What is DNS?

Remember back before everyone had computers that fit in their pocket, how companies would ship a book full of phone numbers to your doorstep? We might have known who we were looking for, but we needed to look up phone numbers unless they were your crazy relatives that you learned to memorize. When you get your own domain name, by default it’s nothing more than a shortcut, an address, or (to fit this very imperfect analogy) a phone number. When you type a domain name into the address bar of your browser, someone has to identify it and tell it what to display. That’s where a name server comes in.

A name server is a computer, running as a server, that keeps a record of all the domain names that are associated with it and keeps track of where those domains should go. In the case of buffscreate.net, the nameserver is the same computer that runs the hosting. You can peek under the hood and see this in action by going to the Websites and Domains tab of your cPanel account and clicking on DNS Settings. DNS stands for Domain Name System and the name server on buffscreate.net gives control to it to identify what should be displayed when someone types in your domain. Consider the fact that you might have one or more subdomains in your account. The name server and DNS are able to identify those subdomains and let the world wide web know that they exist and point to some files/folders on a computer somewhere.

When you signed up for a domain through the buffscreate.net system your nameservers were chosen for you. So when people type in your address, the server responds with information about your account. When you migrate an account away from one hosting platform like buffscreate.net and onto a new service, it will require you to change the nameservers so that your domain name points to a new server with its own files and structure. It’s also possible to have subdomains that point to entirely different servers than buffscreate.net. For example, you could have a subdomain that looks to Tumblr for files.

What Can You Do with Your Account?

Your ability to do things on BuffsCreate is dictated to a large degree by the limits of your imagination. That said, there are some technical requirements and limitations that you should be aware of and might want to review.

To spark your imagination, here are some ideas that might help you get started:

Install a Web Application in Your Space

BuffsCreate makes it very simple to install certain Web applications in your Web space. Web applications are just special software that run on a web server. Usually, they allow you to build and manage a website. The kind of site you can build depends on the type of application you install. Here are some examples of applications that you can easily install within the buffscreate.net web hosting interface:

WordPress: WordPress is a simple-to-use blogging application. The tool also comes with a huge array of plugins & themes to allow you to create virtually any kind of website imaginable. We have guides on using WordPress here.

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Omeka: Omeka is an open-source web application that can be used to create and display online digital collections and archives. We have information available to help you install and use Omeka here.

Scalar: Scalar is a content management system with the idea of creating non-linear books on the web. You can learn more about its functions and how to install it here.

Grav: Grav is an open source, flat-file CMS made for folks who are looking for something a little more experimental. Grav provides a straightforward framework for creating pages and inserting media. We have additional resources for Grav here.

Mediawiki: It is the open-source wiki software that runs the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. This tool may be right for you if you’re interested in publishing documents and then collaborating with others on them. Find our guides on Mediawiki here.

These are just a few of the open-source applications that are available to you in your BuffsCreate web space.  We encourage you to read more about what Web applications are and which ones are available to you through this project.

Organize Your Site with Subdomains and Folders

Through this project, you’ve received a domain name that you can actually subdivide and organize anyway you like. One easy way to organize your domain is to create subdomains, in which you can then install other applications. In addition, you can just set up subfolders for your site (which can also have their own applications installed in them). Here’s an example of how you might organize your site (using the subdomain vs. the subfolder approach)

Subdomain Approach Subfolder Approach
yourdomain.com (“root”) Install WordPress as your “main site” yourdomain.com (“root”)
course1.yourdomain.com Install a second WordPress instance for a course you’re taking yourdomain.com/course1
photos.yourdomain.com Install ZenPhoto for a public photo gallery of your photos yourdomain.com/photos
docs.yourdomain.com Install MediaWiki for a club you belong to that wants to collaboratively edit its bylaws yourdomain.com/docs
files.yourdomain.com Install OwnCloud so you can access your files on your laptop and at work yourdomain.com/files

This is just an example of a way to organize your site and then use different sections to do different things. There is no one solution to this challenge, and what you do should be driven by what makes sense to you. To start, you may just want to install one thing at the “root” of your domain, and then let the rest evolve as you get to know more about what’s possible.

Map Your Domain (or a Subdomain)

If you already have a digital presence that you’d like to pull into your BuffsCreate space, domain mapping is an option you may wish to explore. This allows you to assign your domain (or a subdomain) to another service. Some services that work with domain mapping are:

When you map a domain, users who visit your URL will automatically see your space on one of these services. It’s a great way to incorporate your activity elsewhere into your domain, and it might be a good first step if you’ve already established a presence somewhere else and just want to point your new domain to that space.

Privacy

What you add to your buffscreate.net webspace rests entirely with you. You can choose not to pick a domain that reveals your name. You can use a pseudonym on your actual site. However, when you sign up through the default process, your name does get published as part of the public record about your domain name. Anyone can find it by looking up details about the ownership of that domain name through a public “Whois” request.

This is NOT an issue if you’re already planning on using your name openly on your site (in your domain name or elsewhere). This option is aimed, specifically, at those who, for whatever reason, feel they want to take every precaution to hide their identity on their site.

Subdomains vs. Subdirectories

When you’re first getting started with a new space on a new Web host, you might think of yourself as owning a small “territory” of the Web. Everything you place in your public folder on the server becomes available for anyone on the Web to see (assuming they know the address of your site and the files you’ve placed there).

If you’re just putting up a handful of static, HTML pages which you want to make available to colleagues, friends, or family by sending them links, then working with this large, unorganized space may work. But as soon as you get to the point where you want to organize your site, you’re going to need a new strategy.

Consider this scenario: you want to have a personal blog on your new Web space, where you share pictures and short written pieces with family, friends, and colleagues. In addition, you’re working on a large research project that requires you to build a Web-based repository of digital images related to your discipline. You want to use one application (say, WordPress) to manage your personal blog. For your research project, you’ve settled on another open-source application (Say, Omeka). Both of these are applications that need to be installed on your Web host, but you can’t just put them both at your main domain name – if you did, both sites would quickly experience conflicts and errors. You need to cordon off separate spaces for your different Web “properties.”

There are two primary strategies for parceling up your Web space. You can create subdomains or subdirectories. But before you can understand the difference, you need to first understand what we mean when we talk about your root domain.

Root Domain

Let’s say you’ve registered a new domain for buffscreate.net called blog.buffscreate.org. Anything that is stored at this core URL is considered to be at the root of your domain. Nothing comes before the address or after the address. You can certainly decide that you simply want to have a single site on your Web host (say a blog running WordPress), and you can set that blog up at your domain’s root. To get to your site in this scenario, users would simply go to blog.buffscreate.org.

Subdomains

When you want to do more than just have a single site at the root of your site, you need to decide now to organize your space. One way to do so is by setting up subdomains.

You’re may already be familiar with the concept of subdomains, even if you don’t know it. Consider Google’s website at https://google.com. As you browse features of that site, you’ll notice that the domain changes. When you’re looking at your Gmail account, for example, the domain changes to https://mail.google.com. Now the root of the url is mail.google.com, indicating that you’re on the part of the site that is dedicated to Google’s mail services.

In this instance, mail.google.com is a subdomain that provides a different utility than google.com. The domains serve two purposes: they help to organize the site from a technical perspective, but they also serve as indications to the users that they are in a new/different space.

As you work on your site, you’re welcome to create as many subdomains as you like, and in each subdomain you can actually create a distinct, individual Web site.

Subdirectories

The alternative for organizing your space is to simply set up subdirectories. These function much like file folders on your computer. Instead of creating a blog at blog.yourdomain.com you would place it in a subdirectory called “blog” making the address yourdomain.com/blog. Setting up subdirectory is really easy. You can create folders on the fly when installing applications (like WordPress), and you can also manually create them in your file browser.

There is one particular issue you need to be aware of: Let’s say you’ve installed WordPress to be your primary blog at yourdomain.com. Later, you decide you want to install WordPress again for a separate image gallery site, and you want to place it at yourdomain.com/gallery. But, if for some reason you’ve already created a page on your WordPress site called “Gallery” then the url yourdomain.com/gallery will already be taken. If you try to create a subdirectory of the same name, you’ll get a conflict and errors.

Tips & Review

  • Subdomains are generally a cleaner, more elegant solution to organizing your site. You’re less likely to get conflicts or errors. However, when using subdomains the process is slightly more complicated: You must create subdomains first before you can install anything in them.
  • Subdirectories don’t create as pretty URLs as subdomains, but they’re easier to set up. They can, however, result in conflicts with existing Web pages.
  • As soon as you create subdomains or subdirectories to organize your site, you need to consider how people are going to find them. If you’ve created a new primary blog at blog.yourdomain.com, and someone goes to just yourdomain.com, they won’t see that new site. It is possible to set up redirects to avoid this issue. You can also always create links from pages on one subdomain of your site to another.
  • If you really just need one site, sometimes installing at the root of your domain is the easiest thing to do, at least as you’re getting started. You can always add more pieces to your territory later with either subdomains or subdirectories.

Tutorials

Understanding Accounts & Passwords

One aspect of buffscreate.net that users may find a bit complicated at first is understanding the different accounts (and associated passwords) that you can manage as part of your participation in the project. This article outlines the types of accounts that you are likely to have, what they are for, and how you go about resetting passwords on each of them.

Your cPanel Account

When you first sign-up for your domain and hosting, a cPanel account will be generated that provides you with access to your slice of the buffscreate.net web server. Your cPanel account is automatically associated with your identikey username. Therefore, your Identikey username will grant you access to your cPanel account.

Your Application Administrator Accounts

Every time you install a new application in cPanel, an Administrator Account for that application will be created. You will likely use these accounts very often – every time you need to login to your application to manage the associated website, you will use this account.

For example, if you install WordPress to manage your Web site, every time you need to add content to WordPress, change your theme, approve comments, etc. you will use this account to login.

Usually, you will be given the opportunity to choose the username and password for that account. We recommend choosing something that you are likely to remember but that is strong and secure.

Upon installation, you will likely receive an email confirming the user-id/password combination you chose. It will also have information about how to access the login page for that application. You may wish to make sure you don’t delete this message.

Depending on the application you’re working with, managing and resetting the password for this account will vary. If you’ve used Installatron (in cPanel) to install the application, however, you can always review the account credentials:

    • Click the Installatron icon in the Software/Services section.
    • Find the application you installed under My Applications.
    • Click the Edit button (this looks like a blue wrench).
  • Scroll down to find the Administrator Username and Password.

In addition, most applications should have some kind of password reset link on the login page. For more information on resetting your application password through Installatron, click here.

Other Types of Accounts

In addition to the account types outlined above, there are a few other kinds of accounts you may have as part of buffscreate.net:

    • When you sign up for subdomain/top-level domain on buffscreate.net, cPanel will automatically create an FTP account for you by default. You’ll also have the option of manually creating your own FTP account. You can learn about their differences here.
  • Application User Accounts: In addition to the Administrator Account that you set up when installing an application, most applications will also let you set up user profile accounts within each application.

Setting Up Subdomains

A subdomain is one way of organizing and separating content on your site. To create a subdomain, use the following steps:

  1. Log into buffscreate.net with your Identikey username and password to access your cPanel.
    identikey login
  2. Once logged in, you’ll be at the homepage of your cPanel. The easiest way to navigate your cPanel is using the search feature in the top right panel. Click the Search box and type “subdomains” (without the quotes). When you press enter, you will automatically be taken to the Subdomains page. Or, you can scroll down and click the Subdomains icon under the Domains section of cPanel.
    screen shot of subdomains application
  3. Choose a name for your subdomain and type it into the Subdomain box. Just like top-level domains, subdomains can only contain numbers, letters, and hyphens, and the best subdomains are simple, short, and descriptive.
    creating a subdomain, example of what the
  4. Once you’ve typed in a name, cPanel will automatically populate the Document root field for you. This will create a folder to contain your subdomain’s files. You’ll usually want this folder to match the name of your subdomain, so it’s easy to identify where different files live in your account. You might want to change the document root if you already have a folder in your account that has the same name as the subdomain you are trying to create, although this should be rare. Once you’re done, click Create.
  5. Once you’re done, click Create. If everything went well, you should see a message that your subdomain was created successfully.
    subdomain success image

Your subdomain will now be available as an option for automatic installation of various software (WordPress, MediaWiki, etc). If you prefer to install web applications manually, you can do so in the document root (folder) you created in step 5.

subdomains example image

Signing Up

Review the Guidelines

Before you get started, we recommend that you review our information about Choosing a Domain Name.

The Sign-Up Process

Once you’ve reviewed the guidelines, you can proceed to the sign-up page.

  1. Click the “Get Started” Button
  2. You will be redirected to login for verification. You will use your Identikey username and password to log in.
    identikey login
  3. You are now ready to create a domain. To start, you must first sign up for a free subdomain (i.e. yoursite.buffscreate.net). Directions for purchasing a Top Level Domain (i.e. yourdomain.com) will be provided further down.

subdomain bar

Option 1: Free Subdomain

For no cost, you can create a subdomain of buffscreate.net.

To create a free subdomain of buffscreate.net, leave this default option selected and enter the subdomain name you want for your website. When you’ve found an available subdomain, click the button labeled “Continue.”

domain bar continue button outlined

Confirm that you like the name you selected. If you do, click the “signup” button. (If not, click the “start over” button, and repeat the above step.)

Contact Information

You should now see a screen confirming that your subdomain is ready. After a few seconds, you will see the regular cPanel options.

Domain is ready to go

Option 2: Buy a top-level domain from Reclaim Hosting

It is easy to create your own top-level domain. This allows you to select a URL for your website that is easy to remember and share.

While you are at CU Boulder, this is available for a nominal cost (currently $15/year). You can continue to use this domain after leaving CU Boulder, although the cost may increase.

To register a top-level domain log into your newly created cPanel, navigate to the Domains section, and click Register Top-Level Domain.

This panel offers a step-by-step guide to registering and adding a new top-level domain to your new cPanel account.

Option 3: Connect an existing domain to your cPanel

If you already have an existing domain that you’ve previously registered elsewhere, simply point your domain’s nameservers to ns1.reclaimhosting.com and ns2.reclaimhosting.com.

Setting Up FTP

There may be times when you need to upload files to your website in the BuffsCreate web hosting environment. There are a number of scenarios when this might be necessary:

  • You’re working with an application that allows you to install plugins/extensions, but the files need to be manually added to your file manager in order to install them. (Note: This is not required for WordPress which allows you to install themes/plugins through the WordPress dashboard.)
  • You’ve developed a custom site/pages using a Web design program, and you need to upload the files you created to your file manager
  • You’re installing an application that isn’t part of applications list in Installatron.

One way to upload files is by using the File Manager that is part of cPanel. However, sometimes you’ll find it easier/necessary to use File Transfer Protocol (FTP) to move files to your site. This can be particularly useful if you’re working with a Web space where you’re not the owner (so you don’t have access to the File Manager in cPanel) or if you need to provide file access to someone else to your space on the Web server. File Manager also only allows you to upload files one by one, so if you’re working with large amounts of data then FTP will be preferable.

What exactly is FTP?

File Transfer Protocol is a method that allows you to remotely move files to a Web server from another location – usually your local/personal computer. Using a pre-defined FTP account (with a username and password), you can configure an FTP client (a program you run on your computer that allows you to transfer files via FTP.

There are lots of FTP clients that you can use; some are free and some are not. A few free ones you might consider:

For the purpose of this tutorial, we’ll show you how to set up FTP in FileZilla, (Cyberduck instructions can be found here) but you should be able to generalize these instructions to use in any FTP client.

Get Information about Your FTP Account

If you’re connecting via FTP to your own space on BuffsCreate, or if you’re setting up an FTP account for someone else to use, you’ll need to start by getting the proper FTP credentials from cPanel:

  1. Login to buffscreate.net
    identikey login
  2. In the Search Box at the top of the page, search for “FTP”, and click the FTP Accounts icon that appears.
  3. Every cPanel has an FTP account by default, and you can find those credentials by scrolling down on the FTP Accounts page. You also have the option to create a new FTP account, which can be done by filling out the Add FTP Account form with a username and password. Unless you change it, the new FTP account will be limited to a directory with the same name as the account you’re creating. You can change this to a different directory, if you want to grant this account access to a different location.  NOTE: Make sure you know/remember the password you enter. When you’re done, click Create FTP Account.
  4. Once you’ve created the new account, you’ll see it appear in the list at the bottom of the FTP Accounts page. In addition to any accounts you’ve created, in the Special FTP Accounts section, you’ll see the default FTP Account. You’ll know this account because the username corresponds to your cPanel username. This FTP account has full privileges to access all directories within your cPanel.
  5. For whichever account you need credentials for, click the Configure FTP Client link. FTP example of a created account
  6. Write down the username, server, and port information that appears. You will need to use this (or you will need to provide this to the person you are giving FTP access) along with the password you created in Step 3 in order to configure your FTP client.

PLEASE NOTE:

For cPanel’s default FTP account, use the following settings:

-Connect via SFTP (more secure than FTP)
-Port: 22

For an FTP account that you manually created (shown in Step 3 above), use the following settings:

-Connect via FTP (cPanel doesn’t allow an SFTP connection for manual accounts)
-Port: 21

Configure FTP in Your FTP Client

Below are links to tutorials for setting up both FileZilla and CyberDuck to connect to your FTP account.

For further assistance on FTP, read this guide.

Choosing Your Domain Name

Choosing your domain name is the first step in getting started with staking your claim on the web. Your domain name is a unique Web address (e.g. yourname.buffscreate.net) that can be used to build out your own digital presence. As you make your choice, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

Your Domain Name Must Be Available: Domain names must be unique, which means in order for you to claim your own, you need to be sure that it is currently available (and not being used by anyone else or any company or organization). There are lots of tools to check on domain availability, and when you sign up on buffscreate.net, we’ll actually check the availability of your choice for you. If you’d like to spend some time thinking about your choice and checking availability before you actually sign-up, we recommend using whois.com.

Choose a Domain You Can Live With: You should choose a domain name that you feel you can live with for quite some time. You should pick something that you won’t find embarrassing in the future. A good rule of thumb is to pick a domain that you would be comfortable putting on a future job application.

You May Wish to Include Your Name in Your Domain: There is no requirement that your domain reflects your specific identity in the form of your first and last name. However, choosing a domain name that includes your name may make it easier for you to achieve higher rankings in search engines when someone queries your real name.

Pick a Domain you Like: At the end of the day, your domain should reflect you. Pick a domain you like and are proud of. It can reflect your interests, sports you play, or your hobby. Or it could just be your name. The “right” domain for you is the one you’re comfortable with.