Your website consists of a series of files which are commonly called "web pages." In order for these web pages to be viewable by the public they must be stored in a folder on a web server. To get one of these folders you must purchase a hosting account from a web host.
A web host is a company that maintains special computers for storing web pages and performing functions like processing e-mail. These computers, called web servers, have a high-speed 24/7 connection to the Internet.
Each web server is assigned a number called an IP address. IP Addresses consist of a series of numbers (12.345.678.910) that can be hard to remember. Domain names were invented to simplify things. A domain name is a user-friendly shortcut that can be pointed to that complicated IP Address. IP addresses in combination with domain names work like a map system or phone book that makes navigating the Internet easier.
When you buy a domain name you point that domain to the web server your files are hosted on. This is called "setting nameservers." Basically, you are telling the people that keep track of domain names (domain registrars) where your files are stored and where to direct people that want to see your website.
When a user types your domain name into the address bar of their web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.), the browser does a look-up of the domain name. The domain record tells the browser where to go to get to your files. The browser then sends a request to the web server and your page is downloaded to browser and appears to the user.
Why You Need A Professional Web Hosting Account
"Free web hosting" might sound like a good deal but these accounts have a lot of drawbacks:
- Free accounts don't always support domain names, so your site will have an unprofessional address like http://freewebpages.com/users/businessname
- Free accounts don't offer a lot of space and data transfer. If your site gets too much traffic it will be suspended without notice and unavailable to visitors.
- Free accounts often lack important features like databases, PHP support, and FTP access which are required to create and maintain dynamic sites. Simple features like contact forms may be impossible to add if you use free hosting. Wordpress and Joomla sites usually can't be hosted on free accounts.
- Servers offering free accounts are often overloaded so pages display slowly.
- Free accounts often display large, unsightly banners or framed advertisements on your web pages.