Simple Is Good!

How To Web Dev

How a website works

Like cars, many people use websites on a daily basis, but often have no clue how they work, just click on the icon or do a google search and presto, it works! This is great, it means that lots of people don’t have to be nerds to be able to use the internet, last thing we need is a bunch of code junkies running around! The major components to making the web work however can be complicated to someone new, and even those who are not new to learning how the web works. This post hopes to clarify, nothing new here that can not be found elsewhere, but I think it is worthwhile.

The Registrar

The Registrar is the organization that actually keeps track of your domain name.  You generally don’t interact with the registrar unless you are transferring the domain from one hosting company to the another.  The registrar will give access to the domain to only one authorized host at a time, so if you have, and it is hosted with Media Temple, you will be able to mange and maintain that domain using the control panel provided by Media Temple.

The Hosting Company

Most websites are hosted with companies like Media Temple, Bluehost, GoDaddy and many more.  Some businesses will host their websites from their place of business, but usually there isn’t a great reason to do this unless you have a pretty large site.  The hosting company you use will mange all of the following for your site potentially:

While this is the usual setup for smaller sites, larger sites might have one or more of these services provided by different companies by using the DNS service.


Domain Name Service or DNS, allows the person in charge of the domain name to point different parts of their site to different places.  So for example, has a website and some email accounts.  By using DNS, even if we have the domain hosted with Media Temple, we could tell the DNS server to send people looking for the website over to another IP address/web hosting service, and we could use a third party email hosting service by using DNS to point all email traffic to a service like Google Apps, ZoHo or our very own email server.

Website Hosting

The server that hosts your website can be located just about anywhere, most are hosted from data hubs all over the world.  These servers are what actually deliver the files and images that make your website.  If you have a scripted site they run the compilers that execute the code written by us nerds and send it to a users browser for their viewing pleasure.  These servers are generally run pretty reliably, but they can fail.

E-Mail Hosting

Email hosting much like website hosting, can be either with the host who controls your domain, or at a third party service like Zoho or Google Apps.  Again the DNS will point any incoming/outgoing email to the ip address of the server designated to handle it.

The Ideal Set Up

There are lots of opinions on how to properly set-up a domain/site/email, and most work just fine.  This however from my experience has proven to be the most reliable and flexible.  How I recommend to my clients is that the client goes and registers a domain name,  and that domain name should be registered in the name of the client, not the designer.  Once that domain name is set-up I use a service called cloud flare, which is a DNS service that also helps to filter out spam and all sorts of other unsavoury pieces of the internet.  From there I can send all the traffic for the website to the web host, and then I use a third party email service that gets all the email.  Sounds pretty scattered doesn’t it?  Well it is, but here is why.  The nice thing with this is that all the pieces are segregated, if my web host goes down, my clients still have email, also if the email service goes down, at least the site is still up and they can post an announcement.  Also, since I can point my web traffic anywhere I want with my DNS, I can have a second website hosting company set-up and install the backups of the site, one of many reasons you should have backups, and have the site up and running in no time at all while the problem on the primary server is being fixed.