Beginner's Guide: The concept of Domain name and Web hosting

This is how a data center look like from inside, basically it's just a cold room filled with lots of big computers.
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Franklin Izuchukwu

Introduction

Three things are pre-requisites for a functional website;

  • A domain name,
  • web hosting and
  • content

what are the differences and do their roles overlap?

What is Web Hosting

A web hosting is a term often used to describe where the data of a website is stored. A more relative description of web hosting is comparing it to a warehouse or storage location.

Let us say a man named Mr Parker decides to open up a business today, there are three basic things he needs to kick-off this new business venture:

  • Capital
  • A store or shop
  • A name
  • Goods to be stored in the shop.

While we agree that a website is not a physical store, it is paramount we understand that both are relative.

Web hosting in the Information communication and technology industry can be regarded as the store or shop that Mr Parker has proposed to buy. 

The company that provides these services or rents digital spaces for website owners to store their data are called web hosting companies thus more often than not, the term “web hosting” refers to the company that rents out their computer/servers to store your website and provide Internet connectivity so that other users can access the files or data on your website.

For most cases, these hosting companies will handle server maintenance work, such as backup, root configuration, maintenance, disaster recoveries, and so on.

Web hosting companies offer other services such as:

  • Domain registration: So you can buy and manage domain and hosting from the same provider
  • Website builder: Drag-and-drop web editing tool to create a website usually seen in a content management system like WordPress, etc.
  • Custom email hosting: To send and receive emails. Email address customised to your website name; for example, Clacified parent company Teclone can something like example@teclone.com to receive and reply to official emails.
  • Basic server setup and software support.

The processing unit of a supercomputer, The principle is similar to a regular PC but has higher speed and processor.

Web Hosting and Data Center

The term 'web hosting' usually refers to the server that hosts or houses your website or the hosting company that rents that server space to you.

Data centre usually refers to the facility that is used to house the servers.this is more of a physical house where supercomputers that processes information for your website (server) is located.

A data centre could be a room, a house, or a huge building equipped with redundant or backup power supplies, redundant data communications connections, environmental controls – i.e. air conditioning, fire suppression, and security devices.

This is how a data center look like from inside, basically it's just a cold room filled with lots of big computers.

Types of Web Host

There are four different types of hosting servers: 

  1. Shared, 
  2. Virtual Private Server (VPS), 
  3. Dedicated and Cloud Hosting.
  4. Cloud hosting.

While the major use of a server is to store your website files, members data, process and give out correct results based on the input, there are underlying differences between the types of the server listed above.

There are differences in their storages capacity, processing speed, reliability, technical requirement and control.

Before the end of this article, you will be able to identify types of servers, their uses, advantages and disadvantages.

Shared Hosting

In shared hosting, one’s web site is placed on the same server as many other websites, ranging from a few to hundreds or thousands. Typically, all domains may share a common pool of server resources, such as RAM and the CPU.

Due to its low cost, most new websites with less user traffic opt for shared hosting. Shared hosting is also widely accepted as the entry-level hosting option as it requires minimum technical knowledge.

From our initial description of web hosting, visualize a situation where Mr Parker’s rented a shop space used by other business owners. What do you think happens in such a scenario?

Advantages od Shared hosting
Affordability

Since bandwidth, disk space and other resources are efficiently shared among many, web hosting server, and maintenance costs can be discounted among its users. This allows your business to create an excellent quality website on a limited budget.

Fast Support and Maintenance

With shared hosting, highly skilled web hosts maintain the server, hardware, and other essential components

Since multiple clients are utilizing the same server where one technological issue might affect another, web hosts proactively maintain and respond promptly to solve technical problems and security concerns.

User-Friendly

Once you have purchased your selected hosting service and have your website files uploaded, it’s as easy as the web host linking your domain to your hosting account. Your customized website design can be up and receiving customer traffic quickly.

Shared hosting provides users with a simple interface that allows them to upload files like music, videos and images with just one click.

Room to Grow

Shared hosting is an excellent service for lower traffic websites, blogs, and small businesses. However, there may come a time when the online presence of the website starts to exceed the shared resources’ limitations.

Taking advantage of growing your business through this flexible and affordable option allows you to transfer hassle-free to higher hosting tiers to support more substantial traffic flow and faster content delivery.

Diagramatic representation of a shared web hosting showing the level of security, cost, etc.

Disadvantages of Shared Hosting
Limited Resources

As you would have garnered by now, your website gets to use very limited resources on shared hosting. So, if you try to add some resource-intensive functionality to your website, you may be out of luck.

Sluggish Speed

The processing speed of websites on shared hosting often become sluggish, when this happens you might think it is your doing based on what you uploaded, however, it is primarily because of the lack of resources that are available on shared hosting that stop your website from performing to its full potential.

The summary is; activities from other websites hosted on the same server as yours reduces the resources available.

Vulnerable to Security Threats

One of the major downsides of shared hosting is, if the server gets hacked, then every website on the server goes with it. So, without a mistake of your own, your website is under risk in a shared hosting environment.

Note: To be fair, shared hosting companies do try to isolate websites, but it is not a 100% isolation.

Disadvantages of Shared Hosting.

Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting

 A virtual private server hosting divides a server into virtual servers, where each website is like hosted on their dedicated server. Still, they’re sharing a server with a few different other users.

In this case, Mr Parker decided to rent a shop shared by other business owners but in this case, compartmentalized with a virtual barrier.

 The downside is they all share the same room, but a virtual boundary has been erected to differentiate the room sizes, mote that this virtual boundary can sometimes be removed.

With VPS website owners have more control over their resources, unlike in shared hosting.

 The users may have root access to their own virtual space and better-secured hosting environment with this type of hosting. This is suitable for websites that need greater control at the server level, but don’t want to invest in a dedicated server.

Diagramatic representation of a VPS web hosting showing the level of security, cost, etc.

Warning: The implication of the virtual space is its Limited ability to handle high traffic levels or spikes; your site performance can still be somewhat affected by other sites on the server though not always.

Dedicated Server Hosting

 A dedicated server offers the maximum control over the webserver your website is stored on. You exclusively rent an entire server. Your website(s) is the only website stored on the server.

At this point, Mr Parker finally rented his personal space to store his goods. He owns this space and wields full control over the resources and space available.

Greater power comes at a higher cost. Dedicated servers are costly, and it’s only recommended to those who need maximum control and better server performance.

It also requires specialised Knowledge of programming for root access and complete control. A Dedicated Server can be unanimously linked to exclusivity.

Diagramatic representation of a Dedicated web hosting showing the level of security, cost, etc.

Cloud Server Hosting

Cloud hosting offers unlimited ability to handle high traffic or traffic spikes. Here’s how it works:

A team of servers (called a cloud) work together to host a group of websites. This allows multiple computers to work together to handle high traffic levels or spikes for any particular website.

The major downside is many cloud hosting setup does not offer root access (required to change server settings and install some software). 

There is a higher cost associated with Cloud hosting server.

Diagramatic representation of a Cloud web hosting showing the level of security, cost, etc.

What is a Domain Name?

A domain is the address of your website. Before you can set up a website, you will need a domain.

Earlier we stated that one o the things Mr Parker needs to start up a shop is a business name.

After choosing which shop (server) to put his products, he needs to differentiate his shop from other shop owners by labelling his shop with a unique business name. The uniqueness of the name is necessary; the name will help customers locate Mr Parker’s shop.

The image shows how a domain name appears when input in the address bar of a web browser.

The above relativity is obtainable in the ICT world, especially when it comes to creating a website. You need a unique name that will be used in locating your website.

Once a potential customer inputs the name on the address bar, a communication will be created between your server and the internet service provider.

To own your domain, you will need to register your domain name with a domain registrar.

Note that domain name is not something physical that you can touch or see. It is a string of characters that give your website an identity (yes, a name like human and businesses). 

Examples of domain names are clacified.com, google.com etc.

All domain names are unique. This means there can be only one clacified.com in the world. You cannot register a name once it is registered by others (governed by ICANN).

Content

A website without content is useless. Content makes websites what they are, and what they are known for. Website contents can include many things such as text, images, videos, files, links and others.

Website Contents, in turn, are hosted in web servers. Websites can be classified into two based on the nature of their contents:

  1. Static Websites
  2. Dynamic Websites

Static Website

A website is classified as static if its contents are served without the use of any server-side programming language, and it requires little or no scripting on the client-side.

Static websites are usually fast, very fast, and it is ideal for achieving elevated search engine ranking but due to the dynamism of today's web, having a purely static website is not always feasible.

There is always the need to add some dynamism to the web pages, hence, the need for web scripting, and some sort of server logics and functionalities. Imagine a website that needs functionalities such as newsletter signup, user management, sales, file downloads, etc.

Dynamic Website

A website is classified as dynamic if it requires web scripting on the client-side for its functionality. Dynamic Websites also need some server-side programming languages to function properly, something that it communicates with dynamically as users interact with the page.

Today, JavaScript is the scripting language of the web, with various frameworks created around it to help fasten development, but they all come at a cost, slowing down the page, consuming client's resources if not optimized and consuming more network bandwidths.

It has gone very sophisticated when compared to the old days of the web, the days of blue links. Today, one can play music, watch videos, make conference calls, download files, play games, carry out payment or transactions, and do so much more on the web.

Conclusion

Web hosting, domain name and content are the core contents of a functional website, from the above it can be driven that the role three of these core attributes can never overlap though they are complementary.

While the domain name gives the website its identity, the web hosting houses the web script, which is the basis of the website functionality.

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