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Domains and Hosting

If you are a regular internet user, you have probably heard the terms domain name used often. You may have also heard about hosting services. This article is meant to clarify what these terms mean and to give advice to anyone planning on starting a new website.

Starting a Website:

The first step when starting a new website is having an idea. Most people who make websites make personal websites, which contain some information and pictures about them and their families. However, if you want to create a professional and non-personal website, you must first decide on what type of content you will place in it.

It is no longer acceptable to internet users to see websites which have only links and a couple of pictures. Sure, if its a personal website then your friends and family may enjoy reading about you, seeing your pictures and your favorite links. For any other type of website, you will need to have an idea. Once you have an idea, you will need to spend time to generate "content" for your website. For example, if you create a website about computers, you will need to write useful information about computers. You could write tutorials on upgrading computers, or write about the history of computers. You will need to find some pictures of various computers (the oldest computer for example) and links to other computer related websites. This type of content will attract visitors to your site.

Once you have an idea for a new website with some unique content that people will want to come to your website to see, you will need to find a place to "host" your web pages.

Hosting:

In order for people around the world to be able to view your pages on the internet at any time, you will need to place your web pages on a "web server". Web servers are computer which are connected to the internet 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are only used to serve web pages to internet users.

Placing your files on a server is called hosting, since the server is hosting your files for you. Most ISP's will give their customers some very basic free hosting service. Although this is usually only good for personal websites, it is a great place to start! You can try out your first pages at your ISP and get some experience creating your first website.

There are also many companies which offer hosting services. All you need to do is to create an account with them, and they will give you a limited amount of space to place your pages. Almost all free hosting services, whether they are from your ISP or another company on the internet, will place your page in a subdirectory of their "domain" (similar to http://www.yourisp.com/~yourpage).

Please see the Advanced Hosting Tutorial for details about hosting.

Domains:

A domain name is basically an address for a website. In reality, each server on the internet is referred to by an IP address, which is made up of numbers and periods (for example 111.222.333.444). The IP address of a server tells all computers on the internet where to find it.

Domain names are used as a replacement for IP addresses. Instead of having to remember numbers for each website we like to visit, we can remember the domain name which can be any alphanumeric word(s) with the hyphen character also allowed.

People and organizations register domain names from any domain registrar. These are companies which maintain a large database containing all registered domain names and which IP addresses they are associated with. Registration of a domain is done for a number of years (registrars charge fees which vary greatly, so be careful when you register a domain). Domains can also be renewed once the registration period is over, or else they will expire and be available for others to register.

Currently, as of April 1st 2003, the acceptable price range for domain registration is $8 - $15 per year. Some companies are still charging up to $35 per year, and some companies require you to register for 2 or more years at a time. It is very wise to look at a number of different domain registrars and compare their prices and the services they provide before registering a domain name.

Domain names can have one of many extensions, and new extensions are being added regularly. The most popular "top level domain", or extension, is the .com (dot com). Other popular extensions include .net, .org and recently added .tv!

An important thing to know when registering a domain name is that you will be asked to specify Administrative, Technical and Billing contacts for your domain name. You MUST make sure that you are the Administrative and Billing contact for your domain. The Administrative contact can easily make changes to your domains settings making it point to another website for example, or change the owner information. Previously, hosting companies used to place themselves as the technical contact, although there is really no reason for that. Therefore, it is recommended that you put yourself as the technical contact for your domain as well.

You also need to know about DNS settings. DNS stands for Domain Name Servers. These are servers which keep a database of all the domains and the IP addresses they are associated with. When you use paid hosting services, you will be given primary and secondary DNS servers to use. You will need to place this information in your domain records with your domain registrar.

The DNS server is what will point your domain to your account at your hosting company. Without this information being correct, your domain name will not respond or will show the wrong page when typed in by users! That's why its very important to set your DNS information when you register your domain and whenever you change hosting companies!

Next: Advanced Hosting Tutorial








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