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The Non-tech Savvy Person’s Guide To How Web Hosting Works

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The concept of how web hosting works can be tricky to someone who isn’t all that familiar with it already. Like many computer related ideas, it can ultimately become loaded with jargon that really doesn’t make a lick of sense to the everyday person. The thing is that the actual idea of web hosting isn’t all that complicated. It’s really simple when you understand how to look at it.

There’s two main parts to web hosting: the website address, more commonly known as the domain name, and the hosted website’s files. The former makes it possible for a computer to locate a website and the latter makes it possible to actually transfer the data to a remote computer.

Still don’t quite understand it? Then that’s no problem. A proper series of analogies should make it simple enough that anybody should be able to understand it.

Say that you have a website address like “www.xyz.com.” It’s like your typical postal address but the order of what’s what is jumbled up a bit.

The “www” part indicates that the website is available on the world wide web, aka the internet. It’s like the country portion of a physical address. The “xyz” is like the street number and street name and the “.com” portion is just like saying that the address is on a street, circle or avenue. While there are other ways to locate the physical address of the website, just like there’s other ways to locate the address of a building, the physical address is much easier for humans to understand.

The next part about web hosting is the part domain registrars play. Think of a registrar as the person who says, “You live at this address.” They’re responsible for being able to match up a domain name to an actual numerical IP address. Nothing too big, but it’s necessary to know if you ever want a domain name for a website.

Now think of the actual web host itself as the building located at that physical address. It can be anything from a home, to a duplex, to an apartment depending on the type of hosting. For example, dedicated hosting would be the house that’s owned by just one person; and shared hosting, the most common type of entry-level hosting, is the apartment where there’s other websites hosted on the same machine that may or may not each have different mailing addresses.

The way that web hosting works is that a copy of the entire physical property is sent when a computer wants to look at it. This part is a bit hard to find a real life analogy for, but it’s vital to understand that what you see is a copy of what the website sends to you and not the actual thing. This explains why when you load a website, you see one version, but when the owner makes a change you don’t see it until you reload the page.

Well, most times that is the case with traditional websites. Some newer websites which implement an automatic type of reloading upon a page changing do exist, but for the most part this is how the majority of the internet and web hosting works.

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@JulianaPayson is a Marketing Specialist for a Dedicated Host Webhosting company based in Los Angeles, @InMotionHosting.

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