Development | Feb 22, 2020

Domains, Hosting, and Websites. What Does It All Mean?

How is a Website Hosted?

DNS, Hosting, web servers, registrar? What?

Let's Break This Down

What goes into putting a website on the internet? Where does it live, and what the heck is DNS? Often when working with clients we need to have information as to where they’re current website is hosted, what systems it’s on, and how the DNS is directed to it (as well as what else is on that DNS, like email services). So let’s break down the differences between the pieces of putting a website on the internet.

Domains Vs. Hosting

Domains

Your website’s domain is the name that gets typed into the URL bar by a user to find your site: yourdomain.com, but in reality all that you’re doing is setting up a domain name through a Domain Name System (DNS), which works sort of like your cell phone’s contact list. Your phone attaches phone numbers to your saved contacts so you can call them by looking for “Mom” rather than Mom’s long phone number. DNS works the same way, attaching the name “yourdomain.com” to a long string of numbers called an IP address. Since it’s much easier for a human to remember some words than a long string of numbers, this makes it much easier for us all to find the websites we’re looking for.

You purchase a domain name through a Registrar, such as Google Domains, and that registrar allows you to make changes to the records, allowing you to "point" the domain to different places based on it's records. DNS also allows us to use our domains to route multiple services to different places.

It’s very common to have a single domain push traffic to a main website on one server, a subdomain on another, and email services to yet another.

Hosting

Hosting, however, is where your actual website lives. It’s a computer, just usually a more specialized computer intended to run web traffic instead of all the programs you run on your own home or work computer. Part of my job is, once a website is completed and ready for the world to see, putting it on that webhost computer, and telling the computer how to handle internet traffic that comes to it. I tell the computer that if an outside connection comes in from “yourdomain.com” to serve up the files in the website’s main directory (that’s why they’re called “servers” too).

To break it down a bit more, if I needed to take a website off of a web server it’s currently running on to put it onto our own hosting, at a bird’s eye view I would basically need:

  • Domain/DNS registrar access, to change the IP record (also called an “A” record) to point to the new server’s IP.
  • Access to the current web server, so I can gather all of the website files and databases.

This kind of access is necessary to accomplish the work. Most domain registrars and web hosts allow for some sort of team access so you don’t need to share your own personal account information, which is helpful for allowing temporary access.

Interested in hosting or domain services? Have a website you'd like to move (or a new one to build?), we can help. Contact Us!