Let’s say you are the proud owner of a website. You may have done all the grunt-work yourself, or you may have asked someone else to do all the necessaries. One way or another, you’re online and the world can see your website.
Do you even need to know what underpins the website in terms of hosting and domain name and other stuff? It’s there and working, right? Well, like handing over responsibility for anything important, it’s always wise to have an idea of what’s going on. Then if there’s some change that impacts on your website, you’ll be a step ahead and ready to deal with it and keep things rolling along.
There are 3 pillars to any website – the website itself, its hosting, and its domain name. Let’s see how these equate to a caravan, to help understand how they relate to each other.
Your new caravan has finally arrived at the dealer, and you’ve rocked up to collect it. After a quick run-through of how to hitch and unhitch it, how to get it ready on-site for you to use, and how to find & use its various features, you’re ready to head out to the wide blue yonder.
Caravan = Website
Well, the look of the caravan (its design and paint-job), what it has inside (bunk beds, shower, TV), the extras that it includes (eg. slide-out barbeque)… these are all equivalent to your website.
A website may have one or more forms, perhaps an online store, it may ask for people to sign up for a newsletter, it will more than likely present information to visitors in an easy-to-absorb way with user-friendly navigation around the pages. In the same way as there is a wide variety of caravan designs, so there is a wide variety of website designs.
Caravan Park = Hosting
The caravan park that you’ve stopped at, that’s equivalent to your hosting. You are free to hitch up and move to another caravan park if you like, but while you’re settled in at one, you’re going to have to pay a fee for the privilege. Some parks provide more for your money eg. kitchen facilities, showers, bouncy castle, pool, where some provide less for your money eg. a stony bit of ground. But which park you choose is up to you, and if you don’t like one, you can move on to another.
In just the same way, your website has to ‘live’ somewhere. Essentially, there is a computer out there (the webserver) which stores the data and processes the requests for webpages when visitors arrive. Fortunately these days, we don’t need to be concerned with the technology itself, we just need to know whether it’s a good neighbourhood and if the facilities are up to scratch.
Choosing hosting for your website may not be necessary. For many websites, it comes as a package deal. For some websites, it actually isn’t possible to separate your own website out from the underlying system. But for most websites, it is certainly possible to relocate a website to different hosting if you don’t like the performance or are being charged too much. Just like caravan parks, fees vary hugely, and you tend to get what you pay for.
Rego = Domain Name
Every caravan has to have its own vehicle registration. While providing States with a great income stream, it does also have practical uses such as allowing the tracing of a tow vehicle whose own registration is obscured by the caravan, and also of course the tracing of the caravan itself if it gets stolen. Just like a car, every caravan has a unique serial number which is linked to its registration plate.
Every year, the rego has to be renewed with the appropriate State authority. Pay a fee, and the caravan is legally allowed on the road.
So it is with your domain name. You register a domain name with a ‘Registrar’ (there are hundreds to choose from) and pay an initial fee. Then you renew your domain name registration every now and then, usually once a year. The registration fee and the renewal fee are set by your registrar, and can vary widely. There may be add-on services attached to a domain, but usually it’s an extremely simple and limited service, just the same as the caravan rego.
As with hosting, domain registration/renewal may be a package deal, so you may not see a separate fee. Unlike hosting, it is nearly always possible to relocate the domain registration to another registrar – in caravan terms, this would be like dropping the rego in New South Wales and re-registering in Victoria as your new base State. Why would you change registrar? Maybe it’s cheaper. Maybe it’s more convenient eg. so you get one invoice for hosting + domain renewal. Maybe the registrar provides better tools to manage the domain (although you’re rarely going to need them, it must be said).
So be sure you are aware of your own ‘caravan’ setup. Are you paying for the website itself? Who is your hosting with, and how much is it? Who is the domain name registered with, and how much is the renewal?
If you know these things, then if you become dissatisfied for any reason with one of them, you’ll be able to look into fixing that – move to a better caravan park, upgrade your caravan, or register the plate with another State!