Domain Names, Hosting Accounts, Websites
There are 3 very common and core parts to any website. While each is needed to make any website actually work, they are still 3 individual parts that need attention.
- Website Files
- Hosting Account
- Domain Name
In order to help better understand these, let’s attack them in order.
Website files are the various files that are needed to display a website. They include different methods of code that tells the computer what to do and how to display things. The files typically include a system to manage content (the words and photos displayed on a website), templates and themes (the way the website looks and feels) and various scripts (to add functionality to the website.)
Some website file setups can be simple, consisting of just a few files. Others can be much more complex, consisting of thousands of files and millions of lines of code. Regardless of how simple of complex, the files are what make the website up and allow it to be shown on someone’s computer. Website files can be developed by anyone that knows and understands how code works.
While the files are important, they need some place to live. They must have a place to exist and be accessed in order to the website to be seen by anyone. This is where Hosting comes into play.
A Hosting company offers space on their servers (another word for a computer that is accessible to many places) on which all of the files are placed and can work. These servers are configured so that they are connected to the internet and allow users from virtually anywhere to have access to the website. Without the hosting, no one will be able to see the website. So hosting is a very important part of the puzzle. Hosting can be offered by various companies, and even configured on a personal computer (although usually not recommended.)
So we have the website files, and they are now sitting on a Hosting account somewhere… but how do people actually find them? Servers are complex and each one is assigned what is known as an IP Address. Its a series of numbers that identifies where the server is on the internet so that the files can be found and the website seen. An IP Address typically looks like this: 123.456.789.012 but can also be as complex as 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334 – try remembering that one!
As you can see, these series of numbers are not easy to remember and really do nothing to tell anyone what will be at that location. So this is where domain names come into play. Easy to remember, usually describing what a website is about, and much easier to use than an IP Address, domain names are that final critical part of a website. By typing in a domain name, a user doesn’t have to know the random IP Address code, as the domain name will handle that behind the scenes. Each domain name is assigned to an IP address, bringing that gap and making it easier for everyone to get around on the web. Domain names are generally sold on an annual basis through various “Registrars” (companies that register a domain name for people to use.)
Each of these parts work together, but each one is a separate entity. At any given time, you can change the website files, where they are stored and the domain name that points the way. This allows for a lot of flexibility when it comes to a website, but it also means that each part needs to be addressed. The website files need to be developed, hosting must be established and maintained, and the domain name needs to remain registered on a yearly basis to ensure people can find the website.