Most NICs or Network Interface Cards within servers and computers are assigned a unique address known as Internet Protocol or IP address. An IPv4 ip address is a 32-bit numeric address written as four numbers separated by periods. Each number can be zero to 255. An ip address for a dedicated server using NAT (Network Address Translation) or your business computer would look similar to this 192.168.20.34 You can find out what your ip address is by typing ipconfig at the command prompt (Start, Run, ipconfig) on a Windows Server and by typing ifconfig on a Linux Server. You can type this command on your home Windows or Linux or Unix computer as well to find your static dedicated ip address.
Technology has simplified browsing for websites through the use of something called a host file. A host file translates a website name into the assigned IP address. So when you use your internet web browser to browse a website, it communicates to the web server using the ip address. The host file is stored in the c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\ directory on a windows computer and in the /etc directory on linux and unix systems.
Have you ever been to 1313 S Harbor Blvd in Anaheim California? Do you know what is at that address? If I had said “Have you ever been to Disney Land?” chances are that you would have immediately known what I was talking about. 131 S Harbor Blvd, Anaheim, California 92802 is the equivalent of an IP address, and Disney Land is the equivalent of a hostname. Website hosting is the equivalent of the land where Disney Land sits. So if you register a website address and get the name, you must also rent or purchase internet real estate or server space for your website to reside on. Likewise if you obtain website hosting but don’t register a website address, no one will know how to get to your website.
A hostfile will contain lines that look like this: 192.168.20.34 www.npsis.com which basically says that the ip address 192.168.20.34 corresponds to the hosname or webserver www.npsis.com. Hostfiles are used for name translation for a small number of computers.
Internet Service Providers typically use DNS (Domain Name System) to translate hostnames to IP addresses on the internet. When you type www.npsis.com or your own website address, your computer contacts a DNS server to determine what IP address is assigned to the domain name or website address that you entered. All websites, web servers and email servers need domain names if they are to be accessible online.
It is important when selecting your website address that you pick a name that is easy to remember. The domain name should also reflect what your business does. For example the website address tomsgarage.com gives you a pretty good idea of what tom does for a living and its very easy to remember. You can also reserve multiple related domain names and point them at your website address as well. Have your website design store help you to incorporate several relevant key words into your website design and point all of your relevant website addressees at your website (i.e. wefixtires.com, bestlocaltireshop.com, toms-tires.com).
Domain names are typically done on a first come, first serve basis so if you have an idea for a good name you should register it before it is taken by someone else. There are many people and businesses who register and buy the most desirable domain names and resell them; this is usually for a higher cost than the original purchase price.
If you are dealing with a website design store or a web designer you will want to absolutely make sure that you own the domain name and not them. When you purchase a domain name yourself you better protect yourself from predators looking to take advantage of you.