Up until now, we have talked about how to navigate, setup, and add content to your new server.  To do this, we have been accessing our servers using the elastic IP address we created in the AWS console.  While this is useful, the collection of numbers xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx is a little hard to remember.  These numbers also do not tell our customers who we are.

To do this, we need to create something more useful, a domain name.  Let’s look at how to take your niche idea and register it to a domain name.  We will also take a look at what you need to do to make the site secure (https).  This extra level of security will help protect our site and customer data.  It also will put us in compliance with the latest browser security requirements for Google Chrome (and other browsers).

What are the problems we want to solve by taking this class?:

  1. How do I go about getting a domain name using domain registration sites?
  2. What steps are necessary to configure my system to use my new domain?
  3. How do I make my web server more secure?
  4. What do I need to do to get an SSL certificate?
  5. How do I apply my SSL certificate to enable HTTPS?

What we will cover:

  1. Domain Registration
  2. Working with domain providers
  3. SSL certificate types
  4. SSL cert provider options
  5. Using your certificate

Class Goal: Each student will have a secure certificate for their server and a domain name.  They, and their customers will be able to access the server through the domain name.


Domain Registration

What is a Domain name?

A domain name is a descriptive name identifier that maps to one or more IP addresses (xxx.xxx.xxx.xxxx).  These are the names people enter for the location section of web browsers to pull up a web page.  For example, the domain name develpreneur.com has an IP of 52.3.44.120.  If you want to find out a domain’s IP, go to this site and enter the domain name or use the ping command.

What are the different types of domains?

Top Level Domains (TLD)
  • This is the top most domain name registered with Domain Name Servers (DNS) on the Internet.  These go through a web provider or hosting site (like Godaddy, BlueHost, HostGator, NameCheap, etc.).
  • You can register multiple domain names to the same IP address.  Having multiple domain names may be useful.
Subdomains
  • These are custom level domains that exist under the top-level domain.
  • For example, you could add store.yourdomain.com as a subdomain redirecting customers to your online store. Whereas yourdomain.com goes to your main marketing site.

Note: Domain names must be unique.  The DNS registry will not allow duplicate domain names at either the Top or Sublevels.  It is also ill advised to word a domain too closely to another domain.  Doing so can cause confusion amongst customers about your brand and potentially lead into legal trouble.

Things to consider when choosing a domain name

It’s finally time for your fledgling company or site to grow up and become real with a domain name.  However, you have no clue where to start.  Well, like most businesses, you will need to start with some market research.  The competition is a good place to start.  To do this, you will need to investigate the competition if any exists.  See what domain names they have used.  Alternatively, you could go into chat rooms or online forums to see what others think of your idea.  Look for phrases and names that will be descriptive for your target market.  Make sure your name is a clear description of your product or service.  Thus, talking to others online provides an excellent way to test the markets.

Use Google

Your biggest tool for marketing research will be Google.  I know you hear us say this a lot.  That is because Google is a great resource for seeing what already exists and how people are looking for things.  Spend some time entering in questions or product descriptions that describe your company or products.  Get creative, and refine your searches until you come up with some keywords and ideas for a domain name.  Try to avoid being too general.  For example, if you have a business plan to sell Dr. Who toys then do not just settle for toys.com.  Find something that both stands out and is unique such as doctorwhotoys.com.  The narrower and more unique your name the more likely your ideal customer will find you.

Online Tools

Next, use online tools to ensure you are not infringing on another company’s trademark or copyright.  No one likes their ideas to be stolen or used without compensation.  These types of lawsuits can be brutal and unforgiving, so the best approach is to avoid them all together.  Spend some time and be thorough. You do not want your company name and domain to infringe on another’s.

To help you determine which words people are searching for try using tools like Google AdWords.  This research can help you come up with specific keywords to describe your site.  These keywords can also be useful when filling in your meta tags.  Just remember you want your domain to be something that will stand out and be easy to remember.  Keep it short and avoid using special characters (hyphens, underscores).

Extensions

As important as a domain name is, the extension you choose can impact how others view your site.  Extensions tell the user what type of site they are visiting.  The most common domain extensions are:

  • .com for a company.
  • .org for an organization.
  • .net usually denotes networking.

Here is a breakdown of available domain extensions

  1. Original TLD list included (NET, COM, ORG)
  2. New extensions added in 2012 expanded the original TLD list.  The list now includes options for Brand, Geographic, and Sponsored extensions (ACADEMY, CAREERS, INK, MEDIA).
  3. We use country codes to register a domain with a given identifier (The US, UK, EU).
  4. You can see the full list of available here.

Choosing the right domain extension is important.  Make sure you research which of the extensions is the best fit for your brand.  For example, if you are starting a nonprofit you would likely pick and ORG extension over a NET or COM.

Registering your domain

Once you have discovered your ideal domain name it’s time to register it.  Select a domain registration provider that fits within your budget and register your domain.  Most domain registration providers have their processes, but the general requirements and steps are the same.

Here are two examples of using a domain registration provider to obtaining a domain:

  1. Registering a Domain with GoDaddy
  2. Register a Domain with AWS Route 53

Hooking your domain to your server

Great now you have your domain name.  Let’s go into a browser and type it in.  Oops, our site did not come up, why?  Well purchasing a domain is only the first step in the process of making our site live.  Now, we need to connect our new domain to our AWS EC2 instance.  To do this will require some additional steps to connect the domain name to a server’s IP address.  Most domain providers have their processes, but the general requirements and steps are the same.

Here are two examples of connecting your domain to your AWS EC2 instance:

  1. Setup A GoDaddy Domain
  2. Set up AWS Route 53 Domain for AWS EC2

Now when you pull up your domain name in a browser you should see your marketing site or WordPress instance.


SSL Certificates

What is an SSL Certificate?

SSL Certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details.  When you install a cert on a web server, it activates the padlock.  So when users visit your site, they will know they are using an https protocol.  They will also know that their connection is secure from a web server to a browser.

Domain Registration url example

Types of SSL Certificates

Typically, we use SSL to secure credit card transactions, data transfer, and logins.  However, they have recently become the norm when securing social media sites. The type of certificate you use will determine the amount of security detail that will be visible to the public.

Wildcard Secure all servers and subdomains on a given domain with one certificate.
SSL Secure a single server with a single name.
Multi-Domain (SAN) Secure up to 25 server names – with one certificate.
Extended Validation Activate the green bar in newer browsers.
DigiCert Extended Validation Multi-Domain Secure up to 25 server names with EV security – with one certificate.

Requirements

There are some steps you need to do first before you go out and find an SSL Certificate provider.  For starters, you will need to create an RSA private key and Certified Signing Request (CSR) file on your server.  Then take these files and create a secure connection between your SSL Certificate Provider and your system.

Follow the example of “Generating an SSL Server Certificate“.  As you follow the steps, you will end up with an RSA and CSR file on Linux instance.

SSL Certificate Providers

Now, there are many different companies to choose from that provide SSL certificates.  For example, many providers include packages to purchase certificates from one of the standard third party Certificate Authorities.  The all in one option is perfect for combining all your products in one place.

For example, if all you need is a certificate then look at how to create an SSL Cert with NamesCheap.

Using the CA Cert

Now that we have a CA cert it’s time to apply the SSL cert to our web server.  Thus, we will be changing the connection protocol from HTTP to HTTPS.  Then modify the web server’s configuration files to use HTTPS.  Finally, configure the settings to point to our RSA and CA cert files.

Follow the steps on “Configure Apache For HTTPS” to apply your new CA cert file.


Assignments

  1. Pick a domain name and select a domain registration provider (Godaddy, BlueHost, HostGator, NameCheap, etc.) for registering your domain.
  2. Sign Up for an SSL certificate through NamesCheap or another vendor.
  3. Configure your site (AWS, Apache), to use your new domain and SSL certificate.
  4. Bonus: Take a look at the “Creating Subdomains” post and add a custom subdomain to your WordPress instance.

 

When you are ready, it is now time to move on to the next step: Writing for Fun and Profit: A Business Communication Primer.


Further Reading

We have found these sources to be ideal for learning more about domains and SSL certificates:

 

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Eaglemoss

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