For websites, how does information get there? How does the URL (www.xyz.com) know where to look? How does it all come together? These are the important questions that every online marketer should be able to answer.
Suppose we create a website, called new-site.com. Ignoring the technical mumbo-jumbo, here’s the minimum knowledge required to understand how content appears on the Internet.
You know what a webpage is; but how did it get on the Internet? Did someone upload it somewhere?
Imagine there was a hard drive that was connected to the Internet. Place a file on the hard drive–access it online. We refer to such a device as a Web Server. They are special hard drives that are connected online and can be accessed from any computer.
The first step to creating a website is to purchase and setup a web server. If you’re a big company, you can pay someone to setup and purchase servers. Most people (like me) can’t, so they pay another company to “rent” their servers. We call this Web Hosting. There are hundreds of web hosting companies, like Go Daddy, Dream Host, and Web Air (which I use). Pay them $5 – $25 per month, and you get a few gigabytes of “online storage.” This storage is where all of the files for websites live.
You’ve purchased a web hosting service; how do you get a URL or domain name to connect to your web servers?
First, you need to own (register) a domain name. Customers can purchase domains on GoDaddy.com, or really any site. The only difference is the registration cost (largely based on competition). Complete the registration for an available URL (e.g., www.new-site.com).
Connecting Domains to Web Servers
Now you have a domain; how do you connect it to your web servers? If you used the same web host and domain registry (e.g., GoDaddy, which offers both), you should be all set. If they were different, you need to point the domain name to your web host. This is done using Domain Name Servers, or DNS. Your web host should have communicated its name servers (e.g., ns1.webhost.com) when you purchased hosting services. You then input the name servers into the domain name settings (e.g., “settings” for www.new-site.com), and everything should automatically sync-up!
Adding a Web Page to the “Internet”
Now that the domain name is connected to your web servers, you need to add content, like an HTML file, to your web server.
The Web Host will supply a way for you to access your web servers. I use FTP, but a simple interface should be available. When you access your web server, its appearance should be similar to your hard drive on any computer. You will see a directory with a few folders for each your domains. In this case, a folder titled “www.new-site.com” should automatically populate in your web server. There might be a button titled “upload files to servers.” If you upload a file (e.g., cool.html) to this folder, it will live “on the Internet” at “www.new-site.com/cool.html.”
Need more information, specifically, the technical background?
- Web Hosting Tutorial – w3 School
- How Domain Name Servers Work – How Stuff Works
- How Web Pages Work – How Stuff Works
- Web Host Guide – Tizag