There is a popular analogy that likens websites and the hosting thereof to houses and their physical addresses. It is great analogy on the surface, but the ins and outs of providing a hosting service are actually much more complicated and that is why it is nice to let someone who knows what they are doing look after it for you.
First, each computer or server (which is a big computer that hosts websites or processes email) connected to the Internet has a unique IP (Internet protocol) address. The IP address consists of four sets of numbers, for example, 232.452.67.352. There is a Zone file attached to each registered domain, and that file points mail related things to mail servers and web hosting related things to a different server.
For a computer to connect to another computer via the Internet, that computer needs to know the destination IP address, but because numbers are hard for the humans operating the computers to remember, domain names are used instead.
A domain name comprises two parts. In “company.co.za”, the “.co.za” is known as the top level domain (TLD), and “company” is the second level domain and is ideally the actual name of the organisation. The same name, which can be up to 63 characters long, can be used with different top level domains, such as .com, .org and .net. A domain like .co.za is country specific.
You register your domain name with a registrar. If you want to see whether your preferred domain name is available, you can check at www.whois.com or www.whois.co.za. If you are fairly familiar with the online environment, you can register a domain name yourself. If not, it’s advisable to pay an Internet service provider to register it on your behalf.
A domain name is registered for one year at a time and must be renewed annually. Remember that there is a difference between web hosting and domain names. A domain name is the actual name of your website and it points to your web hosting account. Web hosting is the space that you rent on a remote computer to store your website files. When you purchase web hosting you are basically renting space on a high-powered server provided by a web hosting company.
The best domain names are as short as possible, memorable, easy to spell, easy to say, easy to brand, distinct, and directly related to either your business name or your industry.
There used to be a perception that a domain name with a .com TLD was superior – not only more professional, but also appealing to an international audience. However, today there are a number of benefits to be had from a domain name with a country specific TLD like .co.za. This is especially true if you conduct your business primarily in South Africa. If someone in South Africa is looking for surf boards, the search engine will usually rank surfboards.co.za higher up than surfboards.com.
There have been a lot of new TLD’s released lately to accommodate a world wide web that is expanding at an exponential rate. Our favourite is .io, which originates from the British Indian Ocean Territory, and which is a hot TLD in the tech / start-up industry for various reasons, but more about that later.