What are Domains and Hosting?

Posted by | February 16 | Digital Marketing & Strategy, Web Design

The world of the internet is a confusing place with lots of technical terminology and jargon being used. Domains and hosting are two of the terms you will come across most frequently and because they are so closely intertwined, a lot of confusion often occurs. They are co-dependent but also completely different issues.

Domains

To put it in the simplest form, a domain is a local sub network within the World Wide Web. It is part of a Local Area Network (LAN) where users access the internet through a central server they are permitted to use rather than having to repeatedly authenticate to access individual servers and services. But the better known use of the word domain is in reference to Domain Names.

A domain name is the address that is used to access a website. Every website has a unique Internet Protocol (IP) address which, when typed into the address bar of a browser, will take the user to that specific website. But the IP address is a long string of numbers that is difficult to remember. To make internet access easier, words are used to replace the long number string and the Domain Name System (DNS) translates the words into the appropriate number string and takes the visitor to where he wants to go.

When you set up a website, you have to register the domain name you want to use – for example “thisismywebsite.com.” The number string behind it is of no concern to you. The registration is done by a registrar who will contact the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) who will ensure that it is not being used by anyone else and assign it to you. This will be your address and the one you give to people so they can visit your website.

Hosting

For your website to be available on the internet it must be loaded onto a computer that is continually online so that when your domain name is typed, your website is accessible. This computer is called a web server and is where your website is hosted. This is called hosting and the companies that offer this services are called hosting companies. It is the hosting company that keeps your website on line and available to those who want to go to it.

There are various hosting options available and what you choose depends on the nature of your website and the nature of your business:

  1. Free hosting – There is no charge for hosting your site – the hosting company will make their money by placing ads on your site. This may put off visitors so if you can afford to pay, this is best avoided.
  2. Shared hosting – This you will pay for, but it is cheap. If your web site is small you can share a server with other sites. This reduces your costs, but the space available to you on the server is limited so it is best for smaller sites.
  3. Paid Hosting – The most expensive but it you are paying for reliability, service, support and as much space as you need on the server. You will also have features like accepting payments and do other commercial transactions online.

If you are setting up your first website and are on a limited budget, starting with free hosting is the best option. You can iron out the kinks and refine your site and then move on to either shared or paid hosting.

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