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Community Website Integration – Subdomains

Integrating your Community as part of your company website is an effective way to present your community in alignment with your brand.  It provides Community members with a familiar URL to access the community, leveraging what’s called a subdomain.  This approach is the recommended best practice for new and existing communities.  Existing communities may easily migrate to a subdomain.

Your company’s IT group can configure a subdomain as part of your company’s domain.  The purpose of this article is to help guide you with contacting the correct people in your organization to initiate the setup of a subdomain.

Your Fuel Cycle Community Manager can assist you on this topic and your Fuel Cycle Community questions.

Context

Fuel Cycle supports a variety of options for configuring your Community URL.  We can register and manage a new domain name (TLD) on your company’s behalf.  We can also direct your Community URL to a subdomain (of an existing domain name your company manages).  This article entails the latter option with subdomains.

Subdomains are part of a larger domain.  An example of a subdomain is the word “maps” in the address:  maps.google.com.  The typical format for Communities is https://communityname.yourcompany.com.

Advantages

Subdomains can be an excellent choice for those companies that wish to leverage an existing domain name to manage all of their properties under a single umbrella (such as your company’s domain name).  This can help foster a unified brand presence online, and add authenticity to the Community presentation, by having your company’s domain name as part of your Community URL.

Subdomains may not be the right choice for organizations with tight restrictions that limit subdomain usage – or Communities that are blinded (i.e. company branding is absent or hidden in the community).

Your Fuel Cycle Community Manager can help guide you on what’s the right choice for your Community.

Getting Started

Resources Needed

You’ll need your company IT group to help you configure the subdomain.

First, you’ll need to choose a subdomain name for your Community.  We recommend one that is similar to your Community name.

The setup of subdomains requires the assistance of your company’s IT representative.  Your IT representative will configure the subdomain within your company’s computer infrastructure.  This configuration request is a common ask and your IT representative will understand how to implement this request.

One of the challenges at some large organizations is finding the right IT representative – specifically the group that handles DNS records.  This is typically a person working in the IT infrastructure services team, system admin, or networking group at your organization.  If your organization utilizes a third-party to handle these DNS records, your IT representative will liaison with this provider on your behalf.

Your IT representative may ask that you fill out a request form for the subdomain.  This is typical of most organizations and usually takes the form of support/request tickets.  The form may request the URL to point the subdomain.  This URL will be provided to you by the Fuel Cycle team.

Once work initiates, your IT representative will create the subdomain record on your DNS server.  Next, they’ll point the subdomain to the Community URL provided by the Fuel Cycle team.

Once complete, your Community will now be accessible from the address that follows this example format:  https://yoursubdomain.yourcompany.com

Please take this moment to notify your Fuel Cycle Community Manager that the subdomain configuration is complete.

Other Scenarios

In most cases, your IT representative can quickly resolve these requests.  The actual configuration time is frequently under an hour.  However, there are scenarios unique to each company that could delay setup and requires additional approvals within your organization.

Digital Certificates:  Your IT representative may need to secure a new TLS certificate so that it applies to your new subdomain.  This TLS certificate is what enables https:// in the URL for secure data exchanges with websites – a key requirement for secure websites.  This tends to only be an issue if the original certificate did not include a wildcard before the domain (*.domain.com).

Marketing/Branding:  Some organizations have tighter governance on marketing and branding guidelines that includes approval of new subdomain requests.

These less common scenarios are not necessary to include in your initial request.  If applicable, your company’s IT representative will advise you and provide next steps in a follow-up.

Q&A

Q – Can existing Communities migrate to a subdomain?

A – Yes!  Both new and existing communities can utilize a subdomain.  In fact, we welcome all existing Communities to leverage this integration.  The setup and process is identical, whether new or existing.  Please contact your Fuel Cycle Community Manager for details.

Q – Can the Community alternatively appear in the path of the company URL instead?

e.g. https://www.yourcompany.com/yourcommunity

A – Paths are typically not permitted depending on your organization’s infrastructure configuration.  Subdomains are the recommended approach because they’re simple to implement technically and more widely compatible with common network configuration practices.  Alternatively, a Community hosted on a TLD is an excellent option too (if not choosing a subdomain).

Terminology Glossary

DNS (Domain Name System):  The naming system for computers connected to the Internet or network.

Subdomain:  A domain that is part of a larger domain, e.g. subdomain.topleveldomain.com

TLD (Top Level Domain):  The highest level in the hierarchy of the domain name system on the Internet, e.g. acmerockets.com or yourcompanyname.com

TLS (Transport Layer Security):  Provides authentication, privacy, data integrity with data exchanged with websites via a signed digital certification.  A TLS enabled website will display https:// protocol in place of http:// (the “s” signifying secure).  SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) was the predecessor of TLS.

URL (Universal Resource Locator):  The full web address to reach a website.

Updated on June 4, 2020

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