If you are new to websites and web hosting, then this page is for you. If you are looking at switching your web hosting service over to Anno Internet, then you may want to skip ahead to the section on our hosting plans. Either way, Anno Internet has everything you need to establish your business’ online presence…
In broad terms, there are five components to your online presence:
1) Choosing a domain name
You need to register a domain for your website. A domain does not cost much to register: the equivalent of ten to fifteen US dollars is typical. Some extensions cost more though. Your domain will require renewal every year; in some cases you can simplify matters by registering for more than one year.
There are many domain extensions available these days:
- Top-level domains: This is where the world wide web started over twenty years ago. Best for commercial purposes has always been and still is .COM. For non-profit use, .ORG is king. Other options include .NET (mostly Internet service and network providers) .BIZ, .INFO and .MOBI (meant for viewing on mobile devices), none of which really gained any great acceptance.
- Country domains: South African business may want to emphasise their local presence with .CO.ZA domain. Likewise, a Canadian business with .CA, a US business with .US and a UK business with a .CO.UK or .UK. And then there are also regional domains such as the European .EU and Asian .ASIA extensions.
- Vanity country domains: Some country domains have become popular choices for special use, such the island nation of Tuvalu .TV extension that is great for video websites, Samoa’s .WS that is short for website, and the Cocos Islands .CC extension is popular with South African closed corporations.
- New generic domains: A string of new top-level domain extensions are available. These tend to describe the type of business or activity. Examples include .PHOTOGRAPHY, .TRAINING and a long and growing list of others. Whether these extensions will stand the test of time – only time (well, what else?) will tell!
- If at all possible, register a .COM domain. We mention above that .ORG is king, but for non-profits. For commercial ventures .COM is king and we do not see that changing any time soon. The whole English dictionary and all short English phrases have unfortunately been registered in the .COM space. That explains why all these trendy new websites have such unusual (but catchy) names. And there are ways to come up with a good and relatively short domain name – if you live in a country with significant other languages, try a name in one of those languages. Example: for a South African presence, try some Afrikaans words. And French if in Canada. And then there are Zulu and Latin -they make great sounding and spellable domain names anywhere in the world. Where do you think the name ANNO came from?!
- A close second choice is a country domain. Even if you do secure a .COM domain, you should probably always register the country version of your domain as well. Here at Anno Internet, for example, we are protecting our brand with ANNO.CA (Canadian) and ANNO.CO.ZA (South African) in addition to ANNO.COM (our primary, and international domain).
- Consider a vanity domain or a general top-level domain. There are still some real gems available.
PS: If the domain you are looking for is already registered, it does not mean the end of the road. If the domain seems to be unused, then check with the domain owner; you may be surprised to hear that they are willing to sell their domain to you. You may also be surprised to hear that they want an arm and a leg plus a bag of pure crystal marbles for their domain! Some of these domain squatters are opportunistic scoundrels. You don’t want to loose your marbles.
To check the availability of a domain or find the owner of existing domain, use our domain lookup page.
2) What to look for in a hosting plan
Your website and email need to live on a server somewhere in the magic cloud that is the Internet. You need a hosting plan — web space where you can put your website, space where you can have email boxes, and some way to easily manage all of this.
There are three main criteria when choosing a suitable hosting plan:
- Do you need a Linux server or a Windows server? A Linux server is almost always the better option. Our own experience is that you can get better (really) and cheaper hosting on Linux. For one, the free and open-source (FAOS) movement is mostly focussed on the *NIX ecosystem. But there is one good reason if you do want to host your website on a Windows server – your website requires a Microsoft-specific technology such as ASP.NET or a database on a Microsoft SQL server.
Note that it does not matter at all that you are using a Windows computer, a MacBook Pro, iPad or iPhone to access your website and email. All of these devices work perfectly fine with Linux servers.
- How many bells and whistles? Will a basic no-frills web space suffice? Often times yes. But perhaps you want to use a dynamic web application (fancy words for a program that lives on the server) that requires a MySQL database. Examples of this would be websites based on WordPress and Joomla, two very popular content management systems (CMS). In that case you need something a bit more advanced.
- How many websites? One website with more than one domain? Look no further than a common garden-variety shared web hosting plan. (“Shared” refer to a server being shared by many websites; each website has its own private space separate from the others.) But if you are an aspiring Internet mogul or a webmaster with many websites, then you want the flexibility and capacity of a reseller hosting plan. The next step up would be a virtual private server (VPS) or a dedicated box all for yourself. We’ll not get into that here, but contact us if you want to discuss options.
Check out our hosting plans:
- Anno Internet provides shared Linux hosting on servers in Dallas, USA and Cape Town, South Africa. Choose the location that gives you or your audience the fastest access to your website.
- We offer Windows hosting out of Toronto, Canada.
- Our reseller hosting plans use a Linux platform and are also available in Dallas and Cape Town.
3) Website design
This can be the most difficult aspect of it all. There are some geniuses out there that can slap together a great website in no time. The mere mortals among us have to rely on good tools. And Anno has the tools for you:
- All our hosting plans come with a Website Builder that has a collection of great-looking templates. Select a template, and then fill in the content. No HTML knowledge needed (but it helps a bit). You can have a snappy website up and running in a short time.
- For more flexibility, consider using WordPress or Joomla. Again, you need not be an HTML guru. Unless you want to design your own website template. But there are great templates available online, some free and some with a fee. The sky is the limit.
- You can get your hands dirty with HTML coding in Dreamweaver or another editor. This is best left to the web design professionals who are able to create magic using cryptic HTML and CSS codes. And while they are at it, they may throw in some PHP and AJAX code to build a winner of an app that you can sell to Google or Facebook for billions!
Regardless of the method of web design, you will want to consider Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to ensure that your business gets reasonable exposure on Google and elsewhere. This is a very complex and technical topic, but the first rule of SEO is one that you can easily abide by — content is king. (Yes, a .COM domain is king, and so is good content!) Ensure that your website has clear and relevant content that describes your products or services and that matches to the search phrases that you expect people to use.
To complete your online branding, you want to have email addresses @ your domain. There are a multitude of features available on our hosting plans, including:
- Mailboxes for incoming email delivery.
- Convenient access to your email — Outlook at the office, Webmail while at an Internet café or at the airport, and emails on your iPhone or Blackberry.
- Email forwarding — distribute messages to firstname.lastname@example.org to all the members of your sales team.
- Mailing lists — targeted email marketing campaigns (which may constitute spam if executed poorly) is one of the most efficient methods of promoting your business. Do yourself a favour and automate the subscription management system using a program such as PhpList
- Spam protection, both for junk being sent to you and for protecting you against accidents (what if a computer in your office is infected by a virus and starts spitting out spam?) Check this off your list – Anno Internet does this quite well.
5) Support when you need it
Often overlooked in a world that is driven by money and cut-throat pricing — technical (and sometimes emotional) support! Anno Internet is a good example of a hosting service with great support — check out the testimonials applauding our great client service. There are others hosting providers that also offer passionate support, and then there are those that offer unbelievably cheap service; cheap and unbelievably poor service.
Your business — where you are pouring all your energy and enthusiasm — deserves a good home on the web. Service that costs less that a Big Mac is just not going to do it for you. And when the promise has unlimited options — you’re likely to have unlimited regrets! Look beyond simply the pricing and ensure you have consistent, sustainable personal service. Anno Internet is a great choice for your enterprise.
This page cannot possibly answer all the questions you may have, especially when you are new to web hosting. Do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your online needs; we’ll be happy to work with you and find the best solution.