The World Wide Web can be a confusing place and trying to get your own website online can be a difficult process, especially when you can be confronted with hundreds of different terms and expressions that can sound similar. This article aims to provide a basic foundation for people looking into starting their own website and having it hosted.
Firstly, what is a webpage? Webpages are the ‘pages’ that make up the World Wide Web. They are individual documents that feature text, images and graphics. They are usually written in HTML or ‘HyperText Markup Language’. HTML is a language that is used to create documents, such as webpages, on the web; it provides information to a web browser as to how the page should be displayed. It is, in basic terms, a set of instructions as to what the page should look like. A web browser, like Firefox or Google Chrome, will be programmed to read these instructions and display the webpage.
Webpages and websites should not be confused. A webpage is a singular document on the internet while a website is a collection of a number of webpages. A website is like a book, where the webpages are the pages, it can then be made available to the public through the ‘library’ that is the internet. In order to ‘publish’ your website and let other people view it you will need to have your website copied on to a webserver.
It is possible to set up your own web server, but for the most part people tend to have their website ‘hosted’ on a public server or on a server provided by a hosting company. A server is a computer that will ‘serve up’ the websites that are stored on it. A web browser will send a request to a webserver (generally using a HTTP protocol, which is a standard way that all computers use to communicate) that contains a webpage address. The server will then fetch and transmit the webpage the browser has requested.
In order for your website to be available to other people, it must be stored on a webserver. If you wanted to host your website on your own server you would need powerful server hardware and a permanent high speed connection. The easier route for the majority of people is to choose a hosting provider that will host your website for you on one of their servers. These providers will often have fast internet connections, powerful servers and better security, maintenance and backup. Hosting schemes should usually include email services and domain name registration.
What is a domain name? It is a unique name for a website, for example: or . Your website has to have a domain name – or no one would be able to find it – and the domain name needs to be registered on a domain name register. Domain names can be registered through domain name registration companies. They are generally best when kept simple, clear and short. Once registration is done information about the website and its IP address are stored on a DNS server (a Domain Name System server).
Every website has an IP address of the computer it is stored on, an IP address is a set of numbers separated by dots. It is a way to identify computers and networks and is used by computers to locate websites. These numbers would be fairly difficult for humans to remember and it would be a much more complicated way of finding a website. Domain names, therefore, are what we have to remember and type into the address bar in our browsers. The domain name system server will then ‘translate’ the domain name into the IP address of the computer the website is stored on.
Many hosting companies will look after the maintenance and every day running of the server with managed hosting plans, although some customers with more expertise may prefer to look after the maintenance themselves and choose an unmanaged plan. Providers will usually offer set amounts of bandwidth and disk space. Websites take up space on servers with most small or medium websites needing between 10 and 100 MB of disk space depending on the amount of images and graphics on their webpages. Bandwidth is the amount of information that can be transferred to a browser; it covers the number of times your site is ‘downloaded’ by visitors to their own browsers – i.e. the number of times it is accessed or looked at. Most small or medium websites will need between 1 and 5 GB of bandwidth each month.