This article is part of my series on how I set up my website and blog.
One of the early technical tasks for my website's build was getting the hostname and DNS created. Or more simply, ensuring that my chosen web address name was registered and configured. In this article, I review the key actions for getting the task accomplished.
It should go without saying that the true first task is to choose a name/address for your website. This is far more art than science, and I am sure there are plenty of guides and videos online to help in coming up with suggestions. For my blog, it came down to my decision to call this a "journal" and leverage my name. At some point, I will explain why "journal" was chosen as well. Alluded to already on this site, there is a specific reason related to my astronomy hobby.
So you chose a name for your website, what then? You have to register that name with a hostname service.
namecheap or hover?
There are many hostname services where you can register your domain address. After my own research, it came down to choosing between two, namecheap.com and hover.com. Which service you end up with is entirely a personal decision based on your own requirements, situation, and preferences. Domain registering is a near-commodity service, so it is unlikely there will be material long-term differences among namecheap, hover, or any of the others.
namecheap's primary marketing differential is price. It is difficult to beat their offers, particular if, like me, you need to register only one site. Other sites, like hover, do offer large volume discounts. As an example on namecheap, as of this writing they have what appears to be an insane offer for a .com registration of only 98 cents:
Whenever I see offers that appear to be too good to be true, I become weary and cautious. This deal is only for one domain registration, and likely there are further restrictions beyond a normal full price plan. But if price is a major factor in your decision, namecheap is likely going to be your choice.
To explain further, I always feel this type of marketing comes with aggressive attempts to "upsell" other services. You can also sense it in how pricing for domains is listed:
This is only my personal opinion, and if you are not worried about upsells, then again, namecheap is probably going to be a great fit for you.
By comparison, hover's prices are generally significantly higher than namecheap's:
A .com at hover is about $14 annual, compared to roughly $8 annual at namecheap (when not on sale for $0.98). So why did I ultimately choose hover? When studying the reviews and comparisons, one aspect of hover stood out to me - it is incredibly simple and with no aggressive upsells. They have upsells, but you hardly feel pressured to take them. Additionally, the "whois" service was included for .com, which was incredibly important to me as a matter of personal protection. Again, no gimmicks, it appeared straightforward with no strings attached.
And this impression panned out when I eventually registered my domain with hover. It is indeed very easy to use, and all of the web interface forms are clear. There was a lot to think about in setting up my blog, so whenever I could make the work easy, I took it, and I am glad I went with hover.
Nameservers and Getting Things Started
Once I had registered my domain, paulstephenjournal.com, with hover, it was now time to set it up to associate with my website's server. These next steps, however, are not sequential, and I am partially jumping ahead here in my full website creation narrative. After I registered and secured my preferred domain name, I had to create the server itself. I chose to create a "droplet" with DigitalOcean. I will go into detail on the DigitalOcean droplet setup in the next article, but for now, it is important to note that my DNS configurations are at DigitalOcean and not at hover. It would have been entirely possible to do all of the DNS setups at hover, but since I had never done this before, it felt safer to have the DNS configurations with the same service where my web server resides.
The implication to this decision is that hover merely needs to "redirect" to the DigitalOcean nameservers. It was very easy to do this, so following the instructions at DigitalOcean, I set my domain's nameservers, at hover, to point to the DigitalOcean nameservers:
hover even includes a header notice stating that though you can add DNS configurations (records) to your hover account, they are not used since the nameservers are redirected to DigitalOcean.
The Actual DNS Configurations
To configure your domain, you have to create DNS records on your nameserver service, which in my case is DigitalOcean. There are various types of records for various needs, e.g. a CNAME record is used for aliases. I will not go through all of these, but will just note that all of my records are for the successful operation of my aliases, blog, comments, and email directs. In particular below, see how the "NS" records have the nameservers I entered at hover, showing the relationship across hover and DigitalOcean:
How DNS records are configured will depend on your specific services and DNS needs. Those services will (should) always provide instructions on how to enter the required DNS records at your nameserver host.