What are Domain Names, DNS, and IP Addresses?

by Suzette Franck

When you want a website, you would like everyone to be able to access it easily. This would not be possible without the Domain Name System or DNS settings. In this article, I will explain the system for assigning unique names and addresses to websites and give an overview of how this works and some explanations for some of the more common terminology used.

IP Address IconWhen you purchase a domain name, such as awesomewebsite.com, you buy it from a registrar, such as Google Domains, Hover, Network Solutions, or NameCheap, who are given the priviledge of assigning unique domain names that correlate to IP addresses. Every single device that is connected to the Internet has an Internet Protocol or IP Address that is in one of two formats of 2605:e000:625d:f300:648f:bb40:4dbf:86f4 or 181.224.147.196. You can type “What is my IP address” on google and it will give you the number that is assigned to your connected computer on the internet.

Each device has an IP Address

Your website is also connected to the internet, so your website has its own IP address. This IP address may be shared with other websites on your web host or unique (dedicated) to only your website depending on your web hosting plan. The DNS or Domain Name System is merely the system or like a giant digital phone book that matches domain names like awesomewebsite.com with its corresponding IP address, 181.224.147.196. When someone types in your domain name into their internet browser, the DNS tells the browser what IP address that domain name is associated with and the browser goes to that location to display the content.

When you purchase a new domain, and then get web hosting at a different company, you will have to tell your registrar where your website is located. You do this by editing your DNS records at the registrar, which should be accessible through your registrar’s control panel. It is beyond the scope of this article to explain how to set these up, as it is different for every registrar, but in general, you would create an A record that pointed to the IP address of your web server. Alternatively, instead of pointing to an IP address, you could point to your web host’s nameservers by updating the nameservers in the DNS. You can get your IP address or nameserver name from your web host company. Another important fact to remember is that when you change nameservers, this points all web services to the nameserver for your web host, including email, so this is the more common choice.

When I first started making websites, Domain names, DNS, and IP addresses were a huge area of mystery. In this article, I hope that I have eliminated some of the confusion surrounding domain names, but if anything is still unclear, please feel free to leave me a question in the comments below.

Have fun and make an awesome website!


 

Do I need my own website?

I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn, isn’t that good enough?

Even if you do not own a small business or do not sell things online, there are plenty of reasons why you, as an individual, should have your very own website. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus are all great ways to spread your social media presence and increase your personal branding, but the problem with all of these social networks is that your content only lives on that particular outlet, to be consumed only by your followers that exist on that social network. The world is bigger than what exists on social media, and if you go to your profiles on each of these channels, there is likely to be some variance in the personality that you bring to each different network. Some venues, such as Instagram, if you read the terms of service, indicate that once content is posted it becomes part of their property to do whatever they wish.

Imagine your own content in a central worldwide location

Another reason you should not be posting all of your content exclusively to facebook is that facebook curates and chooses who gets to see your content, regardless of whether you are friends. Posting to multiple outlets will help, but where does all of your content that you created live? Across multiple sites. So, if you google yourself, what do you see? A mismatch of social media accounts but no single place where people can really get the essence of you. When you have you own website with your chosen domain name, all of your content can live in one place, open to the entire world. You can still post everything to social networks but with one online repository of all of your content that lives on your website.

How to start your new website

So how do you go about getting a website? There is a small investment; you will need to buy your own unique domain name which will run you approximately $15 a year to retain. This should be your first step, a lot of research should be going into picking your domain name. If you do not have your full name as a domain name and it is available, you should purchase it even if you do not plan on having a website just yet, as this is important to your overall branding. You can use the domain name for email even without a website. So instead of using a free hotmail, yahoo, or gmail account, you can have an email address such as hello@suzettefranck.com, which is what I have. Purchasing your domain name will also save anyone else from creating a website with that particular domain name. I highly recommend Google domains to search for and purchase your domain name, as it is very easy to setup a website and they protect your private personal information for no extra charge.

Where will your website live?

After you purchase your domain, the next step is to get a website web hosting service. The easiest and cheapest way to get one setup is to sign-up for a low cost personal WordPress.com account for $2.99 a month, which also include the cost of the domain name. While you may not have complete control over the functionality and look of the site, there is very little knowledge and no upkeep to keeping everything up-to-date and working. You can start publishing new content right away without worrying about the look too much at first. Also, you can always migrate your WordPress.com website to a full WordPress.org website later on. This will allow more control, but also some knowledge and routine maintenance will be required, as well as a legit web hosting company. I use and recommend SiteGround web hosting which is very reliable as well as affordable, and their customer service is excellent should you run into any issues with your website.

You got this, let’s build your own website!

I hope you can see now that it is very easy to start and maintain your website, even if you don’t know anything about programming or web servers. If you can write an email with an attachment or if you can write post to facebook, you definitely have the skills required to start with your very own website. There is an abundance of self-help available online for those creating their own websites, and if you get stuck, there are plenty of people at local WordPress meetups that would be willing to help, sometimes for no charge. You may also feel free to post comments below with your questions and I will be happy to answer anything that was unclear.

Have fun and make a great website for yourself!


 

Website Weekend WP Basic Training

Website Weekend Training Team

Relevant Presentations for Further Study


 

OC Women Who WordPress

suzette-oc women who wp
I shared my WordPress story with the OC Women of WP Meetup group last month. It was a lot of fun and I met some amazing and smart women at the meetup. Thank you to Jen Miller, Bridget Willard, and Elizabeth Schilling for inviting me to speak!


 

WPwatercooler #189: Educating Your Clients with Suzette Franck

I am on this week’s episode of WPwatercooler with Steve Zehngut, Drate Berry, Paul Clark, Jason Tucker, Sé Reed, Bobbie Wilson, and Robert Gillmer where we talk about how and when to educate your WordPress clients.