“I paid for a domain, why do I need hosting? What is hosting? And then, what is a domain?” Domain and hosting are the first jargon words we see when building a website project. It is common that we take for granted the understanding of both words, but here’s a rather simple explanation for what is what?
My domain, its registrar and the name server
Oh big words already – In simple terms, a domain is the human friendly ‘address’ name to your website, email or web application. It is the address used in a browser address bar when people try to go directly in your website. A domain is registered with international domain registrar – like an official directory to web domains. You can buy domain names easily online, but they have to be unique. A domain usually takes the form of [name of choice].[tld (top level domain)] (example. google.com).
A quick word about TLDs – .COM is the most common TLD that has been around since 1985. In 36 years, it is estimated that there are about 151.8 million domains registered with .com TLD. That defintely makes it harder to find a unique combination for name of business/choice especially when using dictionary words. Some registries, companies and also individuals took the liberty of registering common words on their name to be able to give high premium price tag value for short or catchy domains. For example business.com has been sold for an astonishing $345 million. However, if not a premium, yet unique domain, you should be able to purchase a domain at the standard rates of €8 to €20 per year. You don’t need an agency to buy your own domain 🙂
Once you have domain, the registry would need to point this domain to a nameserver. The job of a nameserver is to point the browser, email or other web software towards the proper IP address of the server. The nameserver would have a table allocated to a domain, with records (A records, MX records etc). Domain on its own will not do anything – its a simple address to your ‘house’ (hosting). The nameserver would be the ‘post office’, and it will know were the ‘message’ needs to be delivered.
Let’s say we have …example.com
|Server IP: 192.168.0.1
|All web requests to www.example.com will be directed to 192.168.0.1
This is a web server where the website is hosted (stored)
|mx record (mail)
|Server IP: 192.168.0.2
|All mail requests for [email protected] will directed through 192.168.0.2
This is a mail server, and therefore email pass through this.
|Server IP 192.168.0.1
|All web requests to blog.example.com will be directed to the same main web server.
The hosting is where the website content resides. It is usually a web server which stores the website data on a storage, and also computes it so it can be delivered as a website on a browser. There is a huge market and different options for hosting your website. There are managed services which take care of the maintenance, setup and all the jazz needed to make the website work. There are also vanilla servers available on the cloud which require a higher technical skill to setup as hosting environments.
As we saw earlier, a domain would point towards the web hosting server. The server, based on the domain name, would understand which website needs to be delivered.
You can have a domain on its own, but it won’t do anything unless connected with a hosting service; you can have a hosting without a domain, but then you may have to give the client’s the machine’s IP address to access it…. you need both for any simple website project.
“…but i’m using WordPress/WIX/SqaureSpace or other off-the-shelf web solutions” – perfect – they are taking care of the whole setup mentioned above for you in one package.
Good to know
The moment you enter a domain name in your browser, all the above happens in milli seconds! Fascinating isn’t it? You can reach websites far away in a jiffy. This is possible due to the complex internet network high tech being used. The internet infrastructure is a ground breaking. Also, your internet service provider caches (remembers) what the nameserver knows, and therefore finds the server location faster after all. The ISP probably knows already where it needs to go because of ‘propogation’. Nameserver ensure to broadcast their knowledge so that everyone knows where they need to go 🙂