If you are looking to publish your first website, you may be confused about all the different terminology being used such as domain name, web host, registrar, cloud hosting, VPS or dedicated servers. They are all phrases which are associated with you being able to launch your website online and are linked a number of decisions that you need to make about the best way for your site to be viewed by your visitors.
A domain name such as www.thisisanexamplenameforyou.com is similar to the street address of your house. If we use the location of the Prime Minister as an example – 10 Downing Street, this is a precise location, the same as an IP address is an exact location or computer. If you were to visit London and wanted to visit but couldn’t remember that it was on Downing Street but jumped into a black cab and asked the driver to take you to the location of the Prime Minister, you would still get there. This is the same as a domain name – it’s the easy route to a website without knowing the exact numeric address.
A domain name will have a minimum of a top level and then a second level domain. The part of the web address to the right of the dot is the top level and examples of this are .com and .org. The address which is to the left of the dot is the second level domain – for thisisanexamplenameforyou.com the second level domain is thisisanexamplenameforyou.
There is a central body which governs all the domain names and they are called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). They standardise the top level domains and hold the responsibility for the distribution of IP addresses.
When you see www in front of your domain name, this is the part known as the subdomain. It is not part of the actual domain name and so visitors will reach you whether they start the address with or without it.
It’s obviously much easier to remember a domain name rather than a string of numbers for every website you want to visit, so what happens is when someone types your domain name into the address bar, the browser looks for the IP address associated with the name and in turn, your website. Every domain name in the world along with its IP address is kept in a database and so they are always accessible to all users at any one time.
Domain name registration is the process of registering your domain name. There can only ever be one unique version of any domain name and so when you have decided what you would like to call your website you need to find out if it is available and to register it. This means that it will be kept on the central database of information for the period you decide to register it for.
Web hosting is the way your files are stored online. There are a number of different options available such as through a dedicated server, a shared server, cloud hosting or VPS hosting. The decision about which you need will depend very much on the combination of the size of your website, the amount of expected traffic when you first go live and the budget you have set aside for this element of web publishing.
Choosing a domain name is a decision which needs to have thought and research. It’s important that it reflects your site, its products or services and is something which is going to be easy to remember – and spell. It is a name which is as important as your business name so think and choose carefully when you are at the point of registration.