If you’re not a web designer, trying to understand all the jargon around hosting and domains and how they work together can be frustratingly hard. I’m asked about this all the time, and I always make the comparison to a house to help people understand and it seems to help.
Your Domain Is Your Address
Keeping with the house comparison, it helps to think about your domain name as your address. When filling out a postcard, you wouldn’t write:
…and expect everyone to remember that. That’s the equivalent of making everyone use your IP Address (which is normally a set of numbers like 127.0.0.1).
You’d write something like:
42 Wallaby Way
Emeryville, CA 94608
…which is much easier to remember than a random set of numbers. In terms of the internet, we’d call this “shortcut” a domain. It lets everyone who’s trying to get to 18.104.22.168 just type in Pixar.com instead.
To get your site a “shortcut” to your server like this, you can buy a domain name from a site like GoDaddy, NameCheap, or one of the hundreds of other sites. Then, in the records tell it to route the traffic to the IP of your server.
Your Server Is Your House
Now that we know your address, let’s take a look at your server (or, a house in this example).
When we build a website, we use a computer to make it run – we call this computer a server. Think of this server like your house. Its job is to hold everything you want in it and be strong enough to not break when you fill it with furniture.
Just as if you filled your house with grand pianos, and then held a house party causing the floor to collapse, your server can collapse too under extreme load and visitors. Because of this, it’s important to make sure your house is big and strong enough to support the kind of strain you’ll be putting on it.
You can’t expect your house to stand upright if you’re sharing it with 300 people, who are all simultaneously throwing a house party. This scenario is how hosts like GoDaddy with their Shared Hosting packages work. You get what you pay for, which in this case isn’t much.
Your Site Is Your Furniture
As we touched on before, your site is like the furniture you put in your house. When putting everything together, you have to consider the sort of strain it’s going to put on your home’s foundation. Simple changes like painting the walls may not do much, but 12 grand pianos and 16 ovens might. You have to weigh the functionality these add, with the extra strain they add to the foundation.
That wraps up this brief, in some parts overly-simplified view of the internet and hosting. Have any questions about how this stuff works? Leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to answer any questions you might have!