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Web Hosting & Domain 101: How Hosting a Website Works

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James Cummings
December 18, 2018


James Cummings
James Cummings has written 5 articles for JavaScriptSearch.
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Not many people understand how website hosting and domains work, and this blog post aims to fix that. Knowing how webhosting and domain names work will provide website owners with insight that will help them prepare better websites.

Let’s go.

How web hosting works

A website is usually made up of a collection of files. These files need to be stored somewhere on a computer connected to the internet so that they can be made available to visitors. The computer on which these files are stored is usually called a SERVER. Web hosting is the process of storing your website files on a server from where they are served to visitors and web users. When you pay a company to place your website files on their server, you are buying web hosting.

The term web hosting can be used to describe the process of hosting your files on a webserver and the company that host these files. The term is usually interchangeable.

There are thousands of web hosting companies online where you can buy web hosting from, however, it is a good idea to buy web hosting from a datacentre close to where your target customers are.  For instance, if your target customers are in Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington, you may want to buy web hosting from a dedicated NZ host like www.discountdomains.co.nz/web-hosting

Datacentres are facilities that house the servers where your website files are hosted. A datacentre can be a room, a large covered space or a full building. It must be equipped with backup power, environmental control equipment and redundant data systems.

Different types of web hosting

Web hosting comes in various shapes and sizes; each one has its own uniqueness, technical requirement, capacity and level of reliability. The most commonly-used types of web hosting include: shared hosting, VPS, dedicated hosting and cloud hosting. Let us take some time to explore their features and differences.

Shared hosting:

Shared hosting means just what the name suggests, a system of web hosting where you share server resources with other website owners. This is a good place to start your web design journey especially if you have budget concerns. The cost for shared hosting is shared by other websites on the server, this makes it quite affordable. However, because there are countless numbers of websites on the same server sharing the same resources, your website’s performance may be affected. Shared hosting is ideal for new websites or small websites that don’t expect high traffic. It is also ideal for website owners with little technical expertise.

Virtual Private Servers (VPS):

A virtual private server is actually one server that is divided into different virtual servers. Each website is hosted on one virtual server, basically simulating a dedicated environment, but they are all on one machine. A VPS can serve as a stepping between a shared hosting platform and a dedicated server. This means that websites that have outgrown their shared server resources can opt for a VPS plan if they cannot afford the cost of a dedicated server. Even though all the websites on a VPS reside on the same server, they are each allocated their individual dedicated resources. People who host on a VPS have access to the root of their server environment and enjoy better results than those on a shared platform.

Dedicated hosting:

Dedicated hosting is a lot different from shared hosting and VPS. Having a dedicated server means you own the entire server for the duration of your term and have full control over it. Your website is the only website that will be on the entire server.

With dedicated hosting, you won’t worry about sharing resources with anybody or that the performance of your website will be affected by other sites on the same server. This is generally the highest level of server environment and is ideal for large corporations and high-traffic websites. Because the cost of this type of server is quite high, you have to be sure that your business has grown to the point where you can afford it before thinking of getting one.

Cloud hosting:

Even though cloud hosting has been in existence for some years, it is still referred to as new hosting technology. Cloud hosting is a system of hosting where your website is stored on a network made up of a series of interconnected servers. The idea behind this system is for the websites on a cloud platform to pull resources from all the interconnected servers. Because of the way the system works, cloud hosting provides one of the most reliable forms of hosting. There is practically zero downtime because the moment one server goes down; another automatically steps up to take its place.

Another advantage of cloud hosting is that it allows for an unusually large amount of traffic. Whenever there is an increase in traffic to your website, the system will automatically push more resources so that your site can accommodate the spike. This will keep your site running, rather than allowing it to crash.

If your website has grown to the point where you begin to receive a huge amount of traffic, opting for cloud hosting will keep your visitors satisfied without making a huge dent in your budget.

How to know a good hosting company  

The fact that you can find a hosting provider on Google does not make it the perfect one. There are tons of web hosting companies on search results page, but not all of them will meet the requirements for your website. When choosing a web host, there are several factors you need to take into consideration, such as server performance and customer support.

Making the wrong choice in web host can negatively impact the success of your online business and damage your brand reputation, so it is important you do enough research before settling for a hosting company.

How domain names work

Millions of people browse the internet every day. They access websites by typing a domain name into the address bar of their web browsers.

A domain name is the name attached to your website. This is what visitors will type into the address bar of their browsers to access your website. A domain name is typically made up of a string of characters that are connected to an IP address where your website is hosted. When a user types your domain name in the web browser e.g. Google.com, the web server checks to see which IP address is connected to that domain name, once the IP address is located, the web server returns the website that is hosted at that IP address. To get a domain name, you will have to register your domain name with an ICANN approved domain name registrar.

How domain name registration works  

Domain name registration may seem like a complex process, but the opposite is the case. Every domain name has to be registered by an ICANN accredited registrar. This is what you will do when you want to register a domain name:

  • Sign up with your preferred registrar to buy a domain

  • Search for the domain name of your choice

  • If your preferred domain name is available, proceed to paying for it

  • Fill in your personal details such as name, email address and phone number

  • Indicate how long you want the domain name to last for

  • Indicate if you want to associate your domain name with web hosting (you will have to pay for this also)

  • Proceed to checkout and pay

The domain name registrar will contact the domain name operator who will update your details with the information you submitted during purchase. This information will appear on the WHOIS record of your domain name. Once your domain name is approved, you will receive an email with further instructions on how to use it. A domain name typically takes between a few minutes and 24 hours to propagate before it can be accessed on the internet.

WHOIS

WHOIS pronounced who – is, is a publicly-accessible record that shows the personal information tied to all the registered domain names. This information typically contains the domain owner’s name, email address, phone number, physical address, domain registration and expiry date as well as any other relevant information.

According to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), this information must be provided to the domain name registrar before a domain registration can be approved.

WHOIS records are free for anybody to access, which means just about anyone can use the WHOIS database to get the registration information for any domain name. However, many people prefer to hide their personal information from the public by paying for domain privacy.

Domain privacy –

Domain privacy simply replaces the WHOIS information with that of a proxy, usually the details of the domain name registrar. This is a good way for website owners to keep their personal information from the public. Of course, you will still have to provide the information when registering the domain name, but domain name privacy will keep it out of the view of the public.

Domain name extensions

A domain name extension is the part of a domain name that comes after the last dot. The most popular domain name extensions are called TLDs or Top-Level Domain Names. These include the popular .COM, .NET, .ORG and .INFO. There are also some newly introduced TLDs that are not as popular; such as .MOBI, .TV, .UK and .EDU.

Country code top-level domains or ccTLDs are domain name extensions associated with certain regions or countries. This is usually used by websites that offer products and services to local customers. There is almost a ccTLD for every country in the world, but some of the more popular ones include: .CO.UK,.FR, .ES, .JP, .RO, .US and .CO.NZ for New Zealand.

In addition to the above two, we also have what is known as generic domain names or gTLDs. These domain names are typically used by websites that want to show a clear association with what they do. Some of the more popular gTLDs include: .FOREX, .BAR, .XYZ, .WEBSITE, .CLUB.

All in all, there are more than one thousand domain name extensions available.

Domain names VS. Web hosting

There is a very huge difference between having a domain name and hosting a website, but they are often sold together by the same web hosting company; for this reason, it is understandable that one can be mistaken for the other.

In simple terms, a domain name can be likened to the physical address of your house. Visitors need this address to visit your home, without which they will be lost. Web hosting, on the other hand, is made up of the content of your home, so when a visitor locates your home using your address (domain name), they can get access to the contents of your home (web hosting). It is important to point out that you can buy one without the other, but it will not be very useful to you. Without a domain name, it will be impossible to locate your website, and without web hosting, you will not be able to create your website.

Additionally, you can also opt to buy your domain name and web hosting from different providers, but you will need to link them together by updating your nameservers.

Wrapping up

We hope this article has helped you better understand how domain names and web hosting work. Once you understand the science behind the two terms, you will gain a better understanding of how your website works.


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