A website is made up of several parts: the host and domain name, the website files, and the hosting service. At times, it may seem like these are one entity, because one is not useful without the others. However, it is important to know the parts and how they fit together.
The Domain Name:
This is the name you bought from Go Daddy or some other domain vendor (called Registrars**), or maybe your web developer bought it for you. Special note: If your web developer bought it for you, make sure you are listed as the Administrator, so you will have legal access to your domain! Also, and this is just as important, you need to have the user name and password so you can gain access, independent of your developer. This will save you a lot of headaches down the road.
Your domain name is connected to the address of the machine (IP Address) that is running your website. Unlike the address to your office, which cannot be duplicated, you CAN have several domain names point to your website.
Your domain name can also have several “hosts.” (This is the “www” part of the name.) Each host can point to a different machine address.
The Website Files:
Website files are your actual website pages, which are housed on a hosting server. Your website files may contain a few basic pages or you may have a database or an e-commerce solution as part of your site. If you have a database and/or e-commerce solution, many of those pages may be generated dynamically (created on-the-fly as needed). These pages may not actually exist independent of the database or e-commerce site.
You want to make sure that a current backup copy of your website pages exists, either maintained by your developer or you.
Hosting is the service that is identified by an IP Address*** that delivers your web pages to the Internet. This service includes “disk space” on that machine and a program that delivers those pages on request (called a web server). Depending on how big your website is, you may have to buy more space. Unlike your website, which you own, you never own the space or the delivery service your website resides in; you are only leasing that space and delivery service.
There are lots of companies that provide hosting services. Make sure you pick one you can communicate with, so your website is getting the attention and space you are paying for!
**Registrar: Domain names are managed and regulated by an international body, ICANN. This organization license companies, call Registrars, the rights to sell domain names. Your Registrar is just a “retailer” of the names and does not “own” that name, YOU DO!
***IP Address: Every machine that is connected to the Internet has “at least” one address in the form of ###.###.###.### (four blocks of no more that three
digits). The organization of these numbers can get very technical; whole books are written about that subject. For now, just understand that your domain name is “linked” to the IP Address of the machine hosting your site.