If all this stuff about hosting, web space, and domain names is geek to you, read on! By the end of this article, you'll have the concepts well in hand.
To make these concepts easier to grasp, I'm going to analogize them to something with which you're likely familiar–a mobile home in a trailer park.
There are 3 basic parts to having a mobile home:
- the home itself;
- The land on which it sits; and
- The space number.
The home is your website. The land on which it rests is the web space. The person wishing to build a website must first find a company that will provide a space where that website lives, just as the owner of a mobile home must find a trailer park. (Yes, you could actually host your site from your own computer, just as you could potentially put your mobile home up on a vacant piece of land, but neither is recommended, for a variety of reasons, the two basic ones being lack of reliability and security). So, my assertion still stands–you'll need to find a company that can provide space for your website, i.e., "host it". That's 1 of the things we do at Bright Stars Web Technologies.
The cost of hosting varies, but cost is not the only thing to consider when choosing a hosting company. Other things to think about are:
- The reliability of the company, i.e., will your website work most of the time? If it's a personal site, perhaps that's not as much of a consideration, but if it's a business site, it definitively matters!
- Security–what protections are in place to keep unauthorized people from breaking into your site and hacking it?
- Support–what kind of help is available if (when)? things go horribly wrong? Even if they don't, can you get your questions answered in a prompt and courteous manner? Are tutorials available to help you do things you're not certain how to do?
- Space and bandwidth–these will be discussed in a separate article, but basically, it amounts to how much space do you get and how much traffic are you allowed? Many hosting companies advertise unlimited space and bandwidth, and most people tend to think that unlimited space and bandwidth are the best deal in town, but, in truth, their existence is akin to that of a free lunch. Again, these concepts will be discussed later, but the truth is that if someone else on the computer where your site is housed is hogging all the space and bandwidth, then you're likely not getting your share of either, which can bring your site to a screeching halt. Think of what would happen, for example, if mobile home park tenants were allowed to erect as many outbuildings as they desired–one person might put so many buildings up that others couldn't have theirs. That is admittedly an oversimplification, but it gets the point across.
Hopefully this has given you a bit of understanding about hosting and web space. The last point to be covered is that of the domain name.
The domain name is similar to the space number of a mobile home within a park. It differentiates that home from all others there, and makes it possible for potential visitors to find it, as well as for mail to be delivered correctly. You'd almost have to be living in a cave not to have heard of names like google.com or amazon.com. These are in fact domain names. When you type in 1 of those domains into your web browser, you're taken to that website. But how does that happen?
Each domain name must be registered for 2 reasons. The first is that so there won't be 2 or more domains with the same name. The second is so that a record is kept of the link between your domain name and your website–thus, when someone types in www.brightstarsweb.com, for example, they end up here and not at Amazon, and vice versa.
If you have a business site, try to find a domain name that is a good fit for your company. Having said that, though, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find available domain names, because companies sometimes buy them in hopes of being able to sell them later. As an example, I often write about a character named Gruffy, who is a gremlin disguised as an angel. To my surprise, someone had already bought gruffy.com. Yes, they were willing to sell it–for $780–about as likely as pigs flying.
Hopefully, this article has clarified the concepts of web space, hosting, and domain names. However, if you still have questions, please don't hesitate to post them in the comments section.