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ArcticChicken

Questions about domain names and web hosting

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I have a few basic questions about domain names and web hosting. It's actually embarrassing just how little I know about this stuff. Anyway, I'm sorry if this turns out to be a long post....

I want a few domain names. One is a .com, one is a .info, and another is a .name. I mention this because I know the last two are "new" TLDs ... which brings me to my first question: what does one call the people who look after these names? Domain name registrars? Or what? Anyway, given that two of these are "new" TLDs, are all registrars able to handle requests for them, or just some?

What are my options for making this work? So I can get a domain name. Great. I need to associate that with an IP address somewhere. I assume that's one of the things the registrar takes care of when you first get the domain name, yes? Which leads me to my next question....

For now, I don't have the option of setting up my own server. How does web-hosting work (I assume that's what I'd need)? Are there some registrars that do both (i.e. register the domain name, _and_ give you somewhere to develop the site), or are there some situations where the registrar and the web-hosting company are totally different? Which is better?

What about if my situation changes and suddenly I _am_ able to set up my own server? How would I go about changing things so that domain name points to my system instead of the hosting company's? Is making a switch any harder if I'm using a company that offers both registration _and_ hosting (i.e. would they just kill both sides of the deal and let my domain name expire as well, or would they be nice and just cancel the web hosting part)?

What's all this I hear about some companies offering you the ability to "grab" domain names that are currently owned? How does the renewal process work exactly? Is that what these other companies do ... just wait for the instant the name "expires" and hope they get it first? If so, how do I make sure my domain name doesn't expire and get taken by someone else? How do I guarantee that?

And finally, how the heck does web-hosting work? What do you get when you sign up for web-hosting? How do you make changes to the content of your website? A plain UNIX account would be great ... is that an option? Or do they make you use some awful web-interface to access your site? Do you get a dedicated box running in a rack somewhere? Or do you get one /home/bob directory on some massive box that serves 6000 other people? If so, how do they map my domain-name not only back to that server, but then to me specifically (one person out of 6000). Do they somehow map the domain name to my /home/bob/www directory or what?

And finally, could I possibly have asked any more questions about this?

If anyone can answer all this stuff, I'll owe you a donut.

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Donuts aren't on my diet right now, unfortunately. But advice is always free.

You can register domain names and not point them at physical servers or specific IP addresses. The registrar can most likely sign you up for all of your domains; i.e. you shouldn't need a different registrar for the .com, .info, and the .name.

Domain registrars do not assign IP addresses and don't typically host systems. Typically, the ISP who hosts your domain(s) will provide the IP address for you. This is actually better as it means you don't have to care about the IP address side of things and makes it easier to move fro one ISP to another.

Options .. many hosting services will handle the name registration for you if you subscribe. Mine, for instance, handles the name registration and the renewal fees as long as I use their service. For a measily $14.95 a month I have 100MB disk, 15GB monthly transfer, 10 email addresses, etc.

If you want to set up your own server, then you will effectly be the hosting service unless you set up your own box at a provider. Your IP address will be used.

No one should be able to grab the domain name if it's already registered. However, expiration dates are public knowledge (I think) so monitoring for them should be an easy task. For a personal domain, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

The way the web hosting works depends on the provider and the type of account you have. Basic setups will use an Explorer interface; fancier ones give you a shell account; others are somewhere in between.

- Fushigi

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You can change where the domain points to by updating the DNS records. If you are using a web hosting company you would insert the 2 DNS servers that they provide for you, into the registrars system (there is usually a web control panel for this. If you decide to run a server at your house for example, you would insert your ISP's DNS servers, and then contact your ISP to tell them to point to your IP address. The way web hosting usually works, is that for each domain name that they are hosting, they will give you one IP address. So when someone types in your domain name, it will resolve to your IP and find it's way to your individual webspace.

Currently I am using www.pair.com for hosting, they also have a domain registration service which simplifies things, because it allows me to do things that I could not do if my registrar was else where. It all depends on what the cheapest rate for domain registration is, and how much your web hosting company wants to charge. If it isn't a big difference, then ideally both would be the same. The domain name registration is separate from the domain hosting, when you buy your domain for 1,2, however many years that is yours for the duration.

You can renew domains long before the actual expiry date, so this is not a concern.

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If you anticipate that you may be moving sites around and such, you might want to look into a third party hosting your DNS entries.

I use www.zoneedit.com - free for up to 5 domains and for up to a million DNS requests a year, then quite reasonable pricing after that - and they offer a full web-based administration system for DNS entries, web site forwarding (ie. when users type in www.yourname.com it is forwarded to www.anotherhostingcompany.com/yourname or whatever) and e-mail address forwarding. They have ridiculous amounts of bandwidth available and redundant locations etc. Recommended.

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BTW Zoneedit also supports dynamic IPs - so you can have an address that points at your home server. I say again, it's a great service.

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I use a combination of free domain server and cheap

alternative registrar. For a registrar I use jumpdomain.com.

They were probably the first under $15 domain service.

So for $15/year (or less) I get a domain. This just means

nobody can use that address and I own it. It isn't linked to a site yet.

You typically get reminded by e-mail when your domain is up for

renewal. You can also renew it whenever you want. You can register

it for 1, 2, 3 and I think even 5 years.

Now to get my domain hosted I use mydomain.com.

I use the webspace I get from my ISP. The domain hosting

allows me to do url forwarding (requests for willrickards.net get forwarded to users.rcn.com/wrickard).

It also allows me to do e-mail aliases or forwarding.

So I can create as many whatever@willrickards.net addresses I want

and have them forwarded to my real e-mail account.

For a business site I chose hostpro.com for my domain hosting service

as well as web hosting service. Domain hosting is the management of the DNS servers. Web Hosting is the management of the actual web space, including e-mail server space. A domain host will give you the two DNS server IP addresses to use. These go in your domain registration with a given registrar. Then when a computer is looking for www.whatever.com it checks the domain registration and goes looking for the dns servers associated with it to find the actual IP address, which the DNS server will know. It isn't exactly like that since a lot of this information is cached. Because of this caching, when you make a change to your domain registration it takes a while for everybody on the internet to get the new information. The cached information has to expire on local DNS servers to the ISPs.

A web host gives you the IP of the actual web server where your site is. They provide the storage space for your web pages and e-mail messages.

Your actual computers and internet servers are at this level.

You can be your own web hosting provider, but usually not a domain host.

I hope that helps.

Oh and one more thing...

The advantage to your own domain is you never have to switch e-mail addresses ever again. I will have sr@willrickards.net as long as I have the domain, which will probably be longer than I have my current ISP.

I highly recommend it to everyone. It is cheap for less than $15 a year.

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Ok ... let me see if I have all of this correct...

There are basically 3 primary components in an actively functioning domain name:

Components

=========

1) The domain name registrar

2) The DNS server provider (performs "domain hosting")

3) The webpage host

Each one of these components is linked together.

When you sign up for a domain with a registrar, assuming you're not just "parking" the name for future use (do all registrars give you this option?), you give the IP addresses of your DNS servers to the registrar.

That DNS server information comes from your domain hosting company, and it is they who must know the IP addresses of the system(s) where your webpages actually reside.

Each one of these 3 components can be handled in a host (hah) of different ways:

Options

======

A) Components 1, 2, and 3 can be handled separately, by three different companies [This gives you: i. a hefty total cost because you're paying three different companies, ii. maximum flexibility as you can point any number of things anywhere, and iii. maxmium protection against failures because they become isolated to that one company/component]

B) Components 1 and 2 can be handled by the same company, with Component 3 being handled by a separate company

C) Components 2 and 3 can be handled by the same company, with Component 1 being handled by a separate company

D) Components 1, 2, and 3 can be handled by the same company [Easy to set up, low cost choices are likely, but you have no other advantages and are at the mercy of one company]

Am I there yet? If so, are there advantages/disadvantages to options B and C?

I assume C would be most common with companies (they have their own DNS servers and control of their network), or individuals who have broadband internet service and a static IP address (and can get their ISP to configure their, the ISP's, DNS servers to associate the new name with their, the individual's, IP address).

Any thoughts about option B?

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B) Once you have registered a domain, you can transfer that domain registration to another registrar.

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How do you go with sending emails tho? Do you just set it so it appears to be sent from willrickards.net? Or does your ISP permit mail relaying?

When I setup the account in outlook the e-mail address is

will@willrickards.net

and the reply-to is will@willrickards.net

The server information and username/password is what my isp provides.

When people get mail from me it appears to come from

will@willrickards.net but if you read the headers you can figure out that

it came from rcn.

Now when I want to send mail as one of the other @willrickards.net addresses, I just change the from field in the message and make sure to change the options so replies get sent to the right alias. I could write a macro to help me with this but I'm lazy.

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ArcticChicken,

You've got it.

However, option C is most common and usually recommended.

Any option where 2 & 3 are separated means that internet requests

for your web page (until the dns information is cached) will go to

possibly two separate networks. This can cause delay in page

load time.

Generally registrars are different companys than domain/web hosts.

They may form partnerships or be a subsidiary or something like that

but they usually aren't the same company. Of course I don't have

that much experience in this... just my personal site and a small business site.

I used a couple of hosting rating sites to help me when I was first looking.

Here are some links for ya

http://www.dnsproviders.com/index.shtml

http://www.hostindex.com

http://www.tophosts.com

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