What is web hosting and domain? Explained in simple terms.

Let us first talk about web hosting, then we will go to domain name:

What is web hosting and how it works

When you open a blog or website, it remains on your laptop or smart phone till you place it on some special computer [called web host server] where it is available all the time. When someone types your website or blog's address on his internet browser, the browser sends a message to that server. The server sends data from the website, which is then displayed on the internet browser of the user.

This is how websites are made available to visitors. This is how search engines look for results. This is how links on websites work.

So, it is very basic that your website or blog is 'hosted' somewhere on the world wide web. There are big internet companies that do this job of web hosting for you either free or on payment. As you would guess, you get better services when you pay.

From bloggers' point of view, web hosting is of great importance. If you open a free blog on Blogger (example.blogspot.com) or Wordpress (example.wordpress.com), that blogging platform does three things for you:
  • It gives you a domain name or web address (e.g. example.blogspot.com).
  • It hosts your blog on its own server.
  • It gives you the facility to write content on the blog and design the blog the way you like.
Blogger, Wordpress and some other blogging platforms do free web hosting for you. They do so with some other business in mind, but as a blogger you need not bother as long as the blog comes free to you.

However, these platforms cannot keep providing you free hosting services when your website or blog grows big. As you grow, you need more space and more bandwidth. As the stakes become high, you need greater level of security. You also need a way to make money from the blog. For these, you need something more than what the free blogging platforms can provide you. You also do not want to be limited by their terms and conditions. This is the time, you look for web hosting services. These services are provided by companies with huge computers that are internet-connected all the time and are properly maintained and secured. 

Web hosting has a price. That depends upon the type of hosting plan you buy: shared web hosting or exclusive hosting or... A large number of web hosting options are available in the market and you can choose a plan according to what facilities you want. You have to pay for hosting your blog - year after year.

Web hosting is a big business as millions of websites are to be made available all the time. That requires huge infrastructure in the form of servers, networks, web security systems and a series of software that cannot afford to shut down even for a second or go slow due to traffic. You must choose the web host carefully so that your website or blog is secure, is available all the time and is fast-loading. 

There are free web hosting services other than free blogging platforms. But as a serious blogger, you should be careful. This article discusses advantages and disadvantages of free web hosting in detail.

web hosting service
Websites including blogs are hosted on big servers
that are online all the time.

Domain name vs web hosting

If web hosting is concerned with having a website or blog somwehere on the web, domain is the identifier through which people can find that website. Every website must have a domain name and it must be unique.

When you are not on a free blogging platform such as Blogger, you need to buy a domain name and renew it year after year. There are dozens of domain name registrars (e.g. GoDaddy, Hostinger, HostGator, BlueHost and Domain.com) and many of them are web hosts also. In fact, when you search for a web hosting plan for your website or blog, you will find many web hosts offering one or more domains free. But be careful about the 'free' offer; it is usually free for one year only and standard rates are charged when you renew the domain. I have discussed this in the article linked above. 

Domain naming is not a very simple concept, and there is lot of hidden technology behind the domain name system. We will discuss that sometime later. For now, let me give some salient features of domain names.

  • Domain names have a standard way of writing. Each part of the URL or web address of a website has a special meaning. For example, https://www.indiantopblogs.com is the web address of the present website. The wording before // [= https:] is there for communicating between the internet browser on the user's device and the server on which the website is hosted. www shows that the entity is a website [i.e. not an email, etc]. indiantopblogs is the unique identifier for this website [i.e. you cannot have any other website with this name]. .com tells us that this website is a general purpose website [technically, .com is called top level domain]. 
  • You can have many sub-domains within a domain. Free blogging platforms allow users to open free blogs and all these are sub-domains of the main domain. Look at this example: https://www.indiantopblogs.blogspot.com is sub-domain of .blogspot.com domain.
  • There are a few hundred types of domain endings [=top level domains] such as .org, .info, .net. There also are domain endings assigned to all countries; these are two-letter abbreviations for that country, e.g. .uk for Britain, .us for USA, .ca for Canada and .in for India. 
  • All the website owners and bloggers with independent blogs must renew the domain name year after year, much like web hosting. In the case of free blogging platforms also this is required - but the renewal is done by the company owning the main domain, and bloggers do not have to do anything to renew their blog's sub-domain.


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