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What do you do when you use your computer, tablet or smartphone? Do you play games? Do you take photographs and videos to send to your friends? Do you email? Do you do your homework?
Probably all of the above, but chances are that you're also spending a good amount of time surfing the Internet. You know how to use the Internet – you can find sports scores, buy movie tickets and do research for school projects. But, although you might be a pro at plugging search terms into Google or Bing and getting great results, do you know how the Internet works?
Why are some websites slow and others fast? Why does a website crash? How do you create a web site? What does it mean to visit a website, and how do you do it?
Interestingly, most people, even those who, like you, use the web daily for all sorts of reasons, really don't understand exactly how it works. Here, we'll introduce you to the world of website hosting. You'll learn how websites work and what it means when you visit a website. After you finish reading this article, you'll know more about websites than your parents, your teachers and probably most of the adults you know.
Have you ever downloaded a game, school project or video? Have you noticed that it takes a few seconds, or sometimes a minute, for the file to open? When you are receiving a file, your computer is downloading it from another computer, which is connected to your computer through your telephone line or cable, or wirelessly (for example, by wifi).
You can't see the Internet, but if you could you would see it looks like something familiar, a map of your hometown. Just like a map, the Internet contains roads that connect houses and buildings of all sizes. But these roads are not like the roads you drive on. Instead, they are cables, capable of carrying files at incredibly high speeds. When you download a file, it travels along these fast cables, and crosses thousands of miles in a matter of seconds.
The buildings also, are, not like the buildings you see in your neighborhood. Instead, they are computers. Some computers are like yours—small, not too fast, and fun to use. Other computers are very different—they are larger, very fast, and do not have screens and keyboards. These computers are called servers, because they serve the needs of other computers, like yours.
When you go online, your computer uses a cable to access servers, where the games, photographs, and other information you want is kept. Whatever you do on the Internet, you depend on fast cables and reliable servers to make it work.
If the Internet is like a map, how do you find an address? When you use a map, you find the location by searching for the street name and then following the street until you find the address.
But on the web, the streets, or cables, that lead you from place to place, are invisible. Instead, you get from place to place by entering an address in a browser and allowing your computer to be the guide.
On the Internet, these addresses are called IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. A protocol is a convention, or standard, that we use to reduce confusion. For example, the fact that everyone has a first name and a last name is a kind of protocol. An IP address, then, is a convention for the Internet, so it's easy for everyone, everywhere to find us.
Like street addresses, each Internet address points to a single location, which is actually the address of a computer. If you enter an IP address, like 270.94.321.49, you will access a single computer, or server.
A web site is a series of connected documents that are associated with a single address. Just like your English textbook is different than your history textbook, each web site contains different kinds of information. Some websites, like Facebook, keep information about your friends and family. Others, like Wikipedia, have information about the world.
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Even though each computer on the Internet has a unique, one of a kind IP address, we don't get to a web site by typing in a series of numbers. Instead, we visit a web site by typing in its nickname, which we call a domain name, which allows you to enter an address in plain English. For example, book.com is associated with the IP address 270.94.321.49.
A server is the computer where websites are stored. If everyone in your classroom visits the same website, each one is accessing the same server. If the server is not working, no one can access the website.
Without servers, the web as we know it would not exist.
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While a server is a computer just like yours, it is different in three ways:
A website host is, simply, a company that owns servers, often located in one or several places (called server farms) and rents out its services to customers so they can have websites. Website hosting companies focus on three factors:
To recap, website hosting companies lease servers to customers who want to make their own websites. You visit these websites by entering a domain name into your web browser, which then finds the proper IP address where your website actually lives.
Almost everyone spends part of their day visiting websites, but very few us know how websites work. Now that you know how the web works, you can let others know how important hosting companies are to making sure the web works well.Hosting Plans Compared: Pros & Cons