The Super Duo of the Internet: Web Hosting and Domain Names

By Phillip Smith, Monday, February 9, 2015
Super duo examples of the Internet

In today’s blog, I’m going to talk about Domain names and Web hosting services, how they differ and why they matter. It doesn’t sound very exciting at first, but trust me when I say these two titans have a very substantial role in how the internet functions and how we’re able to view web pages.

In the beginning:

Web hosting and domain names both have very specific duties and perform different tasks.  A domain name is an address that points to your specific site that’s on a specific server. It’s what people can search for, send things to and visit.

Domain names are guided by sets of rules and procedures that are known as the Domain Name System (or DNS for short). Think of DNS as a very large directory that lists all of the available and unavailable web addresses. DNS has existed since the late ’60s (during the use of ARPANET) and has morphed into a very sophisticated, but very necessary record-keeping function that we utilize today.

Web hosting in itself has been around since the beginning of the World Wide Web (circa 1991). It can be used to host a website, host email, host FTP files, and everything in between. Web hosting services provide the server space, data center, and networked resources that allow a website to be accessible on the Internet.  During its infancy, it was mainly people who had their own server at home or those who paid a sizeable fee that had access to web hosting.

It wasn’t until 1995 that web hosting became an easy and ever-growing trend for people to use due to the rise of GeoCities, Angelfire, and Tripod. Once web hosting became cheaper and the internet was easier to access, web hosting became a critical step for businesses wanting to advertise online.

hosting servers

It takes two to make a thing go right:

The most common misconception when it comes to these two is that they are believed to be the same thing. To put it plainly they are not the same, but they work closely together to achieve the same goal. In essence, you need both a Web host and a Domain name to have a website be accessible on the internet. Technically you can have one without the other, but if you have a web host and no domain name (or vice versa) your website probably can’t be easily viewed by the public.

If it’s a little hazy for you here’s an everyday scenario to break it down. Congratulations! You purchased a plot of land and you were given the listed property address (Your domain name). You’re excited so you tell people ‘Hey, check out my place!’ but, when they visit it is still just an empty plot of land. People get bored of the empty land so you decide to take it a step further. You contact a building contractor (Web host) and you tell them you want to build an efficient yet modest home. They guide you into what type of amenities you need (How much bandwidth, file storage, emails, etc) and they will help place the foundation, walls, and roof of your house.  You now have a place to visit at the address you own!

Worth its weight in gold:

Now that I’ve shown you the differences let’s talk about the importance of upkeep. As a website owner there are two important dates you must keep track of; the renewal date for your web hosting and the renewal date for your domain name. I cannot stress this enough for new and seasoned website owners alike.

As of 2014 the DNS lists over 241 million domain names and counting which means at one point there is going to be someone who really wants to purchase the domain you own. Losing a Domain has a strict process which is as follows.

If payment is not received via your domain registrar service, it will be suspended the next day. There is a small grace period that allows the owners of the domain to purchase it and only pay the renewal fees. If the suspension period passes your domain name will go into the redemption status. What that means is only the owner can renew but have to pay a redemption fee on top of the renewal fee which can be an amount from the 100 to 200 dollar range.

The nightmare scenario is when the domain status goes from redemption to deletion. Once the deletion period is active there is no way of getting back your domain until it is recycled back into circulation. Once it’s recycled back to the world it is available for anyone to purchase.

Even with that small window of time provided by the suspension phase, I advise you to pay it as soon as humanly possible (that means before it hits suspension) so you can keep a firm grip on your domain.

Losing a web host service isn’t as dire as losing a domain name but it can be just as painful. Depending on if you’re self-sustaining or use a web development /web design firm we always recommend backing up your entire website on a set schedule. If renewal payments are not met with a web host several different things can occur that can affect your website and its files.

Your web host can limit server usage (I.e. file storage, email sending, etc.), they can suspend traffic to the website until payment is met, or (and this is the nightmare scenario) they can go as far as deleting all files and canceling your account with them over lack of payment. The nightmare scenario doesn’t happen within a matter of days, but, be sure to read over the agreement you signed with your web host to know how much leeway you have in terms of timing.

These are the basics when it comes to Web Hosting and Domain names and why they matter! Once you’re able to get yourself situated with a good domain name and a reliable web hoster you will be able to build upon what you’ve started. This step is only the beginning though when it comes to the entirety of your website.  You have an empty house on your plot of land so the next step is getting an interior decorator or in this case, a Website designer/developer to help make your website pretty and functional.

Down below are a gaggle of links that discuss Web hosting and Domain names if you want to learn more about the subject.

Hitchhikers Guide to Webhosting and DNS:
The History of Web Hosting.

Web Hosting and Understanding Its Terms.

What is DNS?

The History of DNS.

Posted in: Domain Registration, Web Hosting, Web Site Maintenance, WWW Learning Center

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