Technology is wonderful (after all, it pays the bills around here) but it can also be frustrating. The only thing worse than a glitchy computer or mobile device is a broken website – you can’t hold it in your hand, so troubleshooting is a challenge.
In all my years of dealing with websites and their related technological headaches, I’ve learned a number of ways to handle things that just don’t work the way they should. The number one way to save your sanity? Build a strong foundation by keeping your hosting, domains, email, and DNS separate.
Separate hosting, domains, email, and DNS? But isn’t that confusing?
Separating services that are commonly bundled together does introduce a bit of complication. Instead of one login, I have four. When I need to make a change, I have to think for a second.
But let’s talk about what I gain by keeping everything separate.
Moving Is No Sweat
A little over a year ago, I moved all my websites to a Cloudways server. Cloudways offers a migrator plugin that takes care of the transition simply and quickly. Once I started the migrations for all my sites, I got to work on other things and wait for the emails from Cloudways saying the transfers were finished.
My domains are all registered with Namecheap. Moving to a new host had nothing to do with my domains – no need to transfer them or hunt down EPP codes.
My email is also hosted with Namecheap. I didn’t have to worry about downtime or losing messages. I didn’t have to change a single setting or download a backup. My emails just kept rolling in as usual.
My DNS is hosted with DNSMadeEasy. As my site transfers completed, I could go into my management panel and update DNS to point to my new server – with instant propagation. No waiting 48 hours or trying to figure out if I’m still seeing the “old” version of the site.
From start to finish, I moved 25 websites to a new host in about 4 hours, completely by myself and without opening a single support ticket. I challenge anyone to beat that!
I’m Winning at Security
No online system is perfect or hack proof. That said, I don’t have to sit around worrying that someone can destroy everything I’ve worked to build.
If I hadn’t separated out all my services, someone with my credentials could read my emails, delete my site files, point my domains to other servers, and even transfer the domains to themselves – all by figuring out a single login.
With everything spread out (and different logins and passwords for each, of course), access to one wouldn’t be much of an advantage. Sure, someone with access to my server could wipe it clean, but between the automatic Cloudways backups and my offsite BlogVault backups, I’m not too concerned.
My Emails Just Work
I complain about email like everyone else, but when it comes down to it, I need my email to work. Without reliable email, I miss out on potential projects, client issues, or (even better) payment notifications.
When my email was hosted on my server, a server issue meant an email issue. And guess which email address my hosting company had on file for support tickets? Yeah, not a great plan.
I’ve had my complaints about Namecheap’s private email service (mainly the time it took for the spam protection to learn what was legit versus what to trash), but one thing I’ve never had issue with is reliability. I think I’ve been aware of a single outage since I switched my email over, but it was resolved before I even realized there was a problem.
Namecheap does require your domain to be registered with them before you can open a private email account, but I’ve kept my domains there for several years and I’m very pleased with their service. (Plus their social media team is HILARIOUS and always replies quickly on Twitter, which is an added bonus).
I Do What I Want!
This past weekend, I decided to rebuild my entire multisite network. Mostly because I’m a glutton for punishment, but also because I’d kept my previous design for nearly TWO YEARS (a record for me). I spent six years dragging the same ancient WordPress installation from one server to another, adding and subtracting and rebuilding as I went – my database was in rough shape.
So on Thursday night when I decided to start over from nothing, I threw a new app on my Cloudways server (it takes 2 minutes, literally) and logged into DNSMadeEasy to point a random domain to the clean install. I’m not kidding – DNS was propagated before the app finished installing on Cloudways. Score!
I then proceeded to torture myself all weekend long to rebuild the main site (which you’re looking at right now – be sure to tell it how pretty it is) and three subsites for a Monday night launch. Which required reissuing my SSL certificate, updating the “real” domain’s DNS, purging the records for the temp domain, and all sorts of other fun times.
You know what it didn’t include, though? Propagation time, worrying about whether emails were coming through, transferring a domain, or being forced to overwrite the old site. (After all, I’m sure I forgot things that will need to be added back later.)
The Bottom Line
Life’s too short to waste time freaking out over your websites. Or your domains. Or email. Or DNS propagation.
With so many great tools, there’s no excuse for continuing to put all your eggs in one basket. You can separate hosting, email, domain registration, and DNS in less than a day, and I guarantee you’ll save way more than a day NOT dealing with headaches in the next year or so. Do it now and thank me later.
Awesome products and services recapped here for your convenience:
- Namecheap (SSL, domains, email hosting)
- Cloudways (hosting)
- BlogVault (incremental backups – one license covers a multisite network)
- DNSMadeEasy (DNS hosting including fallback DNS)
- Siteground (not actually discussed here, but a great host if you aren’t into all the nerdy technical stuff)
- WPEngine (great for those who want a totally managed hosting solution for WordPress