• Scott Herring

How Does Web Hosting Work?

If you're not super technical, you probably don't know (or care) exactly how the internet works. You may be familiar with some key terms, but the rest is a big black box that hands you answers to questions, shows funny videos, and helps you communicate with friends & family. If you're going to be a blogger, though, you're going to need a little bit more of an understanding, especially if you're plotting to make a big mark in the world of blogging. A key piece for you will be understanding how web hosting works.


Devices: PCs, Mobile Devices, and Servers

It seems simple. You type in a word and your browser goes to a place. Gmail.com. Boom. Apple.com. Boom. RenegadeBlogger.com. Boom. It doesn't matter if you're on a laptop or a mobile device, the same result happens. What's happening is that your device is connecting to a server, which could be anywhere in the world. The server knows what to do with your request, whether it comes from a browser (e.g., Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) or an app (e.g., Instagram, your email app, or Google Maps).


IP Addresses

The communication layers use an IP address. Think of an IP address as something like a telephone number. Every internet device gets one when connected. Some are static addresses, but others can be dynamic (they change when you reconnect). If you're curious, visit this website - WhatsMyIP - from a couple of devices and you'll see.


Domain Names

IP addresses get translated, in most cases, to a domain name. Think of a domain name as what the public knows you as. We wouldn't want to have to remember all those digits, right? So there's a way that IP addresses get turned into names. You may have heard the term "domain registration". That's where you pick a name - which must be unique - and pay to call it your name. We registered RenegadeBlogger.com with a "registrar", which is an officially sanctioned company (sanctioned by ICAAN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - see?). You can register a domain with a company like Godaddy, or you can use an internet service provider when you purchase website hosting. Note, when you pick a name, you may want to search and make sure it isn't somehow going to get you in copyright trouble - changing later really sucks.


Internet Service Providers

If you have a website, which is the root of a blog, it requires special servers to deliver a response. Although you could roll your own, we certainly wouldn't recommend it -- buying all the pieces is REALLY expensive. Instead, use an internet service provider like Bluehost (which we strongly recommend), SiteGround (owned by Godaddy), or Wix (the simplest one to set up). Most service providers include tools to set up a blog in their basic plans, so when you sign up, you're well on your way. Oh, and you can register your domain during setup too. So the ISP is a critical piece here, providing the routing and delivery of those blog requests.


Software

When you build a blog, you could write everything using a programming language called Hyper Text Markup Language - HTML - and make it look more readable using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). The wonderful display at Michael's Smart Classroom Management site is brought to you using WordPress, a content management system that lets Michael write posts, schedule them to be posted, and facilitates engagement with the audience. WordPress is super powerful for many purposes, so much so that almost a third of all websites on earth use it... Alternatively, you could use a different tool like Joomla or Drupal, which are other content management systems. Or you could use Wix or SquareSpace, which are easy turnkey systems. The bottom line is that you MUST have a suitable blogging platform, including the right software.


E-Commerce

At some point, you may want to sell something to make money (e.g., books, memberships, or t-shirts). That's called e-commerce. If you're using WordPress, there's a popular plugin called WooCommerce you can use. Or you could use one of the popular e-commerce platforms like Magento or Shopify. And Wix & SquareSpace have shopping baked into their offerings too.


Security

One other note for setting up a blog... A couple of years ago, Google made a bold change - issuing a Chrome warning if you visit a website that doesn't have encryption. You know when you're on a shopping site and see the little lock icon in your address bar? That's because the website communication is encrypted (you'll see the web address uses https instead of regular http). Security is set using Secure Socket Layers (SSL), which you can get when you set up your blog. JUST DO IT. First, the little warning can immediately send site visitors running. Second, it's recommended because, well, Google. They rank you higher if you have SSL in place. And third, it makes your site a tougher nut to crack for hackers.



How Web Hosting Works


To review... When you type in a web address, your "word" gets translated into an IP address. When you start your blog, you need to work with an internet service provider and perhaps a registrar to set up your domain name. You'll need security, and you may want to open a store to sell cool merch. Using the recipe here, you're well on your way. Let us know if you have questions!




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