What is Web Hosting and How is it Different from a Domain Name?
When thinking about web hosting vs. domain names, it can help to think of the internet as a virtual world full of virtual places. Just like the real world, virtual places exist in certain spaces and are called by certain place names. The spaces that websites, blogs, databases, and online apps or games occupy — the servers — are the basis of web hosting and are akin to virtual property. Buying web hosting is a lot like buying a real estate lot, and registering a domain name is a lot like coming up with a name for your business or organization.
Virtual Property and Virtual Addresses
We can use pair Networks as an example. pair Networks — the company, that is — is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. If you type “pair Networks” into your mapping app, you’ll be taken to our headquarters offices in Pittsburgh. There’s no need to know that our building occupies a specific street address; the mapping app will do that for you. There’s even less of a need to know that our building occupies a particular set of map coordinates. We’ve moved offices throughout our decades-long history, but if you’re looking for us today, you also don’t need to know that. All you need to know is the name of our company to type into your mapping app.
Similarly, all you need to know to access a site online is its domain name. Your browser or a search engine uses the Domain Name Servers (or “DNS”) system to figure out where to go. You don’t need to know the IP address of your destination site, and you don’t need to worry about the server or servers that the site is on.
Domain names are your site’s address, and they’re something you want to stick with your site over its lifetime, so it’s important to register your domain name for a long time and set it up for automatic renewals to help prevent it being grabbed by someone else. Your hosting is important, too, but it’s a bit more fluid. You can change your hosting as your needs change and grow, just as you can move house or change offices. Still, it’s important to choose feature-rich and reliable hosting.
To continue the real estate metaphor, hosting should be more than just an undeveloped lot. It needs to be accessible and protected. In the web hosting world, this means a server that comes with the software and tools needed to get a site running, and which sits on a reliable and quick network to the outside world. It also means a managed hosting environment and data center. You want to look for hosting where the burden of upgrading hardware, keeping the network running, and maintaining server software is on the host, not on you.
The Nuts and Bolts of Hosting
If web hosting mostly consists of server space, software, and a network, you might think you have what it takes to host from home. While you might have a spare computer and a decent Internet speed, there’s more to it than that. Your home network is designed for accessing content quickly. It delivers TV shows or connects you to gamers, but it’s not meant for the throughput — or “bandwidth” — of data that a website requires. Server hardware is usually more robust and powerful than any home computer. It has lots of storage, abundant RAM to handle a bunch of simultaneous site visitors, and components designed for heavy duty use and durability.
There are also practical considerations. At a data center like pair Networks’ facilities, staff is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. Someone is around to keep an eye on hardware, or replace parts from a large supply of spares, as well as respond to network concerns or just update the software that keeps servers safe and running quickly. A good web host also provides maintenance in addition to responding to issues. Modern hosting demands frequent hardware refreshes. Many modern consumers upgrade their mobile devices every couple of years. Server hardware is no different and needs to be kept up to date at the web host’s expense.
What Makes a Quality Host?
A good web host also provides amenities on top of the raw virtual space and upkeep they offer. These amenities include things like customer support, good documentation, software to control your files, email, and account information, tools to install programs to your server or site, and support for popular applications like WordPress. For developers or web professionals needing hosting, a host must provide a good development environment with a wide range of software, tools, and applications.
The internet as we know it today is old enough that there are millions of people — including adults — whose whole lives have been in the world of the modern Internet. The tech world is often focused on what’s new and cutting edge, but most good web hosts are, like the internet, on the older side now. When people were buying home computers and getting online in record numbers, web hosts were popping up all over the place, too. Now, only a few of the original hosts survive. pair Networks has been in business since 1996, and has survived the explosive growth and demands of the Internet, and maintains a stellar reputation for quality, reliability, and customer support to this day.
Domains for the Modern Internet
Compared to web hosting, domain names are a much simpler topic. At least, they used to be. After all, a domain name is just a name, right? In fact, modern domain names come in a variety of forms — not just .com or .net anymore — and can be purchased from a variety of providers, known as registrars.
Modern domain names typically fall into three categories:
- “Common” domains with extensions like .com, .net, .gov and .org
- Domain extensions for specific countries like .us or .jp
- New extensions, often called “New gTLDs”, like .xyz, .green, or .photo
The so-called common domain extensions are still what most people think of when they think of a domain name. .com is still considered the domain extension to get. Some of that is changing, however. Domain names typically consist of an extension like the ones mentioned above, and a label like “example” to form example.com. New extensions offer interesting possibilities to use the extension as part of the overall word.
Buying a Domain Name
Whatever domain name you choose, you’ll need to check its availability. This is done through a regulated database known as the WHOIS database, through a process commonly called a WHOIS lookup. Most reputable domain registrars offer a lookup service. pairNIC.com, the registrar for pair Networks, offers its own lookup service to check availability. Be careful where you enter a domain to look up. Some unscrupulous services might be collecting name ideas that are entered.
Bundling vs. Separate Providers
Many hosting companies offer domain registration services. pairNIC is the registrar for pair Networks. With both services available from a single provider, people often wonder whether to use a provider as a one-stop shop.
It’s often possible to find a better price by separating your registration and hosting services, but with that, you lose some convenience. Providers that offer both services often offer unified support so that you can call one place and get questions answered about any service, domains or hosting. They often offer ways to buy both services at one time, or to bundle services for a good deal. Finally, they often offer tools to make it easy to associate your domain and website with one another.
Getting both domains and hosting from pair Networks gets you access to unified support and an easy setup for tying your services together. pair Networks offers reliable and feature-rich hosting with excellent support. Its domain registration services include features like email forwarding, a website builder, and privacy tools to protect your information from domain lookups — features which many registrars charge extra for. Visit pair.com today for World Class Web Hosting and feature-rich domains!