Website Basics & Definitions

Communication between webmaster and client can be tough since most of it is done via email, and to a lesser degree via phone. Rarely do I actually meet a client in person.

That said, when a client has a problem or question, they sometimes ask it in a way that is perfectly clear to them but that means something entirely different to me. So, I thought I’d give everyone some tips that will help us both when we communicate.

1. The passwords that I give you are useful only relative to the services I provide AND to the particular service I’m working on. The Internet is a not one big computer. It’s a bunch of computers that each have their own function. If I give you a password for your mail account on my mailserver (a computer that serves mail), that is probably the only place that password is valid. I’ll give you a different password for ftp access and for domain name registration and for shopping cart admin. It’s a pain, but it’s the responsible and safe way to manage your business.

2. Domain registration is paying for the privilege of using a domain name, such as or You can own(rent) all the domain names you want. That does not mean you have a website for each one. Domain names are rented on an annual basis from a registrar. I’m a registrar (I actually resell domain registration services). So are Network Solutions, GoDaddy and numerous others.

3. Web hosting is paying for someone to have a file on their server (a computer with website-serving software) so that when some types in your domain name, a page comes up. This is charged monthly. You are renting computer space on a computer that is connected to the Internet. Your monthly hosting fee covers the cost of your webhost keeping the site available (up) on the internet. It does not cover making any edits to the website.

4. Website management means keeping a website updated, fixing cart problems that arise, updating shopping carts, changing pictures on the site, etc.

5. Website hosting does not include management or maintenance services. Depending on the hosting plan, you may get some basic level of support. Or you may have to figure out a lot of things yourself by reading help files or submitting support requests when your website doesn’t come up or you can’t access your email on the web.

6. Your web host has nothing to do with things that happen on your computer.  If you cannot send mail from Outlook, talk to your Internet Service Provider first.  A good way to understand where the boundary is, is to think, “If I didn’t have a website, would I still use this program?” If the answer is yes, then it’s probably an issue for you to resolve.

7. There are 3 kinds of email.
Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) gives you an email address. That is called a POP3 account, which means you can access it by going to a specific URL and you can also retrieve it so that you can read it in Outlook (or Eudora or Thunderbird, etc.) on your computer.
You might have a free web-based email account, such as a Yahoo! or Gmail or Hotmail email account.
You will have an email account associated with your website. Almost every website will have at least one POP3 email account.
POP3 mail accounts can be “downloaded” to your computer’s email program (probably Outlook).
There are also “alias” accounts which are exactly like forwarding addresses. Mail can be sent to such addresses, but they are immediately forwarded to a different POP3 address.

8. Mail you send via Outlook does not go through our server. You may have it set up so it looks like it comes from your website, but it doesn’t really. It’s like mailing a letter when you’re in Colorado but putting a return address on the envelope of Buda, TX. So, when you have problems sending mail, it is an issue with your ISP, not me.

That’s probably enough for today. I know that when you don’t think about this stuff every day, some of it seems difficult to grasp. It was difficult for me to grasp when I first started doing this stuff 12 or 13 years ago.

I would love know if you read this and found any of it useful. Feel free to comment by clicking the Comment button below.

(As of Jan, 2010, no one has commented or told me they’ve read the above.  Hah!  Not a surprise, but a tad disappointing)