Domain Names and the Domain Name System (DNS)
Computers think in terms of numbers. Each computer that is connected to the Internet (including yours, right now) has its own unique number – an IP address (IP = Internet Protocol). And that unique address tells other computers how and where to find it.
Now the trouble with that – from a human perspective – is that basically we are hopeless at remembering numbers.
Imagine what would happen if you had to remember Google’s IP address (188.8.131.52) and type it into your web browser every time you wanted to carry out a search…
It’s just not going to happen is it? Not user friendly at all!
It’s much easier to remember and type a name into your web browser!
So the concept of domain names is used to make it easier for us… where each company that has some sort of “presence” on the Internet can have its own “address” in the form of a unique domain name.
Behind the scenes, once you type in google.com into your web browser and hit enter… your web browser instantly connects to the domain name system (through your ISP) to “translate” that name into the matching IP address, so it knows where to start looking for the web site. And a few moments later, you end up at the Google web site.
Sidebar… The total number of available IP addresses is limited – and we are fast reaching those limits. That means we now “share” IP addresses – where many domains/web sites use the same IP address. So additional technology is used (by a web server) to decide exactly which web site you want to access on a server which may host hundreds or even thousands of web sites. For example, if you were to type in my IP address into your web browser, you would NEVER reach this site. You would only reach the “home” page for the server upon which this site lives.
What You Need To Know
- If you are in business on the Internet, you really do need to have your own domain name! While choosing that name is not discussed in this article, it does involve serious and careful consideration before rushing into it!
- Once you register a domain name at any of the various Domain Name Registrars, you need to provide the IP addresses of your Domain Name Servers (these details are provided by your web hosting company when you organise web hosting). These Domain Name Servers tell the rest of the Internet (through the Domain Name System) the IP address where your site is located. Now, you may NOT have these details initially when you register… so you will need to come back later and change your DNS details with your registrar once you’ve set up hosting.
- While registering your domain name, you may be offered all sorts of upsells to include such things as domain name redirection, email hosting, privacy options etc. My general advice is do NOT take up any of these offers, as most of the “services” offered are probably included with your web hosting service! It is certainly a time to do your research or else a $9.95 domain name could end up costing $50 or even more!
- Once you register your own domain name, it is your property! You own it, and provided you renew your registration with your Domain Name Registrar when it falls due, you shouldn’t be able to lose it! And because you own it, you have the right to transfer the name to any registrar you want (maybe to take advantage of reduced renewal prices?). You also have the right to transfer the web hosting to any other hosting provider simply by changing the DNS details at your Registrar (but check cancellation requirements with your web host otherwise you may have to keep paying for something you no longer use).
- If you are looking at registering a specific country domain name – e.g. domain.co.uk or domain.com.au – there are strict rules governing the names you can register which vary from country to country. Always research the pricing of country based (or even specialty) domain names – it can easily vary from one registrar to another, sometimes by as much as $100!