If you’re thinking of getting your own website, you’ve likely heard that you need web hosting to do so. But if you’re like many people, you may be left wondering what exactly is web hosting, how it works, and why you need it.
The technology that powers websites on the Internet may seem quite complicated to understand at first. This guide will help you get a better grasp of what web hosting is and how you can use it to create a website so that you can share your message with the rest of the world through the Internet.
What is a Domain?
Your domain is an essential part of the URL (uniform resource locator) that shows up in your browser’s address bar when you’re visiting a website. It isn’t a physical thing or even a piece of code, but just the specific identifier that will point to exactly where your site is situated.
Your domain name must have two parts: a string of characters and a suffix. For instance, in “Google.com”, Google.com is the domain name. Google is the company, but this particular suffix .com indicates that it’s a commercial site. There are many new suffixes you can choose from, such as “.photography” or “.wales” that help you to suggest what your site is about; these are also great choices in case the traditional suffixes such as “.info” or “.biz” are already taken.
Your domain name must be unique. However, it’s important that the domain name is easily recognised by humans, who will have a hard time remembering IP addresses or meaningless strings of characters. For example, “RichardsAutoLoans.net” is far more meaningful and memorable than “184.108.40.206” or “1R7743J.net”. While your computer’s browser will use the IP address, it will always show you the readable domain name.
What are The Parts of a Domain?
When you see a domain name such as “AffordablePetClinic.org”, you’re essentially seeing the label that identifies your site uniquely from all others. The labels reflect an established internet protocol that all domain names must comply to, everywhere in the world. This consists of different strings with different meanings, formed into one string but delimited by dots so that various elements of the domain name can be clearly recognised and understood, by both you and your computer.
The hierarchy, or progressive order, of your domain name proceeds from right to left. Each string to the left is a subdivision of the characters to the right. The right-most label, or suffix, shows the top level domain. Your browser will look at this first to determine which DNS server it should start checking.
Understanding this, you can see immediately what the domain name is telling you. For example, in “Weddings.LondonFlower.com”, “Weddings” is a subdomain of the base “LondonFlower” domain, while “.com” is the top level domain. Multiple levels of subdomain could have more complex strings, such as “Ancient.Gold.CoinTraders.com”. You can set up the subdomains on your website any way you choose, with any names you want, and visitors will still find them.
How Do Domain Names Work?
A domain name is not the same thing as a website. You can own a domain name, or dozens of them, without an actual site that people can visit. Domain names are often sold or transferred. However, you must have a domain name to have a website.
The name you choose must be registered with a proper domain authority. Think of your domain name as a street address. You can transform your website into something different and give it a different title, but people will still find you at the exact same domain name.
Each top level domain (TLD) like .edu (educational) is managed by a different registry. They maintain a database with all of the .edu sites listed and where they can be found. Most registry services will accept any domain name and provide it to the appropriate TLD server.
The domain name you reserve for your website is linked to your webhost’s servers and propagated, or copied, across the internet via regular updates to various DNS (domain name service) servers. When someone searches for your domain name, their browser will check with a DNS that translates the name to the right IP address and directs users to where your site is physically stored as files.
For instance, with a domain name like “FootballScores.net”, when a user enters it into their browser their computer will contact the appropriate DNS to find out where it can look for the “FootballScores” domain. This will send them to your web hosting company’s server and your specific home page that’s set up to greet visitors. The code for this page is then returned to the requesting IP address (user computer) for display.
What is a Top Level Domain (TLD)?
The TLD appears in your domain name as the last segment, or the letters immediately following the last dot in the URL. Although there are now over 900 TLDs available, each one can suggest some topic that your site is associated with (.surgery), the type of industry or organization it represents (.edu), gives an indication of its purpose (.diet), or the geographic area where the organization is located (.sydney). Country-specific suffixes such as .aus or .uk are also considered TLDs.
While all TLDs are available to public registration, certain domains, such as .edu or .aero, must meet special requirements before they’re granted. The .com, .net, and .org designations are regarded as the highest level domains. You can think of your domain as, from right to left, the top level domain, second level domain, and subdomain. For instance, in “jobs.BigNationalBank.com”, .com is the TLD, BigNationalBank is the second level domain, and jobs is a subdomain.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is responsible for managing domain names and IP addresses. ICANN recognises four types of TLD: Generic (gTLD) such as .com or .biz, Country Code (ccTLD) such as .ca for Canada or .fr for France., Sponsored (sTLD) (only used for private organizations), Infrastructure (there’s currently only one, .arpa, which is used exclusively by the Internet Engineering Task Force).
Domains and Other Related Concepts
Domain vs Hosting
In order to make your website available to the public, you must have an account with a web hosting company. They’ll make your site is available 24/7 to internet users from all over the world. While some hosts provide domain services, don’t assume that both a hosting account and a domain name are part of the package. They are two separate things.
A website without a domain name is like a house with no street address. Your mail will never reach you and people won’t be able to find you and whatever message or product you’re offering. Make certain you’re using a host that can register a new domain name, or register your own elsewhere.
Domain vs Website
A domain is not a website. It’s the registered domain name that DNS servers use to translate your domain into an IP address. It’s entirely possible to have a domain with no website. Imagine going to a new store that’s been advertised; there’s a sign but the store is still under construction. Without a website at your domain, users might get an error message or default page on your host’s server, but they are still being directed to the right domain.
Once you have registered your domain, there is an IP address associated with it in the different DNS databases. If your webpage is properly set up in your hosting account, users are generally directed to the index, default, or home page for your site. In working with the management tools for your site, you’ll often find that the website is referred to as your domain, but this describes the space on the server where your site is installed.
Domain vs Subdomains
You can organise your website any way you choose. Many people choose to use folder/directory hierarchies, or you might use subdomains instead. You can use different subdomains for different aspects of your business. Think of a retailer with merchandise on one floor and customer service on another, each with it’s own public entrance. Whether you use subdomains, directories, or both is a personal choice, but be advised that some hosts may require separate accounts for each subdomain.
In conclusion, you can’t operate a website without a domain name. While they are two different concepts, your website is linked to your domain name, both on your hosting company’s servers and on the DNS servers that help people using the internet find your site. You pay for domain registration on a temporary basis, and when that term ends you lose control of the domain name. If it expires and you don’t renew it promptly, someone else could register it and take ownership, so that it no longer points to your website.
UKHost4u is a leading hosting company that provides full domain services. You can use the tools available on our site to search for an original domain name and register it with your hosting account. If you already have a domain name, you can transfer it to our servers. Our services also include early notices for renewal dates, a full price list of all TLDs, and friendly customer support. To learn more about how UKHost4u can assist you with your new website, call us at 0330 088 5790 or +44.131 541 23 28, or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.