A Few Terms to Get Started

Say what?  One thing I am noticing, as I start out on this project, is some confusion on terms that are used when talking about setting up a “presence on the web”.  In an effort to keep us all on the same page, as it were, here are my definitions of some terms that will be used fairly commonly in this blog.  It is not an attempt to “dumb down” this process, but we all come from different starting points.  If this site is going to be of any use, a common language will help make it accessible to all ranges of experience.  With that in mind, here are some terms and concepts that will be the building blocks for our work together.

Internet service provider:  This is also referred to by the acronym ISP and is a company or service that offers its customers access to the Internet.  The ISP connects to its customers using a data transmission technology appropriate for delivering Internet protocol information.  This technology can be dial-up, DSL, cable modem, wireless or a dedicated high speed line.  The price is dependent on what you get: dial-up will be cheaper than cable modem, cable modem cheaper than a dedicated line.  The higher the connection speed, the higher the cost to the consumer.  In its purest sense, it is merely the connection.  I say this because some ISPs have extra features which will allow the customer to build websites, store data, get email, etc.  These can be large companies like Comcast or Qwest, or smaller companies like those listed in the Washington Association of Internet Service Providers.  There are also some free ISP options, but these use online advertising to generate revenue.

Web Hosting/Web Hosting Site:  This is a service which allows individuals and organizations to make their own websites for access on the Internet.  Some IPSs offer this option as well, but its function is secondary to the connectivity part the ISPs provide.  Most web hosting sites focus solely on the web hosting component.  The rates for these vary greatly and paying more does not necessarily mean getting more or better.  There is real competition in this area, so good deals can be had.  When looking at web hosting sites, one thing to ask for is if they allow third party software installs.  What this means is if you want to run a program to help design your website, will the web hosting site allow this program to be installed on their system.  Some sites allow this, others do not.

Domain names: This is an identification label that defines your administrative autonomy  and authority in the Internet.  It defines who you are and in the case of web hosting, allows users to find your site and information.   It is set us as a hierarchical system with the first level being  the top level domains (.com, .org, .net, .gov).  A hostname is added to complete the domain, e.g.- yourchurch.org.  Domain names are registered so that others cannot use the same name.  The fees for this vary and some hosting sites allow you to register your domain through them at a reduced price.  One thing to be aware of is that your domain name is your brand.  Therefore you don’t want to compromise it by making it depended on your web hosting site or ISP.  For example, your phone company may offer free domain names and web hosting if you sign up for their ISP package.  However the domain name may have to be yourchurch.phonecompany.com.  For obvious reasons, this creates support and credibility issues so you should avoid this, even if it is free.

Domain names are actually mapped to specific numeric addresses called Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.  This abstraction allows any resource (e.g., website) to be moved to a different physical location.  The name stays the same, just the address changes.  This gives you the flexibility to move your website to a different hosting site without having to change the domain name.  Domain names are often referred to simply as domains and domain name registrants are frequently referred to as domain owners.

Content Management Systems:  Also known by the acronym CMS, this is a collection of programs and procedures used to manage work flow in a collaborative manner.  In the realm of web design and development, CMS is used to simplify the publication of web content to web sites and mobile devices.  It allows content creators to submit content without requiring technical knowledge programming or writing website programs in HTML, the underlying code that creates web pages.

So to summarize, your ISP connects you to the Internet, your web hosting site is where your website resides, your domain is the name that you will use to identify your website, and CMS is what you will use to develop your website.