Having separate servers for your website and email is a rudimentary but oft-overlooked aspect of maintaining a secure, functional online presence for your business or organization. Before we delve into the topic, a quick refresher:
Server: a computer that stores information and transmits that information to clients.
Email client: a software program that allows users to send and receive emails (for example, Gmail or Outlook).
Web client: a software program that lets users view and interact with websites (for example, browsers like Firefox or Internet Explorer).
Servers can communicate with each other, and one server can contain many different websites or multiple types of information.
Given that a single server can contain so much, it might seem more efficient to have your website and email hosted on the same server. Why not keep everything in the same place for easy access?
In today’s world where server resources are limited and online data security is critical, you want to keep your key systems isolated. Fundamentally, there are three big reasons for keeping your email and website servers separate.
Keeping your web and mail servers separate is a simple and effective way to mitigate cybersecurity risk. Having your emails and website stored on the same server heightens the possibility of a security issue happening to both at the same time.
Imagine that a hacker infiltrates your email server. This may give that hacker the ability to send malicious emails to you and your customers, or scrape personal information from anyone you’ve been in communication with. If your website is hosted on the same server, then an email infiltration can also give a hacker access to your website. Through your website, they may find access to your social media channels. From one opening, they can take down your entire web presence.
Having your email and website hosted on the same server is rarely ideal from a performance perspective. Having all that traffic directed to a single server can cause bottlenecks.
There are also situations where you may suddenly get flooded with emails and web traffic. Rarely, this may be due to a DDoS attack, and if that’s the case then having separate website and email servers can help make sure at least part of your online identity remains available. Of course, a sudden uptick in traffic might be good. Maybe you’ve had some positive publicity recently and thousands of people visit your site. Or perhaps you shared a deal with a bunch of your current customers who place orders all at once. The last thing you want is a huge spike in traffic that overwhelms your server’s resources while it’s trying to process both web traffic and email traffic at the same time. Keeping these two systems separate allows resources to be managed independently and reduces the risk of a resource overload that leaves you treading water and unable to communicate with your customers.
Problems with servers can happen due to technical issues or cybersecurity attacks, but it’s also possible for a server to become physically compromised — for example, flooding, fire, or other disasters have been known to destroy servers. If both your website and email are hit by a disaster, your customers may be left in the dark for days or weeks, which can severely damage your reputation, not to mention the lost sales, and the cost of rebuilding your website from scratch.
If your web and email servers are separate, then at least you can get a message out to your customers about what’s going on, and reassure them that you’re working toward a solution.
Most companies employ separate contractors or teams for web services and IT. You don’t want to have your web person trying to manage your email server — nor do you want your IT person managing your website. These are separate skill sets, with less overlap than you’d think.
Plus, hosts that offer bundled email and web hosting services are often biased toward one or the other. A robust web host might offer email as an add-on to their service, but if their expertise lies with website hosting, the email service is probably not going to be the best on the market. And vice versa. Using a separate server for each service allows you to pick and choose the best service providers for each.
Maintaining separate suppliers for email and web hosting means you’re not at the mercy of one supplier for your entire services. If you have a disagreement with one of your suppliers or decide that their services are simply not quite what you’re looking for, you can switch without too much disruption to your business and customer relations.