The Domain Name System is a naming, and managing system for Internet domains and websites. This system allows one to type in a domain name such as www.website.com into your browser, and you'll be taken to the address automatically. The DNS assigns domain names to numerical addresses, known as IP addresses, which can be used to find out where the domain name is located. These domain names can be assigned to, and be accessed by internet users regardless of where these users are situated and are easier to remember than IP addresses. DNS servers are computers which are registered under the Domain Name System and contain information of Internet addresses and network names.
DNS servers are arranged in a hierarchy with 'Root servers' at the top. These root servers, of which there are only 13 in the world, contain the complete database of domain names and their IP addresses. Other DNS servers are lower down on the hierarchy and will only have small pieces of the complete database. Lower level DNS servers are privately owned by Internet service providers (ISPs) or businesses. Your ISP will have their own DNS servers to which your Web Browser will send requests to when you 'surf the web'. If a DNS server receives a request which it cannot find in its database (Such as a website which is hosted far away, or a site few people visit) it sends the request to a higher level in the hierarchy until a server with the matching domain name and IP address information is found. The information is then sent back to your ISPs DNS server, then to your computer, and your browser can open the website.
A domain name is a name which identifies one or more IP addresses. Domain names are, ultimately, a human convenience as words are easier to remember than strings of numbers. Domain names, as with DNS servers, are arranged in a hierarchy with top-level domains (TLDs), including country code domains, such as ".za", and twenty generic top-level domains (gTLDs), such as ".com", ".net", and ".gov", at the top. Below the TLDs are the second-level domain names which are directly left of the ".com", ".net", or any other TLD. Directly left to these are the third-level domains. Domains can go past third-level domains down to 127 levels but more than 4 or 5 are rare. Sub domains can be created on a DNS server and do not have to be registered through a domain name registrar. An example of a subdomain would be subdomain.website.com. These can be used for load balancing on busy sites but are mainly used for organizing information. Sites like About.com, make use of subdomains extensively, by having subdomains for all their topics (eg. books.about.com) as this makes it easier to transfer certain popular sections to dedicated servers.
Domain names need to be unique, so a company called Network Solutions, ensures that no duplicates are created. Network Solutions maintains the list of domain names and keeps a "whois" database, which holds information about the owners and DNS servers for every domain. While Network Solutions' job is important in keeping records of top-level domain name servers, it would be very hard to hold all the information about all domain name servers. Some companies or countries have many thousands of servers and IP addresses and want to administer their own top-level domain name servers. This is why the DNS system is known as a distributed database as companies or countries can be fully in control of their own DNS servers. The Domain Name System is completely distributed all over the world through millions of computers and is maintained by millions of people but still acts like one complete database.
Domain names can be purchased from domain name registrars, such as Internet Solutions (is.co.za), who are accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and work with Network Solutions, who are the responsible for administrating the name and IP system of the internet. A registry is maintained for each TLD and keeps a database of all domain names registered under the TLD. Registrars charge an annual fee for providing their users with a domain name and there is a large resale of previously registered domains which is known as the domain aftermarket.
To host a website one must copy a website to a web server. Hosting a website from your own computer is possible, but it's not advisable as it will not save you money and you need a fast connection to make sure your website is not slow for viewers. Also, Security on a self-hosted site is inferior to that of a site hosted by a web hosting company. Firstly, one must register a domain name and find a web hosting company of your choice. Web hosting companies will offer different packages depending on your needs. For example, Afrihost, a South African Web Hosting company, offer 4 packages, ranging from R65 per month, to R400 per month, each having different amounts of traffic and webspace available to their customers. They will also provide you with a certain number of email accounts which you can use or assign to other people. These accounts will end in your domain name.
Some ISPs will offer free web hosting to their customers. While this service is free, it will be very limited. Free hosting won't get you your own domain name and will have limited security options, limited technical and database support, as well as limited software options. Your address will be hard to remember and will look unprofessional (eg. www.website.com/freesite/concept.htm). Free hosting should not be used for company sites or sites with high traffic usage. Shared, or virtual hosting, while being cost effective (as you're sharing the cost with others), is prone to security threats (as there are many sites on one server), has restrictions on how much traffic goes through the site, and has restrictions on software and database support. Shared hosting is good for small companies as you get your own domain name, but for large companies the allocated traffic is not enough, and the security risks are too large. Dedicated hosting is a more expensive option that lets you store your website on a dedicated server. This is advisable for large businesses with high traffic usage. With dedicated hosting users get multiple domain names, many email and software options, and strong security and database support.
You will then have to upload your site to your web host's server and they'll usually provide instructions on how to do this. Moving your files to the web server is done via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) by using FTP software such as FileZilla. FTP, is a simple and secure way of transferring files over the internet. When downloading files off of the internet, files are being transferred from another computer, to your own computer. Often, files are stored on dedicated FTP servers which will use the ftp:// prefix instead of http://. These FTP servers are similar to web servers which only host websites. Each file is given an address (URL) which lets other computers access the files through their web browsers. Once your files are uploaded to the ftp server the site is up and can be accessed by anyone connected to the internet.
- Heng, C n.d., How to Make / Create a Website: The Beginner's A-Z Guide, The Site Wizard, viewed 8 February 2010, http://www.thesitewizard.com/gettingstarted/startwebsite.shtml
- Domain Name 2010, Wikipedia, viewed 8 February 2010, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_name
- Domain Name System 2010, Wikipedia, viewed 8 February 2010, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_Name_System
- Domain Registration n.d., Internet Solutions, viewed 8 February 2010, http://www.is.co.za/domains/Domains.htm
- Web Hosting Tutorial n.d., Internet Solutions, viewed 9 February 2010,http://www.w3schools.com/hosting/default.asp
- What is FTP, and how do I use it to transfer files? 2010, Indiana University KnowledgeBase, viewed 9 February 2010, http://kb.iu.edu/data/aerg.html
- Karrenberg, D 2007, DNS Root Name Servers Explained For Non-Experts, Internet Society, http://www.isoc.org/briefings/019/
- Karrenberg, D 2004, The Internet Domain Name System Explained for Non-Experts, Internet Society, http://www.isoc.org/briefings/016/
- Linux Web Hosting n.d., Afrihost, http://www.afrihost.com/linux-hosting.php
- World Wide Web 2010, Wikipedia, viewed 8 February 2010, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Web
- File Transfer Protocol 2010, Wikipedia, viewed 9 February 2010, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_Transfer_Protocol
- List of top-Level domains 2010, Wikipedia, viewed 9 February 2010, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Internet_top-level_domains
- Subdomains: What's a subdomain? n.d., Web hosting for beginners, viewed 9 February 2010 http://www.forbeginners.info/web-hosting/subdomains.htm
- Boutell, T 2003 WWW FAQs: How do I register a domain name? Boutell, viewed 9 February 2010, http://www.boutell.com/newfaq/creating/register.html
- Boutell, T 2003 WWW FAQs: How do I setup a website? Boutell, viewed 9 February 2010, http://www.boutell.com/newfaq/creating/setup.html
- FTP New User Guide n.d., File Transfer Planet, viewed 9 February 2010, http://www.filetransferplanet.com/ftp-guides-resources/ftp-new-user-guide/