Every industry has unique technical terms and IT is well known for it’s jargon and TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms). Whilst HostAway are happy to determine your needs and recommend a solution, we know that as a decision maker you might want to understand a little more about what we do. To help, we have come up with (or borrowed) the following analogies. PLEASE NOTE: As with all analogies, they aren’t perfect and so if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Your domain name (example.com) is like the street address for your business. Without a domain name no-one will be able to find you. The website hosting is the foundations and structure of your office building – you may need a small office or maybe a warehouse, an office block where you share resources (shared hosting plan) or perhaps dedicated space (virtual server). If your website needs a shopping cart you will need a database to store information much like a warehouse needs a shelving system to store products.
You then to have your designer (web developer) build you an office that will attract customers, paint it, create signage and fill it with furniture (content). The next step is to attract customers to your store, so you need to advertise your location which you can do online with banner ads or paid search results, or you can advertise on standard media (TV, radio, newspapers etc). You might also hire a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) specialist, who will make your office building appear brighter and help it to get noticed by people looking for your products. Of course, you can’t just leave the same products on the shelves and let your office appear run down. Every now and then you will need to update your content and give your office a new coat of paint, or a complete re-design.
A key part of your hosting plan is DNS (Domain Name System) which can be likened to a phone book; it translates names into numbers. When you type www.hostaway.net.au into your web brower it checks with the “phone book” which provides the number (IP Address) where the website is stored, in this case 126.96.36.199. Your web browser then contacts that address and requests the web page.
A server is a powerful computer that serves a specific purpose (e.g. email, website, file sharing, etc). If you liken a server to one really big house, and had a single bachelor living in it he would have lots of room and could do what he likes. If you put a lot of bachelors inside the house, they will get in each others way and any mess made by one affects the rest. A virtual server would be more similar to an apartment building, the space is divided into compartments and the bachelors can only make a mess in their own space which doesn’t affect any of the other bachelors.
The Internet is often compared to plumbing as it is made of a series of interconnecting pipes of various sizes. The larger the pipe (more bandwidth) the more water (data) can flow through it. Network issues can occur if the pipes are cut or become blocked, which is why the HostAway network uses multiple large pipes (uplinks) to ensure we are always connected.
If we were to use the analogy that a web server is like a pub, serving drinks (websites) to patrons, then a Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDoS) is like a thousand people entering the pub in front of you and ordering a glass of water each. The pub is unable to serve you as so many different users are flooding it and taking all the attention of the bartenders. Fortunately, HostAway has bouncers on the door and a cluster of pubs to keep the drinks flowing!
Bonus analogy (unrelated to hosting, we just liked it): If you copy an icon from your desktop to another computer why doesn’t the program work? The icon is most likely a shortcut, which only knows the location of the program, but does not contain the program itself. This would be like putting a post-it note on your office drawer saying “stationery” then taking the post-it home, sticking it to your kitchen drawer and expecting the contents of your office drawer to appear inside!