here is your website hosted? That seems like such a simple question! But unless you are used to developing websites in your daily life, then you maybe be surprised how confusing and complicated it can be to a non-technical person to answer such a question. So let’s take it from the start…
Wikipedia offers a good definition of what a website is. It mentions that a website is a collection of web resources (pages, multimedia, etc.) typically under a common domain. A key point to remember is that a website and a domain is not the same thing.
A website is usually a combination of a set of files and a database storing some data for the website. The files and any database are usually located on some server space offered by a hosting company. People do not tend to build a website completely from scratch these days and instead often take a template website implementation (which in most cases is a CMS (Content Management System like WordPress, Joomla, Magento, Drupal, etc.) and then add their business content and change the look and feel of it to suit their brand.
To add to and adjust the data that makes up a website one needs an FTP, SFTP or SSH connection to the server. When connecting to a server they need to know the address of the server which in its rawest form is a unique IP address. The access details will be provided to a website owner by the hosting company when they register with them to get the space (hosting account) for their site.
An IP address is a label that is used to identify one or more devices on a computer network, such as the internet. It is comparable to a postal address. An IP address is just a series of digits and dots and thus is not a very user-friendly way to remember the address of your site or server. Luckily, instead of an IP address, you are able to use a nice-sounding name called a domain name like acme.com for your site. So instead of remembering 188.8.131.52 we could use our domain name of onehoursitefix.com which feels and looks much nicer and is more memorable. The mapping of an IP address to a domain name is handled by another technical term you will often hear your hosting mention called domain name records (DNS).
Website hosting and Domain hosting
In a simple world, your website and domain will be controlled with the same service provider i.e hosting company, but very often this is not the case. Your website files will often be with one hosting company and then your domain will be controlled by another (still of course pointing to the website hosting company).
What makes it then even more confusing is that there are variations to the website/domain setup:
One domain – multiple websites
Sometimes one domain will point to two or more websites. This will mean that on your website hosting server there are 2 or more website installations and then, for example, domain.com points to one but then domain.com/blog (or subdomain blog.domain.com) points to another.
One website – multiple domains
This setup is quite common in cases where the owner decides to own different variations of the domain so they use e.g. domain.com, domain.net and domain.io and all point to one and only website. Each of those name variations is a separate domain, but there is just one website that is being displayed by them.
And the registrar…what is the domain name registrar then?
Domain name registrar is the company that manages your domain reservation. In its very essence, it is the place where your ownership of the domain name is verified and maintained.
This can be the same company that is hosting your website and/or domain but it can be a completely separate entity. Very often it is the company through which you bought your domain.
This provider has the role of defining you as the owner of the domain and where the domain will be controlled in terms of DNS.
In short, the domain and website are not interchangeable terms whereas the website refers to a collection of files and data stored on some server and a domain is a name that can be used to point to those files. Domain name registrar is where your domain ownership is controlled.
These three can be all provided by the same company, but also often due to website migrations or some other change in service provider each of these three elements can be with different providers.
If unsure of what is your setup feel free to reach out to our team and they can check your setup with no strings attached.
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