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Web Strategy & Development For Startups

Internet Basics: Websites

December 7th 2010 dns, domain names, hosting, web applications, webserver

People who want to create a startup company that includes some sort of Web application don’t need extensive knowledge of programming to get going! Below, we’ve provided some information about how and why things work they way they do to save you from common mistakes and to help you advance your ideas. If you have questions, we welcome hearing from you. Remember: Red27 specializes in helping startup and early-stage companies get started, so Contact us.

Getting Started

Google recently released a great ebook titled, 20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web. It does a good job of explaining some of the basics that will help you build a solid technology foundation for your company. We recommend that you read it.

However, let’s unpack even further some of the basic concepts that book covers. The better you understand them, the more equipped and knowledgeable you’ll be as the going gets a little tougher and more technically complex.

The Internet is comprised of servers, or large computers, and users like, well, all of us. The servers are interconnected with high-capacity data connections so that you can conduct e-commerce, stream video, send e-mail and crack jokes on Facebook. You connect to the Internet through a service provider, which is typically a phone or cable company. To conduct business in the 21st century, it’s also smart to tap into the Internet with Wi-Fi, a wireless connection that allows you to roam around a room or entire region without losing Web access.

On the Internet, everything has an address, or, more specifically, an Internet Protocol (IP) address. Think a bunch of numbers that are assigned to servers. IP addresses aren’t useful for identifying Internet users, and they’re not easy to remember or type. As a result, we use domain names. You see them all the time! Google.com is a domain name. So is Red27.net.

But how does your computer know that the domain name address Red27.net belongs to a specific IP address? That’s where the Domain Naming Service, or DNS, comes in. It’s essentially the phone book of the Internet that tells your computer how to match domain names and IP addresses. When you request that your computer load Red27.net’s website, a DNS request is first issued by your browser to look up the corresponding IP address. With that IP address, your computer can load the website.

There are some important things for you to understand about the DNS. First, it points your own website’s domain name to a server. That means you can change your hosting provider or the location of your server. You also can change the address (or name) your website with your DNS provider. (Domain names are essentially rented from a registrar on a yearly basis — and we’ll discuss registrars below.) DNS changes take up to 48 hours to be completely updated across the Internet.

Simple Internet Diagram

What You Need for a Website

If you want to launch a website, you need two services: a registrar and a hosting company. There are many registrars, including Network Solutions and GoDaddy, which are two of the largest. Registrars are where you register the name of your website and basically rent the use of that name for an annual fee.

Second, you need a hosting service, such as Bluehost. We explain hosting options here. Hosting services provide the servers that make it possible for others to see your website.

Many companies offer both registry and hosting services, but Red27 recommends that you use two different companies that specialize in these services, respectively. Why? Registrars usually don’t offer great hosting, and hosting companies have to use a registrar anyway and can make it difficult for you to change hosting services if your company grows or has a bad experience.

Remember: you always want to be in charge of your domain name and DNS. The registrars offer DNS services for free as part of your domain name registration. Don’t allow your hosting provider or your Web development company to register your domain name in their name because it will be hard to change later, and they — not you — ‘own’ the name. If they don’t pay a bill, you could lose your domain name to someone else. Consider your domain name and the related DNS a critical part of your business!