your account is suspended for “abusing” the limits given to you.
You may also notice poor service from hosting providers that are extreme oversellers. Websites and downloads will run very slowly, and you may experience frequent downtime.

The industry hasn’t always been like this. Only in the past five or six years has overselling become an issue.

Over the years, the biggest hosting providers have been in constant competition with each other. That has driven the average space and bandwidth limits up exponentially, and made it harder for honest companies to compete.

It is true that hard drive and internet transit prices have gone down significantly, but at nowhere near the rate hosting offerings have gone up.
So, the most important thing to remember is that you should always carefully read the Terms of Service before signing up for any hosting account. Sign up with a reputable company that offers reasonable limits and you’ll be much better off than with a disreputable one offering high limits.

What happens if I exceed my space or bandwidth quotas?

That varies from hosting provider to hosting provider.

Some will suspend your account if you go over your disk space limit or monthly bandwidth quota, while others will let you off with a warning.

You should be aware, though, that some companies will charge you expensive overage fees for exceeding their limits. When that happens, you may have a nasty surprise waiting for you when you open next month’s bill.

When in doubt, you should always carefully read over the Terms of Service agreement, as well as any other legal agreements offered to you at signup.

If you see that you are about to go over your space or bandwidth limits, you should immediately contact your hosting provider and ask about upgrading to a plan with higher limits.

Am I allowed to resell my hosting space?

In general, most hosting providers will not allow customers with shared hosting accounts to resell space. You should check with yours, though; ask support or read through the Terms of Service and other legal agreements.

Reselling is when you give out space to other people for money. If you were to start your own little hosting company on a shared hosting account, that would be defined as reselling.

Most hosting companies would prefer that you upgrade to a designated reseller plan if you’d like to offer other people space. This does give a better experience for your customers, as they too will have their own hosting control panel; you will have essentially given them their very own shared hosting account.

If you want to resell hosting space, you should definitely consider upgrading to a Reseller account.

This is a screenshot of a hosting provider’s Acceptable Use Policy. Notice term #11. Particularly this part. “You may not make your account (including but not limited to web space, email accounts, bandwidth, storage space, or reseller rights) available to any third party in any way, including but not limited to the use of Sub Domains, Add-on Domains, Sub Directories, or by any other means.”

You should look out for similar clauses in your hosting provider’s terms.

Can I host more than one site per account?

It depends on whether you want each site to have its own domain name or not. If you don’t mind, you can usually put as many sites on an account as you want using subdomains, i.e. site2.mydomain.com.

Depending on your hosting plan’s features, you may be able to host multiple websites on your account by default. Otherwise, you can purchase the ability to use addon domains. You’ll have to pay a fixed fee for every domain you wish to add.

Buying addon domain rights from your hosting provider doesn’t actually give you a domain name; it just gives you the ability to add that domain to your account. You’ll still have to pay for the domain name, too.

If you’re going to host more than one site, be careful that you don’t violate your host’s Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy, particularly if you’ll be letting a third party use your account in any way. And of course, you’ll need to make sure you don’t exceed your storage and bandwidth limits.

In general, what can get my account suspended?

There’s no way to say exactly what can get your account suspended across every host, but there are some things that you can do that will cause most providers to suspend your account.

The most common reasons for account suspension are:
• exceeding your storage and bandwidth limits
• frequently using up lots of server resources (i.e. CPU and memory)

Other causes for suspension are listed include:
• Spam email messages being sent from your account
• Hosting or linking to material that infringes the rights of a third party or any Federal, State, or local laws
• Hosting or linking to pornography, especially child pornography

Sometimes a host will give you a warning before your account is suspended, but not always.

There are usually few causes for an outright account termination, but two examples of possible grounds for termination are:
• attempting to gain unauthorized access to another customer’s account or files
• verbally or physically abusing or threatening the company’s employees

For specifics, you’ll need to ask your hosting provider’s abuse, legal, or support department or check their Acceptable Use Policy, Terms of Service, and other legal agreements.

What is an Uptime Guarantee?

Server uptime refers to the amount of time in a given period a server stays up and running. There’s also network uptime, which refers only to the network side of things. Conversely, downtime refers to the amount of time in a given period that a server or network is down or not functioning.

The goal of every hosting company, no matter what kind, is to keep a customer’s website up and running as close as possible to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Some web hosts may guarantee a certain uptime, like 100%, 99.9%, or 99%, but then go on to exclude planned maintenances, acts of God, and a whole list of other things.

You may also notice downtime that isn’t in any way the fault of your hosting provider. They, too, have Internet providers that can experience problems, and they may not necessarily get compensated by their providers for any downtime they experience. If they don’t get compensated, you probably won’t, either.

Or, the downtime may even be further down along the line. If you notice your site is down, it may be your own Internet that’s acting up.

Also, it’s worth noting that even a 99.99% Uptime guarantee can allow for days of downtime, if spread out across a whole year. So, it depends on the period of time the hosting company uses to calculate uptime and downtime.

The point is that while having an uptime guarantee may be nice, it shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when you choose a web host.

What are domain names? How do they work?

Every server in the world that has access to the Internet has at least one IP address — to a computer, this is like a phone number. An example of an IP address is 74.125.45.100.

Instead of having to remember a bunch of numbers, domain names allow us to assign a name to those numbers. Without domain names, you would have to enter an IP address every time you wanted to visit a website. Isn’t google.com much easier to remember than 74.125.45.100?

Domain names can contain letters, numbers, and hyphens. They can be hundreds of characters in length, but the shorter the domain, the better.

This picture shows an example of why very long domains are a bad idea. More on this in the next tutorial.

In order for your computer to figure out what IP address to use for a domain name, it has to connect to a nameserver, also called a DNS server. That server connects to another server, which connects to another, and so on, until a server is encountered that knows the right IP address for the domain name.

When you purchase a domain name, you then tell the domain registrar that all requests for an IP address for that domain name should be directed toward your hosting provider’s nameservers.

You’ll find out more about domain registrars and how to buy a domain name a few tutorials later in this series.

Once you’ve informed your web host the domain you plan to use, they’ll configure their nameservers to give your domain name a specific IP address.

Usually you’ll share an IP address with many other domain names. You can also purchase a dedicated IP address from your web host, and that will be yours alone to use. Whichever the case, the important thing is that you have an IP address assigned to your domain, and that all the right nameservers know what it is.

This completes the tutorial. You now know what domain names are, and a little bit about how they work.

How do I decide what to choose for a domain name?

If you’re not quite sure exactly what a domain is, you should watch the previous tutorial.

When you’re trying to decide what domain name to purchase for your website, there are a few things you should know and keep in mind.

Domain names can be hundreds of characters in length, but the shorter the domain, the better.

Domain names can contain letters, numbers, and hyphens. You should avoid using hyphens, if possible, since that does make it harder to say your domain name to someone; being able to easily communicate your domain name is important.

As domain names get shorter, so too do their likelihood of being available for purchase, so you may not be able to buy your first choice.

You’ll also need to decide what top-level domain, or domain extension, to use for your domain name, such as .com, .org, .net, .info, or .us.

It really doesn’t matter anymore; you can choose whichever sounds best and is available. If the .com domain of your choice isn’t available, maybe the .net version is.

To find out more about purchasing a domain name for your site, and how to check if a domain name is available, watch the tutorial immediately after this one.

Where can I buy a domain name for my site?

Domain names can be purchased at any accredited domain registrar. A domain registrar is a company whose main purpose is to register domain names for people.

Most hosting providers can also obtain a domain name for you, but domains can be more expensive this way, due to the added overhead.

There are several very popular domain registrars, including GoDaddy.com, Enom.com, and Dotster.com (shown here). Most of their prices should be about the same.

All three of these sites do, of course, have a way for you to check if a domain name is available for purchase. Let’s take a look at GoDaddy.com.

We can enter a domain here, right on the home page

As we can see, the domain we entered isn’t available. Note the list of suggestions below

This is the end of the tutorial. You should now know where to buy a domain name

Can people find out where I live based on my domain registration information?

Unfortunately, the answer is usually going to be yes. Any address and contact information you give your domain registrar when you buy a domain name will be available to the public, and can easily be looked up by anyone in the world.

This usually includes your name, address, phone number, and email address.

Anyone that has ever had a domain name for an extended period has probably gotten at least one solicitation in the mail from companies about your domain name, trying to get you to buy extras that you don’t really need.

They find this information in what’s called a WHOIS database. Let’s see how easy it is to perform a WHOIS search.

We’ll start from the godaddy.com home page

Here is the WHOIS search at the bottom of the page

Simply type the domain and click Go

All the WHOIS information shows up here for anyone to see

If you’re concerned about random people finding out your information, you may want to pay extra to get a private domain registration. Watch the tutorial after this one to find out more.

Should I pay for private domain registration?

If you’ve watched the previous tutorial, you may be worried about your personal domain registration information being available to pretty much anyone that wants it.

Most of the popular domain registrars will allow you to purchase an addon for your domain names called private domain registration, or something similar. Purchasing this can double the yearly cost of a domain name, though, so you have to decide for yourself whether the added protection is worth it.

In this image, you can take a quick look at eNom.com’s ID Protect page. On the left you have an unprotected WHOIS result. Remember, WHOIS is the database that registrars have to maintain and make available to the public. And on the right you have a protected, or private WHOIS result.

As you can see in the registration info below, these services will make the domain registration for you. This is called proxy registration.

One important thing you should know is that when you use proxy registration on your domain name, the proxy company becomes the legal owner of the domain. They’ll essentially be giving you license to use it, but you won’t actually own the domain.

Proxy registration companies have also been known to occasionally give away personal information to anyone that calls and asks for it.

So, is private domain registration worth it to you? You’ll still have to decide for yourself, but hopefully the information in this tutorial will help with that decision.

There is one more thing that you should know. We’ll show you on GoDaddy.com’s website.

Private registration is only available for certain domain extensions. Notably, .us and .ca domains cannot be registered through a proxy company.

This tutorial is now complete.

What are parked and addon domains? What about subdomains?

A Parked domain is a domain name that leads to the same website as another domain name. The domain is, in essence, parked on top of the other domain.

For example, suppose we have a domain name mysite.com. If we park mysite.org on top of the .com domain, a visitor to our site will be able to access the site from either the .com or the .org address. The visitor won’t notice any difference in the website at all no matter which one she chooses.

An Addon domain, on the other hand, is a domain that will display a completely different website. So, If you pay to be able to host an addon domain on your hosting account, you are basically being given permission to host another site in addition to your main website.

Suppose you have MyCatSite.com, but you also want to launch a sister site called MyDogSite.com. You would do this using an addon domain.

It is important to note that buying addon domain or parked domain rights from your hosting provider doesn’t actually give you a domain name; it just gives you the ability to add that domain to your account. You’ll still have to pay for the domain name, too.

Subdomains, though, will work off of your existing domain names. They can be used for the same purposes as regular domain names; they just have an extra part in front.

www is actually considered a subdomain, but one that is usually parked on top of the main domain.

Another example could be if you created two subdomains dogs and cats on mypetsite.com. You’d visit those subdomains in your browser using http://dogs.mypetsite.com/and http://cats.mypetsite.com/, respectively.

You could set each subdomain to go to its own website, or to go to a section of the main mypetsite.com site.

This is the end of the tutorial. We hope you now completely understand the differences between addon, parked, and sub domains.

What is an IP address? Do I need a Dedicated IP?

Every server in the world that has access to the Internet has at least one IP address — to a computer, this is like a phone number. An example of an IP address is 74.125.45.100.

When you sign up for a hosting account, your host assigns your account a specific IP address on one of their servers. If someone visits a domain name associated with your account, the visitor’s computer will find out the correct IP address to which it should connect.

Usually you’ll share an IP address with many other domain names. You can also purchase a dedicated IP address from your web host, and that will be yours alone to use.

Whichever the case, the important thing is that you have an IP address assigned to your domain, and that all the right nameservers know what it is. (A nameserver is a server that keeps track of which domain names correspond to which IP addresses.)

How will you know if you need a dedicated IP address? Most websites don’t. The most common reason that a website would need an IP address of its own is if it requires an SSL certificate for secure connections to visitors.

Any business site that processes transactions will definitely need secure connections to work, so a dedicated IP address is a requirement for such sites.

Watch the tutorial immediately after this one to find out more about SSL certificates.

This completes the tutorial. You now know what an IP address is, and whether you need a dedicated IP address.

What is an SSL/TLS certificate?

Whenever you or your visitors access a website through a secure, encrypted connection, that connection is typically made using something known as SSL.

If you make a secure connection in your web browser, you’ll probably see the address bar light up or some sort of padlock appear. You should also see that the URL starts with https://. The “s” is what tells you the connection is secure.

Both SSL and its successor, TLS, function using certificates. Any business site that processes transactions will definitely need secure connections to work. If this is the case for you, then you need an SSL/TLS certificate.

Businesses will often purchase an SSL certificate from a reliable source, such as Verisign or Trustwave, so that customers are assured that their transactions are as secure as possible.

Your web host may be able to sell you an SSL certificate from a trusted provider such as one of the companies we just mentioned.

You may also be able to generate a free one from within your control panel, depending on which one your web host uses.

If a website is moved to a different domain name, you’ll need to update its SSL certificate(s). This will prevent your visitors from being scared away by warning messages.

SSL certificates always expire after a fixed amount of time. Your visitors will also receive a warning when this happens, so you should try to remember to renew your certificates before they expire.

What are PHP, Perl, Python, and Ruby on Rails?

Those are all web programming languages, also known as scripting languages. PHP is the most commonly used and available for web hosting, followed by Perl (which is what’s used most of the time when you see the phrase CGI or cgi-bin).

What language is used to code web software doesn’t really matter, as long as your web host supports the language. In addition to PHP and Perl, many hosts are starting to offer support for Python and Ruby on Rails.

From a security standpoint, poorly coded PHP can potentially be a nightmare for any server admin or website owner. There are many security flaws in PHP that a hacker can exploit, and those are only worsened when a PHP script is written badly.

There are several very important things you should always remember when experimenting with web software.

First of all, you should only use web software if you’ve read a lot about it and found out other people’s opinions of the software.

Any time you upload or install software to your hosting account, you’re giving the program free reign to do just about anything within your web space or possibly even the whole server. You should only install trusted software.

Second, you should always make sure that all your web software is kept as up to date as possible. The more time that passes after a software is released, the more time a hacker or some other malicious person has to examine the code and find a way to exploit it.

Third, no matter how much you trust the software and keep it up to date, it still may run inefficiently. If it frequently uses up too much of the server’s resources, your hosting provider may suspend your account, or at least ask you to remove the software.

And finally, just in case something bad happens, you should always remember to take complete backups of your account on a regular basis. For advice on backups, watch the tutorial later on in this series.

What is a MySQL database?

A MySQL database, like all other types of databases, is used to keep track of a website or software’s data.

The technical term for MySQL is a relational database management system, or RDBMS. MySQL is a software program that runs at all times on a server and gives other programs access to the information it maintains.

This information is stored in databases. A database is made up of tables. Each table is structured into fields that can contain a specific type of information; some fields can contain only numbers, while others can only contain dates, etc.

When data is inserted into a table, each group of fields is called a row.

MySQL controls access to this information with usernames and passwords, just like when you log in to a computer. Each username gets permission to do certain things with certain databases.

You can create MySQL databases, users, and passwords inside your control panel.

If you plan to install web software on your hosting account, you’ll need at least one MySQL database. Most web software is designed to share a single database with more than one other software program.

You’ll also need to create a username and password for the software to use. Be sure to make the password as complex as possible, because it’s not a password you’re going to need to remember. Usually, a program will store its MySQL password in a configuration file; you’ll never need the password again after installation.

What is FTP? Why do I need it?

FTP – File Transfer Protocol – is one way for you to transfer files to and from your hosting account. Unlike HTTP, which is meant for accessing websites, FTP is designed to transfer files.

Because of this, using an FTP client to transfer files can be faster and more reliable than doing so inside your control panel. An FTP client is software designed to work with the FTP protocol.

One free FTP client we can recommend is called FileZilla (shown here). You can download it at filezilla-project.org. On the left, we can see our local files and folders, while the right side shows the content on the server we are connected to.

How many email accounts do I need?

That’s really up to you; it depends on how many people you think will be using email on your hosting account.

Most hosting providers allow you to create plenty of email accounts on pretty much any hosting plan. Keep in mind, though, that the mail you send and receive will be counted as part of your disk space quota.

With your hosting account, email can be accessed via webmail or by using a mail client such as Mozilla Thunderbird or Microsoft Outlook (shown in the background).

What are email forwarders?

Email forwarders allow you to forward a copy of all mail from one address to another. For example, you could set up a forwarder to forward all mail received on info@mysite.com to admin@mysite.com.

info@mysite.com will still keep the original version of all messages it receives, and admin@mysite.com gets forwarded a copy.

It’s worth noting that this relationship doesn’t work in two directions. Mail received by admin will not go to info.

Another type of forwarding is a domain forwarder. This will forward all mail received on a specific domain to another domain. If we forwarded mysite.com to demosite.com, admin@mysite.com and info@mysite.com would be forwarded to admin@demosite.com and info@demosite.com, respectively.

The last kind of forwarder we’ll mention is a “catch-all” or default email address. With this kind of forwarder, mail sent to an email address that doesn’t exist will be forwarded to the email address you specify.

What is an email auto-responder?

An email auto-responder is exactly what you’d expect based on the name.

Inside most control panels and webmail programs, you can configure an email address to automatically respond to any emails it gets with a default reply you specify. Then, it will discard the message, keep it in the inbox for that email account, or forward it on to another email address, depending on your settings.

Email auto-responders can be used to send a standard “message received” response on a support address, or if you’re going to be away for an extended period and want to let people know you’re not ignoring their emails.

What is Spam?

Spam refers to junk email that’s sent out in mass quantities. On average, three-fourths of the email that’s sent every day is spam.

Spammers find email addresses in a variety of ways, most commonly by searching for email addresses listed on websites and by means of computer viruses and hacking.

They can then sell the lists of addresses to other spammers, and continue to pester people with an endless amount of unwanted emails.

A lot of spam is harmless, but some can contain viruses and links to scam websites. Whenever you recognize an email as spam, you should just delete it.

You should also be wary of any emails that try to imitate legitimate companies; they’ll try to steal your passwords and personal information. They may ask you to respond with it, or they may try to trick you into going to a website that isn’t real. This is known as phishing, and is perhaps the most dangerous type of spam.

Whenever you encounter phishing emails, you should try to forward the email to the company they’re imitating, if possible. They’ll definitely want to know if someone is trying to steal information in their name.

If you find yourself unable to cope with the amount of spam you’re getting, you may want to let your hosting provider know; they may be able to adjust the spam filter settings for your server.

You may also be able to configure a spam filter in your control panel account, or in your email or webmail client.

This completes the tutorial. Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what spam is, and how to combat it.

Should I be taking backups of my account? If so, how often?

Backups are crucial to the smooth operation of any website, no matter how important, how many visitors you have, or how frequently the site content changes.

The frequency at which you should take backups does depend on those factors, as well as exactly what kind of sites and software you have on your account.

If you have any web software installed that depends on a database to function, then you should take backups of all your databases at least once a day. The databases are usually the most frequently changing part of your hosting account. Some web software programs have a backup system built in.

If the other files on your hosting account are likely to change often, you should also back them up every day. Otherwise, once a week or once a month, even once every few months should be sufficient. Just make sure you keep the backups in a safe place, preferably on some sort of disc, like a CD or DVD, or an external hard drive.

Even though you may think nothing is going to happen to your information, you shouldn’t assume that everything will be okay. Hard drives fail more frequently than most people would think.

Almost every control panel has some sort of backup system in place. Some will let you set up automatic backups, and most will allow you to take a backup manually. If there is no sort of backup mechanism, you can always take a backup manually via FTP.

Many web hosts will take frequent backups of all the accounts on their servers, but you shouldn’t count on that. The more backups you or anyone else takes of your account, the less likely you are to lose important data.