Building a website can be a fun and exciting experience. Between getting to pick out new colors, to trying out all of the new tools available, the website creation experience is a close bond between the designer and the final product that gives us the ability to showcase information online. For users, it’s easy – Simply type in a URL into the browser, and off you go!
But what about the other side of things? How do you build a website? Where is that data stored? Is my information really up in the cloud? Well before we get too overwhelmed with the details, let’s start from the beginning.
In order for information to appear on the internet, there first must be a computer to house this information. In most cases, this computer is referred to as a server. Server Computers can come in many different forms, from the desktop sitting at your workstation, to rack-mountable equipment you would typically find in a datacenter. Whether you own the hardware or you rent it is not important, but what’s important is that this server will be what houses the files that will make up our website. This server will require a direct connection to the internet, and the appropriate port forwarding to make it communicate with the outside world.
The next step is to configure the server with the proper software. The most important part of a server computer is the software that displays the website to the user. This software is called web server software and can be configured to serve simple pages with basic text to complicated web applications like Twitter or Facebook. Some users may opt for a Windows Server running IIS, but most server computers will run a version of Linux like CentOS that powers either Apache or nginx. Most often times this is paired with an installation of PHP on the same system.
After configuring the server and uploading the information, you have to configure your DNS information for your domain to point to your server so that people who want to go to your domain can see the site. This usually involves ensuring that the nameservers at your Domain’s Registrar are updated, and you have an A Record pointing to your web server, along with any MX Records that may be necessary for Email, and SRV, DMARC, and DKIM Records to ensure your emails won’t bounce.
How It All Comes Together
When you combine the computer, the proper configuration, the data, and the network information to make this all happen, you can provide a website to people who have access to the same internet you are hosting your website on. This process is called Web Hosting. Professional web hosts like us have larger infrastructures that allow us to deploy applications quickly, roll back changes, scan for malware, and do much more than just a simple HTML page, but some companies do choose to host their website in-house if they are building a custom application.
- Server Computer – A special computer designed to operate typically 24/7 and provide data of some sort to one or more users.
- Web Server Software – A special piece of software on a computer that serves and receives HTTP requests so users can view data in a web page.
- DNS – A name system that allows computers to talk to each other and identify their networks using domain names such as ‘example.com’.
- Nameserver – A server that contains DNS software that is used to primarily provide routing instructions to users on the internet about where traffic should go.
- (Domain) Registrar – The governing company that issues and handles domain information and information about your domain on the WHOIS registry.
- A/MX/SRV/DMARC/DKIM Records – DNS Records used to indicate that certain types of traffic should go to certain places.