A domain name is a replacement for what we call IP addresses. For instance, this website’s IP number is 126.96.36.199. Because it isn’t easy to remember, it is translated to a ‘fully qualified domain name’ i.e. www.abricot-production.com.
An IP is also an address which identifies a machine. Every machine on the internet has an IP number. To make it easy for us to remember, IP addresses are ‘replaced’ by words. You don’t purchase a domain name, you lease a domain name and if you don’t renew the domain name, it becomes available and someone else can use it. When you register a domain name, it only gives you the right to use it. Services such as email and hosting are not normally included in the domain name registration.
The best place to check for domain name availability is www.who.is If you purchase a domain name, it is advisable to acquire a few extensions. For instance if you purchase a .co.uk, also buy the .com.
If you want to set up a website, you will need the files to be stored somewhere – on a web server. A web server is just another, but more powerful computer, connected to the internet. You could host your website on your own computer, but it is recommended to use a company to do that. Essentially, self-hosting is complicated and you would have to leave your computer switched on all the time! If your website gets very successful and a lot of people connect to it, your connection might not be able to handle the traffic, but don’t panic! Albeit web hosting isn’t straight forward, the web host will handle all the complicated stuff for you if your website gets busier. And, when choosing your hosting company be careful, since a lot of them use people’s lack of understanding to charge a lot of money! Finally, you don’t have to have the domain name and hosting with the same company, although it is easier to have everything at the same place. If you are thinking of using a design company to build your website, talk to them before purchasing your website hosting.