DNS? Registrar? Web Host?! All I want is a company web page!

Brian St. Marie - Sr. Systems Engineer

Although the Domain Name System used on the internet is as old as the internet itself, it's still a very confusing technology for many businesses.  Understanding all the different hosts and services necessary to create a presence on the web can be confusing and overwhelming.

Most people understand that they need to register a name for their business on the web (referred to as a domain name) and host a website, but beyond that, they're unclear on what they might need.  In fact, there are several layers and different hosts who coordinate to make sure everything goes just right.  Just like when buying a cell phone, there are many parts to the equation to ensure everything works as you expect.

The Registrar

The registrar is the place you start; they are the service which officially creates and maintains your chosen domain name (e.g. terminal.com).  Using our cell phone analogy, this is much like choosing your carrier and cell phone plan.  Initially, Network Solutions was the only registrar, but some years ago law changed to allow other companies to act as internet registrars. Now there are hundreds, such as GoDaddy, Verisign, Tucows, and many others.  They all work essentially the same, though costs can vary quite a bit.

The Domain Host

Once you've registered your domain name, you need to host it somewhere.  Again, going back to our analogy, you need more than just a cell phone plan, you need to get a phone number as well, so people know how to reach you.  The domain host provides directions on the internet for anyone trying to reach your internet services, whether they be email or web or even remote access or corporate VPNs.

The Service Hosts (email, web, etc.)

If the registrar is the cell phone plan in our analogy, and the domain host is the phone number, the service host would be the cell phone itself.  The service hosts are the endpoint that your users are trying to reach.  This can be a web page, or email, or many other business services.  Some companies choose to host these services inside their own offices, while others choose to have other companies host them.  Traditionally, many small and medium businesses have relied on web hosting companies to host their web pages and sometimes their email, as well.  As companies grow in size, they will frequently host their own email and may even host their own web pages.  These days, as cloud computing becomes more popular, companies often host many services with third party service hosts.

While it's entirely possible to choose different companies for each of these categories, many companies offer some or all of these services together.  I often encourage clients to try to stick to as few companies as possible, as it helps keep a handle on recurring costs and creates a central contact point for service-related issues.

It's important to choose wisely, for this very reason; don't be stuck in the situation of not knowing just who to call when something breaks!  If you need help consolidating or making sense of your domain hosting, Contact Us today and a Terminal engineer can help you understand your domain configuration and simplify your management.