A domain name is what you enter into your web browser’s address bar when you want to visit a website if you are not entering the web server’s IP address. Domain names can be alphanumerical meaning that they can contain both letters and numbers as well as a few very limited symbols.
Domain names are seen as an easy to allow people to visit websites since in most cases they are easily remembered when compared to their alternative, IP addresses.
Those wishing to start their own websites can purchase a domain of their choice from a domain registrar for a fee, and can then move on to purchase web hosting services from a web hosting provider if they are unable to source their own method of website hosting.
Domain names can normally be anything that you want them to be since there is no governing body to say that you aren’t able to have any specific domain; however, you may find that the governing body of the TLD that you want to purchase your domain name under may have specific restrictions in place on what you can name domains.
A domain is normally used in conjunction with a website hosting package so that you can use your domain to host a proper website under your account, and not just be stuck using the basic tools such as holding pages that accompany many basic domain registrations.
A web hosting package is needed for the web hosting of websites small and large, meaning that if you purchase a domain with the intent of hosting any form of website then a web hosting package is a necessary add-on.
Most web hosting providers double up as domain registrars and vice versa which is the main reason for many professional web hosting companies offering a free domain with their website hosting packages.
On the other hand, there are companies that are solely domain registrars who in most cases are able to offer you a more dedicated domain support service when compare to a web hosting provider selling domains who solely focuses on its web hosting packages and customers.
Domain hosting customers are normally provided with access to a web hosting control panel so that they are able to manage the web hosting package that they have purchased for their new domain that has just been registered.
For example, if you choose a Linux domain hosting package then you will probably find that you are provided with access to the cPanel control panel to enable you to manage your domain hosting package with ease.
If you have decided to purchase a Windows domain hosting package then you will probably be provided with access to the Plesk control panel so that you are able to manage the different aspects of your domain hosting package.
Hosting control panels are important for those with a domain since they want to be able to control the different aspects of their web hosting account using a web based interface that they are able to access as they need.
At the end of the day, a domain is more or less useless if you don’t have a website prepared or hosted for it since there won’t be any content for you to show off to your domain visitors.
Domain registrars and web hosting providers normally allow domain clients access to a basic control panel if they don’t have any form of domain hosting so that they can manage the domain itself since there any many services related to the running of a domain excluding basic web hosting.
At the heart of any domain and the internet is the DNS system which is what servers use to find out which servers are responsible for each different service required for the running of a domain, and a domain’s DNS record is normally held by DNS servers.
Many different services are required for the running a domain such as mail servers, web servers and name/DNS servers; because of this, most domain hosts allow you to use their own name servers and change these different DNS records as you like.
It is also important that a domain registrar allows you to change your domain’s nameservers so that you can point your domain to another company for example to make sure of their web hosting services.
Choosing the amount of time that you register your domain for is an important factor since you don’t want to register it then forget to renew it at the end of its registration period, meaning that long domain registration periods are recommended. In some cases, search engines also give higher rankings for domains that have been registered for a long time or period, i.e. 5-10 years.
Although most domain registrars and web hosting providers now allow you to ‘automatically’ renew your domain, this process isn’t always secure unless you purchase your domain from a legitimate registrar of web hosting provider.
If you don’t renew your domain at the end of its registered period then you leave yourself open to many problems. For example, there may be someone watching your domain name up until its expiration date so that when it expires they can quickly grab it for themselves, and the main services used for a domain tend to cease working after a domain has expired.
Each country has its own domain TLD to allow people to buy domains specific to that country if the website that they want to host is being targeted at an audience based in the country concerned. Although there are certain worldwide TLDs such as .com and .net, there is still a need for regional domain TLDs so that website developers are able to purchase a domain that matches the locality of their website.
Examples of regional domain TLDs include .co.uk for domains targeted at a UK audience and .us for websites which are targeted at audiences based in the USA.
Having a region specific domain TLD can boost your search engine results in the country concerned since search engines see that you have gone to the effort of using a local TLD instead of an international one for your domain.
However, some websites also use TLDs as part of their domain names for individuality; for example the website Delicious has made use of the ‘.us’ TLD with ‘icio.us’ being their main domain name and ‘del’ being a subdomain of the actual domain.
In conclusion, a domain is needed to ensure that a website is accessible without the need for an IP address to be assigned to each individual website on the internet.
Although you need to ensure that you can monitor your own domain, they can be used as an effective way of marketing if you choose a domain with a region specific TLD since you will receive a higher ranking in local search engine results.
A domain provides your website’s visitors with an easy to remember alphanumerical address that they can use to access your website when they want to. Even if you don’t choose to have a web hosting package that can host your website, your domain registrar or domain provider will still provide you with tools that will enable you to transfer the web hosting for your domain to another provider.