When you work in the digital and web development field it can sometimes be very easy to forget that some of the terminology you use on a daily basis are not common words for the majority of the public. We find that the definition and understanding around digital assets, such as domains and websites, can often be confused so we try our best to explain to our customers the differences in very simple terms that anyone can understand no matter their background.
This article will clarify the main differences between domains, DNS, website hosting, website files and email. It will also explain how they work together to create your online brand identity. We frequently use the analogy of a house to explain these digital assets because it is something everyone can relate to.
Domains & DNS
A domain name is like the address of your home. Instead of a house number and street name, a set of words or/and numbers are used to define the name of the website. Domain Name System (DNS) on the other hand is the postcode or coordinates of your house that help people to know exactly where its located. The domain name controls who can reach your website and view its contents using the DNS.
To simplify this process, we’ve put together these steps through which people can view a certain website:
- You request to access information online by typing a domain name, like www.daffodil-it.co.uk or www.gov.uk, on your web browser.
- Your web browser interacts with the DNS to get the Internet Protocol (IP)* address of that website.
- Once your web browser receives this information, it goes to that IP address and requests to view the content of the website.
- The website is now loaded successfully on your screen.
* An IP address is given to each device on the Internet, and that address is necessary to find the appropriate Internet device – like a postcode is used to find a particular area.
Now you have a street address (Domain) and how to get there with a postcode (DNS), you’ll need an actual house to visit.
Websites Hosting and Website Files
Website Hosting is the building at your address, the bricks and mortar of a place. It has rooms where you can store all your important belongings, but that is all a website hosting is, a big empty box. Your files and databases are the items that really make a website and these can be stored inside your house (Website Hosting). Your website files are the furniture and decoration in your home which the website hosting is only the building they are kept in.
Without an address or the postcode to tell you where it is, you wouldn’t be able to send a post and that is just the same with the email. You need to address the letter to John Smith at his address (Domain) and it needs the correct postcode (DNS) to get it there. Just like viewing a website, the domain and DNS controls how users send an email, the only difference being you are sending information not website traffic.
It’s all connected
You can see how these elements are interconnected to create your brand identity online. You need to start with a domain, from there you can get your website hosting setup and fill that hosting with your website files. You can then use DNS to direct either traffic to your website or emails to your mailbox. Now that we have covered the what, lets cover the why in “Why does my business need a domain name“