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The Anatomy of a Website

According to www.domaintools.com over 50,000 new .com domains are added to the internet every 24 hours. The web is now an essential tool for nearly everything we do in our daily lives. Still, for all of the websites that we visit every day, most of us have little idea of exactly what it takes to create one and keep it online. This is the story of what happens to a website before all of the content creation; this is about how to make content accessible to the web.

Step 1: Registration

The first step required to get a website online is the registration of a domain. The domain is the official label attached to the website and any administration thereof, and is closely related to the URL or web address associated with the website. Often times the web address and domain name are one in the same. Regardless of which company you choose to register your domain with, once purchased, the registrar will submit it to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) along with a whois record, which is basically a record tied to your domain which relates your personal or business information (see Cyber City’s whois record as an example). If privacy is a concern, it is possible to hide this information.

Step 2: Hosting

Once you’ve registered your domain, you’ve established the right to put a website at whatever URL you have purchased. Next, you need to find a server to actually store or host the files which make up the website’s content. Much like, registrars, there are several companies who also specialize in hosting. In fact, many companies operate as “one stop shops” for domain registration, hosting, and DNS (which we’ll talk about next.) There are typically several different levels of hosting service available. In theory anyone with a server could host their own website, however in practice it is often impractical, and leads to higher traffic on your network and less uptime for your website. Choose a plan with a company that guarantees at least 99.9% uptime each month, and enough bandwidth to allow for the amount of traffic you expect to attract. When in doubt, talk it over with your IT Professional.

Step 3: DNS

So now that step 1 and 2 are completed, you have a name to direct people to (the domain) where the actual website files are stored (the host),. The last step, DNS or Domain Name System, is the glue that binds these two things to each other.

Let’s say for instance that you have the domain www.testsite.com. Computers only communicate in numbers, so www.testsite.com is gibberish to the machines that speak in 0’s and 1’s, and to actually know where to look for the website files, it needs instead an IP (Internet Protocol) number. Each and every website on the internet has a series of numbers called an IP address associated with it. IP addresses are four numbers, separated by dots, and they look like this: DNS records are a one to one relation, sort of like a phone book for websites which associate each domain name with its proper IP. So, when you input www.testsite.com into your web browser and press go, the computer is in actuality first querying your DNS server which stores these records, asking it to figure out what www.testsite.com corresponds to. DNS not only routes traffic to your website properly, it is also essential in routing mail to its proper location, and creating website redirection, which makes a website available from many URLs

Having completed these three easy and quick steps, anyone can get a website up and running. As stated, many companies offer all three of these services in simple packages, but it is often a good idea to scrutinize the details of each step to make sure that you’re getting quality service. Of course, actually generating the content of the website is an entirely different matter, and one for another blog post. Stay tuned.