Domain Hosting And Website Hosting
Getting a website with your own domain name can sometimes be a little intimidating. The idea that a website needs to be hosted on a web server is pretty well understood, but before you can have a website, you need to have a domain name that points to the website and for many people, getting that set up is the confusing and intimidating part of getting your website up and running. Read on for an explanation of how to set everything up so you can have your own website with your domain name.
DNS and What It All Means
If you have done any bit of reading on the internet about setting your own website up, you have probably run across the terms DNS and IP and figured they’ve got to be important. It turns out, they are the key to the whole internet. DNS stand for Domain Name Server, and what a Domain Name Server does is translate domain names to IP addresses; IP stands for Internet Protocol. That’s just a different way of saying the address on the network. An analogy would be a street address. An IP address consists of four groups of no more than three digits all separated by periods. Many local area networks use an IP address range of 192.168.X.X with the X’s being the numbers assigned to the computers on the network.
As you would expect, computers understand numbers and that’s about it. Even letters get translated to numbers for a computer to be able to understand them and us humans really like letters and words. Words are much easier for us to remember than a series of numbers, so a DNS Server translates the letters and words we type into our web browsers into the IP address (numbers) the computers understand.
Imagine if we didn’t have DNS servers and we had to remember all of the IP address numbers. We might say something like, “Just go to 126.96.36.199 and search for your answer there.” Thanks to DNS, we can say, “Just go to Google and search for your answer there.” Google uses several IP addresses and 188.8.131.52 is one of them, so if you enter http://184.108.40.206 into your web browser’s address bar, you will go to Google. To the web servers that run the internet, there is no difference between entering an IP address of a website or it’s domain name – you will end up in the same place either way.
So, when you type http://google.com into your web browsers address bar, the first thing your computer does is ask the first DNS server it runs into (often times your ISP has a DNS server) “Do you know what IP address http://google.com is at?” If that DNS server doesn’t know, it asks another and it keeps asking until it finds one that knows and then it remembers the answer so it knows for the next person who asks. Once your computer gets the answer for what IP address it’s looking for, it then goes to that IP address and starts downloading the web page.
The internet is filled with DNS servers that all have huge database tables filled with what IP address a domain name is at and they are constantly updating themselves with updates and changes to all of the websites on the internet DNS changes. That means when you change the DNS for your website, it won’t happen instantaneously – it takes time for the change you make to propagate from the root server (the master DNS server on the internet) to other DNS servers.
When you make a DNS change to a website, you will be told that it may take up to 72 hours before you see the domain name point to the new server, but in reality every time except for one that I have made a DNS change I see the change in less than two hours and sometimes in less than 20 minutes. The only time it took longer, my ISP’s domain server went down about the same time I made the DNS change and somehow things got all messed up and it took a few days for things to work themselves out.
As you can see, DNS and IP addresses are what make the whole internet work and without them, we would have to remember all sorts of numbers and we would never get anywhere as we would all fail miserably at remembering all of the IP address numbers.
How this all gets back to you and your domain name is when you register a domain name, there needs to be a DNS server on the internet somewhere that holds the master record of what IP address your domain name points to, and that’s what a Domain Registrar does. There are a lot of choices out there for where to register your domain name with, and I recommend Network Solutions. I have used other domain registrars in the past with mixed success, but I have never had a single issue with Network Solutions. Your domain name registrar is of critical importance to you because they are the people who tell everyone on the internet who is looking for your website what IP address your website is located at. Without that, you don’t have anything and that’s why I use Network Solutions.
After you have purchased your domain name at Network Solutions (or any domain registrar), you need a place to host the files that create your website – and that’s what a web host does for you. A web host will give you the IP address that you provide to your domain registrar so when people type your domain name into their internet browser, they will end up being served your website files from your web host.
I have used a few web host companies and for a short time even hosted my own. There are several factors that go into choosing a web host and when you add them all together, I use and recommend Host Gator. They are one of the largest web hosting companies on the internet and that makes them large enough to be able to handle any problem you might have. Their online chat support is second to none and their servers are fast with a lot of bandwidth.
Another factor is server downtime. At the time I am writing this article, I have been using Host Gator for almost two years and have yet to have a single issue with server down time – not even for a few minutes. With other web hosting companies I have used in the past, all of my sites would periodically go down and nothing happened – no website, no email, no nothing. When I would call and find out what was going on, the answer was always the same – some sort of server maintenance was going on and they thanked me for my patience while my entire world was down. That has never happened once with Host Gator. Not once. My websites have been up 100% of the time they have been at Host Gator, and that’s impressive to me.
Putting It All Together
Once you get your domain name registered and picked out a web host, you need to tell the internet where your website is at. No matter what type of hosting package you choose, Host Gator will give you an IP address where your website will be located at. You will need to take that IP address or DNS server address and log into your Network Solutions account and change the DNS for your website. Most of the time it will be something like NS1.HOSTGATOR.COM and NS2.HOSTGATOR.COM or whatever they give you.
When I signed up for a Reseller account at Host Gator, I was given NS1.WEBSITEWELCOME.COM and NS2.WEBSITEWELCOME.COM. Then when I upgraded to a VPS account, I created my own DNS server names so I have custom DNS names that I use for the websites I host.
Whatever the DNS servers are called, you will get them from Host Gator and then tell them to Network Solutions. Once you do that, when someone types your domain name into their internet browser address bar, Network Solutions tells your web browser the IP address at Host Gator your website is at, and you are in business!