How Your Domain Name Is Linked To Your Website & Email – Advice For Dentists
Managing Your Domain Name, Website & Email Services
Managing the technical structure of dentists’ websites, hosting services, domain names and email is something that we specialise in here at Dental Media. It relieves all of the burden from the dentists themselves and allows them to get on with their business of dentistry.
However, it’s not all clients who wish to take a hands-off approach like that and many dentists prefer to have at least a working knowledge of how all of those technical elements are integrated and work together. So without going into lots of technical detail, here is a quick overview of how all of that works.
Your domain name
This is essentially your dental practice website address and in the UK typically takes the form of xyzdental.co.uk. The domain name is registered at a domain registrar of which there are number to choose from in the UK. You can also choose from lots of different domain versions e.g. .com .net etc, but for UK commercial purposes, the .co.uk version is recommended.
A misapprehension we often see if where a dentist thinks that you buy a domain name outright. You actually can’t do this and you effectively rent it on a defined term basis, typically 2 years, although you can register for much longer. As long as renew in good time, the domain remains yours to use. It goes without saying that you never want to lose “your” domain so it pays to make sure that things like renewals are scheduled and that you don’t miss doing it. Many is the time when a dentist has called to say his/her website has gone offline only for us to find that they’d failed to renew their domain registration.
Most dentists prefer that we look after their domain name and indeed we have many hundreds of domains registered and managed on our client’s behalf. Our systems ensure that a domain name can never be lost or expire unexpectedly.
DNS – Domain Name System
You may have heard your web design, hosting partner or email support guy mention “DNS” – but what is it and what does it do?
DNS stands for ‘domain name system’ and this is the mechanism which links domain names with IP addresses and “routes” different types of web and email traffic accordingly. DNS comprises of different types of records which each handle different aspects of traffic associated with the domain itself.
I won’t go into too much detail here as it likely won’t be of too much use for you; however it will provide an overview so at least you have a clue what your tech guy is going on about!
When a user plugs a website address into their browser, that address needs to be translated into the IP address of the server which actually hosts the website. There are a number of steps which happen which allow the website to appear on the user’s browser and I won’t detail them all here. Suffice to say that there are 4 DNS servers and 8 DNS “look ups” involved before the website appears! In today’s age of super-fast internet, these web transactions happen extremely quickly and so we’re not left waiting too long before the website we want appears on our device.
Here at Dental Media, our tech team will configure your domain name and hosting to work together seamlessly in conjunction with all of the third-party systems which make the web work.
Nameservers and DNS records
I mentioned earlier that there are different records within the DNS structure which handle different types of traffic, e.g. website and email. There are also things known as “nameservers” which work together with DNS records.
Let’s have a quick look at nameservers and also the main DNS records you may encounter:
Nameservers – these are the containers which hold the individual DNS records associated with a domain name. I saw a nice analogy once which compared name servers to a ‘phone book whilst the DNS records were the actual ‘phone numbers held within. That’s a pretty good way to look at it.
If you want to find a ‘phone number, you’d first find the ‘phone book and then look for the specific telephone number inside. When a user searches for a dentist’s website, something similar but a lot more technical happens as follows:
- You type “xyzdentist.co.uk” into your browser
- Your browser uses the global DNS system mentioned above to retrieve the domain’s allocated name servers
- Your browser uses something called an A record stored within the nameservers that contains the IP address of the target web server (a specific DNS record)
- The nameservers provide the IP address from the A record
- Your browser requests the website information from that specific IP address
- Your browser retrieves website content and displays it in your browser
- Here are the most common DNS records:
A records – this is an element of the DNS which maps a domain name to an IP address
MX records – these are mail exchange records and unsurprisingly handle email routing. So they are a key part of the systems which route email traffic from the user’s device via the email server, out to the internet and onward to the recipient.
CNAME records – these records are used to map alias names to a true (canonical) domain name
TXT records – these are used to add specific text information to your DNS settings. They are often used for verification purposes e.g. for email and domain security
There are other records which also come into play but they are outside the scope of the discussion here.
I suspect many of us take it for granted when we view websites on our devices and give little thought to what actually happens in the background to make it all happen. As we’ve seen there is a large set of technical handshakes which go on across the web to make it happen, not just for website traffic but for email too.
If you don’t wish to get involved with all of that, we completely understand and the web team at Dental Media is on hand to make sure your domain name, website hosting and email service is professionally integrated and reliable. Need to know more? Please call our team on 01332 672548 for no-obligation advice.