We’re regularly asked what the difference is between a domain name and website hosting and this article gives an overview in layman's terms to this difference, as well as explaining the difference between files and a database, using a Drupal or Wordpress CMS as an example.
A telephone directory has your name, address and telephone number, so that people can contact you. A domain name is the internet equivalent of a phone number. Instead of calling a number, internet searchers type in the domain name and that identifies the website they are seeking.
The domain name is owned by you and, like a trademark, cannot be used by anyone else on a website. The domain name is registered as a unique title and that registration has to be renewed annually.
Just like a trademark, a domain name should reflect your brand and it’s also worth considering including keywords in it. See our domain name infographic for more information on choosing a domain name or our map of all domain extensions for cities and countries in Europe.
To continue with the telephone analogy, just because you have a phone number, it doesn’t mean you have a phone! In the same way, the domain name can only be used to link visitors to your website if there is a place for it on the worldwide web. This finding of a place is known as website hosting, through the medium of a server.
Hosting can be regarded as an internet filing cabinet – a space or container where all the files (logos, images and other information) can be stored. CMS websites also generally need at least one database (more below) which is also stored on the hosting server.
OK, so the empty internet office has now been set up, with your domain name registered and a hosting server appointed. The next stage is to provide the website files that will occupy that virtual office space. Files include things like images, html pages, programs, etc. and this is where a CMS like Drupal really comes into its own. Using Drupal, or another open source CMS like Wordpress or Joomla means that you receive a bunch of files that do all kinds of exciting stuff for free when you first install it, rather than having to create all your files from scratch.
It may be that you have a general idea of how you want your website to look, or how you want different pages to be arranged and navigated, but are struggling to formulate the detail of exactly what is needed. A Drupal CMS utilises the very useful concept of themes, so that either every page, or just certain pages on your website, can have a similar style, or theme, to suit your unique requirements. There are thousands of examples of themes to choose from, or you can experiment with creating your own.
Modules are another set of files and provide additional functionality to your site which open source CMS systems have thousands of enthusiastic users working to create and share.
Databases are typically easier to edit than files and are used to store the content within the CMS (in Drupal these are called nodes, which are loosely equivalent to pages). In a CMS the Database contains things like the Title, Metatags and text content of a page.
Every business keeps track of its customers and if these are stored online, the database will include such details as their contact details, previous orders, preferences or specific requirements. Other databases may include lists of suppliers, or the impact of particular marketing strategies, the response to new products, or stocks of both finished goods and raw materials.
Drupal offers the facility of using MySQL databases, similar to Excel spreadsheets, which make maintaining these essential records very much easier. In the same way as themes can be used to link and modify several pages at the same time, Drupal’s MySQL databases can link different pages or nodes on the website, so that information which affects one aspect of the business (for instance the popularity of a specific item) can be transferred to other pages or files that may be affected.
Hopefully this article has given you some insight into how that all-important website works. If you have any questions, or would like to discuss creating a new website, or updating an existing one, then the friendly team at Indigoextra will be delighted to help.