Setting up hosting and reserving domain names is that whole other realm that you will need to be familiar with if you intend to make a website.
A few terms you will become familiar with:
- Domain Name
- Domain Name Server
Host: What is a host? A host is really just a computer running web server software. I suppose it could also refer to the company that owns the servers as well.
Server: A server is simply a computer running server software. Popular web server software packages are Apache for computers with UNIX based operating systems and IIS for computers running Windows. Server software serves files… duh. Anyone can get the Apache web server software for free, load it on their laptop and be a web server. Not a good idea unless you know what you are doing however, this demonstrates that it is not as much a mystery as you may have previously thought.
Domain: A domain, as defined by Wikipedia, “is the distinguished part of an abstract or physical space where something exists, is performed, or is valid.” As far as we are concerned it is an allotment of space on a server. A host ( a place with a bunch of servers) will divvy up the drive space into segments that will be rented by customers like us. These drive segments are the domains. Each domain has an address, usually several, which are all numeric HTTP addresses like http://126.96.36.199.6. This is called the IP address, IP being short for Internet Protocol which is the foundation of the internet, the set of rules by which data is sent and received over the phone lines, cable, optical fiber, and wireless transmitter/receivers.
Domain Name: The domain name differs from the physical domain mentioned above. A domain name is alphanumeric and has the .com, .edu, etc… at the end. It’s the one you type into the address bar of your browser. The URL you say? Not yet. The domain name is just the word and you have to reserve it, with cash, so it will be exclusive to you, then you have to take the necessary steps to associate the name with the server space that hosts your website, more on that later.
Domain Name Server (DNS): Another one of the 500,000 acronyms we have floating around in there is DNS or Domain Name Server. This is simply a piece of software that runs on computers everywhere all over the world and keeps track of which domain name belongs to which domain or allotment of space on a server.
So how does this all tie together?
The steps you need to take to get hosting for a website are…
- Buy a domain name (the word that will be in the URL)
- Get a hosting account
- Set the DNS
Buying a domain can be fun, or it can be quite frustrating. Fun because you are off on a new adventure, selecting a new identity, a clean slate, its potential is unlimited. Frustrating because they’re all taken. If you can somehow manage to find and purchase a domain name that is an actual, familiar English word or phrase and isn’t 128 characters long, you win. I’m sure there are good ones out there. Perhaps try a catchy play on words, a clever use of numbers and/or punctuation, your full name, etc… You’ll find something.
Where do you do this? There are many places, godaddy, register.com, and networksolutions are just a few. For simply searching for a name that is available, I like Ajax Whois. When you browse to one of these sites you will see it is very easy to obtain a domain name however the pricing can vary.
When you do this be sure to save all the emails, write down your username and password.
Getting a hosting account will be just as easy. Where do you do this? Again, there are many, no, millions of places to do this. If you followed any of the links above you may have noticed that GoDaddy offers hosting, and its quite affordable. Powweb is another that I’ve found to be reliable. Shop around though, the deals are always changing in this competitive field. At the moment I believe GoDaddy is $4 a month for UNIX or Windows hosting AND they toss in a domain name for $2.
Again, save all the emails, write down your username and password.
UNIX/Linux or Windows may come up during this process. If you’re reading this article then I would say it does not matter at this point. Some hosts will charge more for a Windows account which does NOT mean its better than UNIX that has been around from the beginning and has remained primarily unchanged due to its rock solid reliability and flexability. Windows systems are pretty cool I must admit, .NET is a champion that only someone with Microsoft’s resources could have developed, BUT, like I said, if you’re reading this then that type of functionality is a ways off for you so, if it’s more don’t bother, if the price is the same, then do whatever you feel is right.Something to keep in mind when making this decision is that the programming languages used for these two operating systems is different. UNIX/Linux (Linux is a very popular derivative of UNIX) primarily use open source (free) programming languages such as PHP while Windows systems use Microsoft’s Visual Basic and C# to create .asp pages. This is something to consider if you plan to use third party software like WordPress which is made with PHP and should therefore reside on a UNIX system. There are crossovers where PHP applications can run on Windows machines and some Windows apps can run on UNIX systems so you will need to be mindful of these details.
Setting The DNS: Now heres the fun part. Maybe, just maybe you won’t have to deal with this but more than likely, somewhere along the way you will. If you bought your domain name from the same place you bought hosting then this is probably already taken care of. If not then you will need to do this manually. So, if you registered your domain at Network Solutions but have a hosting account at Powweb you will first go to Powweb and get the name of their servers. There are usually two of them and they will be something to the nature of ns1.hostname.com and ns2.hostname.com. Once you have these you will go to your domain registry account, Network Solutions in this scenario, login and find where you set the DNS. No matter where you have this account they don’t want you to change it, they want you to host with them so you may have to wade through a bog of ads and promotions and “Wait! if you switch you will be missing out on all these wonderful and necessary services” etc… Just walk on by, smile and wave and hit continue, no thanks, or whatever.
Set the DNS. They say it takes up to three days for the new setting to perpetuate itself on all the name servers across the globe but I have never seen it take more than a few hours.
So what are you waiting for, go get a domain name and a hosting account and we’ll make a website!! Next I’ll be talking about FTP and how to connect your computer with the server you just rented so you can put your files on it.