To put it simply, three main things keep a website live and browsable on the internet. These are:
- An active domain name aka the name of the site (e.g., mywebsite.com)
- A nameserver containing domain name system (DNS) records. DNS records are database records that map a URL to an IP address. Every URL contains a domain name (e.g., https://www.mywebsite.com/)
- Website hosting where the code resides
If one of these three things is expired or deleted, the site won’t work. This is why keeping the domain name, DNS records, and web hosting with the same company is better. Otherwise, it’s easy to miss payments or forget to renew.
When I used to work in IT, a few clients would freak out when their website would be down. They didn’t understand that it wasn’t because WordPress wasn’t working anymore. They didn’t renew their domain name. And now another person’s gotten it. Another client switched to a different hosting company, but they didn’t understand that their DNS records were still pointing to their old IP address, so their “new” website never really worked.
Our band of merry Support folks tried our best to explain through macros, friendly “Welcome” emails, phone calls, and follow-ups. We considered it a win when these concepts would click for the person on the other end of the line. Sometimes, we’d get the occasional outburst because “the darn internets” didn’t make sense to a customer. Sad, but we tried.
So next time your site’s down, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was hacked, though it’s good to make sure. Ask yourself these questions:
- Did I renew my domain name?
- Is the nameserver down?
- Is the web hosting server down?
- Did I move my site to a different company, and if so, where are the DNS records now? Old company or a new company?
- Was I nice to my Support person today?
I’m half-joking with the last question. We won’t ruin anything if you’re a dick. But seriously, don’t be a dick.