Ok so not exactly 50 but I’m hoping some of you comment with your lines and reasons and I can rewrite this post with 50 someday. I just had to invoke that song which I LOVED as a kid! (Back in the day, we had to listen to whatever our parents were listening to in the car and I associate this with summer road trips in our Caravan.)

Now if you listen to the song, there’s really less than 10 reasons, so I feel ok giving you five examples here. And rather than leaving, we should just get to know our server first. Note: I am going to use server and web host interchangeably in this post. I can see Matt Baya cringing about this now but to the layperson, they are a similar idea. Web host = server = where your website lives on the internet.

For most people, web hosting, servers, all that stuff seems boring. But I encourage you to know your server…

Know the access, Francis.

Don’t wait until there is a problem to want to know how to access your web host. After looking up your name server with a tool like WhoIs.net, you should see something like ns1.nicoleisawesome.com and ns2.nicoleisawesome.com. NicoleIsAwesome.com would be your web host.

Now some big web hosts (like GoDaddy) might have slightly different or generic URLS. So if you see something like ’ns1.domaincontroler.com’ and ’ns2.domaincontroler.com’, a quick Google search for ‘hosting company domaincontroler.com’ should give you the company name.

If instead of reading the last two paragraphs you want a video guided tour, here’s a blast from the past:

Once you have the company name, you can either search your old emails for an old welcome message with access info or you can contact them. Get ready to prove who you are though, but I assure you access to your hosting is worth jumping through a few hoops. Once you can get in, you can do it all! (Well, not everything in life but everything with your website.)

Back it up, Chuck. (That one is from Leslie- I will link to her site when it’s live.)

If you don’t know your web host’s backup schedule, you should. Most web hosts do nightly backups but DON’T assume they do. I have met at least one web host who has admitted to ‘forgetting’ sometimes (not anyone I do business with- gulp).

In addition to your web host regularly backing up your website and email, you should be doing the same on your end. If you don’t have a backup plan, talk to your website person. It’s your website insurance policy.

What about webmail, Dale?

Most web hosts offer email services (ex: if I owned nicoleisawesome.com, I could make a yasqueen@nicoleisawesome.com email address). What you may not know is most all of them have webmail services. What does that mean?

Well, let’s pretend you are in Bosnia visiting your friend and you have to check your email. Your friend’s parents say ‘Do you want to use our computer?’ and you can check your email right from there using webmail. (I did this!) Typically most webmail addresses are something like: ’http://www.nicoleisawesome.com/webmail’ and then you type in your full address and password and you are in.

Webmail is a nice backup. Because you may be on the road, drop your phone in water, lose your computer for 8 days because someone mistakenly takes it at a TSA screening place. (All these have happened to me or people I know.)

Think of webmail as a backup way you can check your email. It’s not as pretty as your way but, when in a pinch, invaluable to know.

Where is it at, Kat?

Where is your server in the world? Is it in your friend’s basement? Galveston Texas? Knowing where your server is part fun fact, part ‘Oh they’re having a hurricane so maybe that’s why my website is being glitchy’. Some US based companies prefer to know their servers are in the US. I personally like to picture my server in a nice air-conditioned concrete building in the middle of a field surrounded by dairy cows. Since I learned where my server is, I have found this is not accurate. But still, nice to know where your service provider is located.

What version of PHP, G?

If you are a technical person reading this blog post, it is probably very clear that I don’t know much about web hosting. And it’s true, I am NOT a web hosting company but I need web hosting to do my job. But I also know a bit more than the average person.

I’ve had two instances that I would like to relate that make me look like a big idiot but may help you out. And both involve PHP.

As far as I can tell PHP is a software that runs on a web host. It has different versions and needs to be periodically updated. This is the extent I know about it. Until it effected me in another way.

Situation 1: Client’s website (which runs on a software I don’t entirely understand) broke when our server’s PHP was updated. Had to go and fix the individual pages. Not catastrophic (as it was quickly noticed and fixed) but weird to just have random error code show up on your website.

Situation 2: We wanted to upgrade a WordPress plugin for a client but the server didn’t have a high enough version of PHP. Server ended up setting up a separate area we could put this client’s website only (see situation 1 as to why changing it for everyone in that moment wouldn’t have been a great idea) but it changed where they checked their email, etc. Another slight pain.

So before you upgrade your software in a major way or add new software that does important stuff (like, say run an online shopping cart), check what version of PHP (and any other software) it requires and what version your server has. I did an example screenshot here of Event Espresso, an online booking system I’ve used a fair bit and my settings (which I see when I expand my stats after I log into my web host).


Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 10.33.26 AM

So in my example above, I have the right PHP and MySQL software, all I have to do is check I have the right level of WordPress and I am good to install version 4 if I want.

There are lots of ways to know your server but those are some of my favorite. Remember, so long as you have access, you have options, with your web server or anything else for that matter. And you can leave it (or use it) however you want.

Please comment (with a link back to your website) with your way of knowing a server (Use subdomains, Duane? Forward that email, Gail?) and I’ll add it to the second version of this post (with hopefully 50 examples)! Let’s try to outdo Paul Simon and be really nerdy about it!

Our first in-person workshop in 2+ years is happening September 24!