To run a business with a digital presence (Website and Email at a minimum), you need a number of services, and unless you yourself are an internet company, most of them are services you don’t want to undertake doing for yourself. Generally, you will pay another organization to perform them reliably for you. Here, we will outline all of those different services you might potentially need, and talk about the different providers you might choose from and why you might choose our recommended provider.
There are around a half dozen important services you might want to utilize. They are Domain Registration, DNS Services, Individual and Bulk email handling, and unmanaged or managed Website hosting. At a bare minimum, you will generally need Domain Registration, DNS Services, Individual Email services and some form of Website hosting. While some companies may provide multiple or all of the services above, it’s often not a great idea to utilize one company for all of them. Here’s what each of the services are, from top to bottom.
Domain Name Registration
This is where it all starts. If you want a digital presence, you need a Domain Name. This is your dot-com or your dot-org or your dot-ai or your dot-me or dot-whatever. Dot-com (as in WIldIrisMarketing.com) is the most popular American Top Level Domain to register your name under. In 2023, there are currently 1589 Top Level Domains to choose from including the better known .com, .net, .org, .cc, .ai, but also more unusual ones like .wtf, .dot (isn’t that gonna be confusing?) .unicorn, .ninja and .pizza. Suffice it to say, most of the weird ones will never get used because telling someone your website is bobthe.ninja is just going to make them go “huh?”.
To get a domain of your own utilizing a chosen Top Level Domain, you need to pay a company that is known as a Domain Registrar. Not everyone can be a registrar, as it’s a position of some importance to the security of the Internet. And the companies that are Registrars charge you a fee, usually on the scale of $15 dollar a year or more, to reserve a domain for you and connect it to a Domain Name Server (below) for the next step in the process. Different Registrars have different levels of service and some are quite scammy. Wild Iris Marketing uses and recommends Hover.com for Domain Name Registration. Hover also provides DNS services (below) included in their reasonable yearly costs, which is convenient and a good value. Other Domain Name Registration providers you might have heard of are 1&1, GoDaddy, NameCheap, etc. We do NOT recommend 1&1 or GoDaddy due to deceptive business practices we have witnessed them conducting on our clients.
Domain Name Server (DNS) Services
Your Domain Name Registrar will designate a DNS Server to answer the question “What server should a web browser or email program talk to when it wants to visit the website of or send email to the specified domain name?” So, when you want to visit or email Target.com, your web browser and computer lookup Target.com and it gives them a number – like a phone number – called an IP address, that is used to “dial” the server that is handling email or hosting a website for Target. Then your computer and the server talk.
The DNS records can (and usually do) designate different companies to handle your website and your email. For example, it’s common for small businesses to use GMail or Microsoft Outlook 365 for Email services, but have their website hosted somewhere else. DNS is the phonebook that lets everybody know who to contact when they want to view your website or send you an email.
Almost all Domain Name Registrars (above) ALSO provide Domain Name Registration services, but it’s not necessary that they do. In some cases, you might change your registration to a new Registrar, and for a time, your DNS services will still be operating at the old registrar’s DNS servers. Some registrars might copy over your old DNS data to their DNS server automatically, but most don’t – you will have to do it yourself or have someone qualified do it for you. Wild Iris Marketing uses and recommends Hover.com for Domain Name Server services.
Website Hosting (Unmanaged)
There are as many unmanaged website hosting companies are there are flowers in a mountain meadow. And unlike most mountain flowers, many of them stink. Almost everyone will have heard of GoDaddy from their excessive advertising. Other national and international hosting companies are 1&1/Ionos, Dreamhost, and the aptly-named Hosting.com. Most of these, while inexpensive, are just as big, poor-service, and customer-exploitive as you would expect from a faceless conglomerate.
Unmanaged Hosting is exactly what it sounds like. You get a webserver, and usually a database server as well, which modern Content Management Systems and Ecommerce platforms like WordPress, Drupal, Concrete5, Joomla/Mambo and Magento require. You are on your own to upload files, configure software, manage security and updates, monitor for problems, fix issues, and manage your backups. Sometimes unmanaged hosting providers offer some kind of backup as an add-on service, but we’ve found all too often that the backup system is not reliable when you get in trouble.
Wild Iris Marketing does not offer or recommend Unmanaged Hosting, because we have no interest in the race to the bottom of low-budget low-quality hosting. We only offer Managed Hosting, which, conveniently, is our next service we’re going to discuss.
Website Hosting (Managed)
Managed Hosting is website hosting with a live human helping you with all the tasks you DON’T get in unmanaged hosting. Generally this would include migrating/installing/configuring software and content, updating software (for WordPress, this means the core WordPress software and various plugins), managing and responding to security issues, monitoring for any other issues and creating backups and storing them safely where they are unlikely to be harmed by any failure that affects your website. Managed hosting is generally more expensive than unmanaged hosting because it involves a lot more work, often by human specialists.
Managed hosting comes with its own limitations – many managed hosting providers, in order to reign in the complexity of what they have to support, will restrict what software and plugins you are allowed to install and use. In the case of WordPress, this would limit, for example, the performance optimization plugins, security tools, and other specialized plugins to only the ones they have experience with and are willing and able to support.
Managed hosting typically also has stricter limits on the website size (in terms of disk storage) and number of visitors or amount of web traffic allowed per month, and may charge significantly more for ecommerce hosting. Additionally, when you call or chat for support, you will generally first get tier-one call-center support staff who are working from a troubleshooting ‘script’, and only after you exhaust the choose-you-own-adventure journey of the script, will you get ‘escalated’ to a higher-tier support agent, who may take hours or days to get back to you.
Large managed hosting providers for WordPress include WP Engine, Kinsta, GoDaddy and SiteGround. We will never recommend GoDaddy for any services. While we feel WP Engine and SiteGround are both honorable and credible hosting providers, they still have many of the limitations outlined above and they are not concierge-level personal attention and assistance.
Wild Iris Marketing’s recommendation for WordPress Managed Hosting
For Managed Hosting, Wild Iris Marketing recommends – Wild Iris Marketing. Our managed hosting services include all the things listed above, with personal service. Installation/configuration, updates, security, monitoring and backups, and all conducted by the local, available, responsive, native-English-speaking, we’ll see you at the coffee-shop neighborly staff of Wild Iris Marketing and the technical boffins of our sister company, AlphaPixel. At any given time of the day, there are at least 1-2 of us awake somewhere in the US, and able to respond to any issue or crisis. We have automated monitoring tools that notify us the minute any problem is detected. We keep on top of upcoming security risks and mitigate them before they can affect you. We operate leased servers in multiple datacenters around the US (and even a few outside the US for specific clients) and regularly create and store backups safely offsite in Silicon Valley.
Our managed hosting isn’t the least expensive, but it is the best concierge-level service. In fact, in a recent industry forum discussion, other high-quality managed hosting providers actually chided us to raise our prices because we were making their own pricing look too expensive. If you want your website to Just Work, and for us to worry about and take care of any problems without you ever noticing a disturbance, choose Wild Iris Marketing’s Managed Hosting.
Individual Email Services
The next service that’s easy to explain is Individual (non-bulk) email services – receiving emails, storing your Inbox and letting you check it, and sending emails you personally write. This is different from bulk email services that are used, for example, to send a newsletter to thousands of recipients. Attempting to send newsletters through a non-bulk email provider will likely get your email address or even entire domain blacklisted and every email you send will go to the recipient’s trash or spam box or just get outright rejected.
Typical email+frills providers are Google Workspace (Business GMail), Microsoft Outlook 365 (part of the Microsoft 365 Business package), or basic email providers like GoDaddy or Hover. GoDaddy and Hover, among others, provide inexpensive email-only services if you don’t need or want the extra Office features of Google Workspace or Microsoft 365. Google and Microsoft generally start at $6-$8 per month per mailbox. Email-only services like Hover can cost as little as $20 per YEAR per mailbox. It’s very hard for anyone other than a larger company like Google or even Hover to offer email services these days because all email recipients judge incoming emails based on the reputation of the company whose servers sent it. Google and Microsoft and Hover have years or decades of reputation that they carefully manage – a smaller company lacks this and any emails sent from them will predominantly get rejected. This is why Wild Iris Marketing does NOT provide email services ourselves, and refers our clients to established third-party providers.
Wild Iris Marketing uses and recommends Google Workspace (formerly Google GSuite), Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) and Hover.com basic email services, depending on your needs.
Bulk Email Services
As you now know, there are many services you probably need in order to create and maintain a digital presence for your business and its marketing. We have summarized what these services are, how they interrelate and operate, and what our recommendations for each provider is. If you have any questions, or if you want to take your marketing to the next level, please feel free to reach out to us today.