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Web Hosting - Domain Name Changes and How They Affect You New domain names are registered all the time, and ones previously registered expired. Sometimes that's the result of simple neglect. The owner of the name chose not to renew his or her ownership, so the name became available for someone else to use. In rare cases, a highly original mind managed to think of a new one. In the other common scenarios, someone chose to just let it go or sell it. When you choose to change your domain name, there are actually two separate steps involved: releasing the old name, and adopting the new one. But, just as the postal system can have difficulty forwarding your letters when you change your personal name, changing your domain name brings certain difficulties. One of the most prominent is the fact that any name change requires a change to thousands of DNS Servers around the globe. DNS (Domain Name System) is the set of software/hardware components that allows domain names to map to IP addresses. IP addresses are what are actually used 'under the covers' when one computer communicates with another. Note that there isn't always a 1:1 correspondence between a name and an IP address. One IP address can serve multiple domain names and one domain name can have multiple IP addresses. For the sake of simplicity, we'll stick to the common case here. DNS servers around the world maintain internal databases that match the name to an IP address. Not all servers have all pairs of names/addresses. A series of complex routines allows a request to be forwarded when the particular DNS server doesn't have a needed record. When you acquire a domain name that used to be associated with a given IP address, the odds of you acquiring the same IP address are extremely low. In the unlikely case, for example, that you acquired the domain name yahoo.com, you would almost certainly not get the IP address that was matched with it (unless you bought the Yahoo! company). So, as a result of the change, the name/IP address pair is no longer what it was. A similar circumstance exists when you retain your IP address, but want to change the domain name associated with it. In either case, the pairing has changed. The catch is this: when the change takes place, those DNS databases are not all updated instantaneously around the world. Even apart from the limited speed with which computers and networks operate, (and neglecting the human factor if/when the change is made manually to more than one server) the reason is something called caching. In order to communicate efficiently, DNS servers are designed to assume that changes will be relatively rare. Just as with the postal system, you don't move your address or change your name every minute. Since that's true, in general, the name/IP address pair is cached. A cache is a set of stored information that is reused so that fresh information doesn't have to be communicated with every request for a web page or data. A chain of DNS servers pass requests to the last known address. There is usually more than one system between your computer and the server you want to communicate with. Most of the time, that's your current name/address. When you change the name, that pair is no longer valid. In order to propagate the new name/address pair (so the terminology goes), that cache has to be refreshed. Something similar happens when you establish an entirely new name. That name is first associated with an IP address and that pair has to be communicated to DNS servers around the world in order for you to be able to reach any one of them at random. But DNS servers don't do that until they are requested to do so by your action of asking for information from a remote server. Because of that, but chiefly because of caching, it can take quite a while for the new pair to become known around the Internet. Caches can expire and get refreshed in a few minutes or a few hours. It varies. That time can be as short as an hour or less, if the path between your computer and the web server is very simple and only one DNS server needs to be updated. Or, it can take up to 48 hours or more. Though the 'official' range is often given by registrars as 24-48 hours, the average is closer to about six hours. But that's an average. The actual time in any given case can (and does) vary widely. In the meantime, a number of effects can occur. The most obvious is that, since the name/IP address pair can't be resolved properly, you don't reach the server you want. Your browser points to the old one (in the rare case it's still accessible by that name and address), or it simply reports there's no such name at that address. So, when registering a new name or buying an old one, you should establish the site, but not advertise it for at least a couple of days. Better to wait to get visitors than to turn them off by being 'not at home' when they call.

Evaluating your Free Offers of Stuff Getting free stuff can be a lot of fun, and for many people, the hunt for freebies is as fun as actually enjoying the free products themselves. There is a dark side to freebie offers, however. Many scam artists have come to realize that pretending to offer free things is a great way to trick people into handing over sensitive information about them than can be used in identity theft operations or even bilk them out of cold, hard cash. For that reason, it is important to make sure you know how to stay out there when you?re looking for free offers. There are some things you can do to make sure you freebie hunting only brings you good times ? these common sense rules are a great place to start. You?ve heard it a million times before ? if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The reason you have heard it so many times is that it almost holds water. Think about the reason that companies give away free things. They?re usually not doing it for charity. They want you try to their products in the hope that you will come back to them as a paying customer in the future, and they?re doing it to build good will for their company over all. They?re definitely not doing it go broke. So consider whether the freebie offers you come across make sense according to these criteria. Does it make sense that a company will give you a free bag of their new flavor of chips or a trial size jar of their new face cream? Sure it does, because if you like it, you may buy these products in the future. Does it make sense that a company will give you an all expenses paid, two-week first class trip to Bali for you and ten of your friends? Not so much. Don?t waste your time on these too good to be true freebies ? they may end up costing your big time in the long run. By the same token, the more outlandish an offer sounds, the more you have to look for the small print. Sure, maybe the hotel chain is willing to give you a free weekend in their beachfront hotel. The small print in the offer might say that you have to agree to spend 10 hours a day at a sales seminar or that the free weekend is yours after you pay for a two week stay. One particular airline ran an offer for a free coach class plane ticket from New York to London. The small print said you had to buy two, full price first class tickets on that same route before you could get the free on ? at a cost of around $8,000 per ticket. Before you jump, make sure you get all of the details. Freebie offers that actually require you to shell out some money are very tricky. Sometimes they are legitimate ? after all, if you are accustomed to paying full price first class airfare, a free coach class ticket can be a real score. But many times, when you have to pay to get something for free, that is a red flag that a scammer is at work. You should never send money, even for postage, to a company that you don?t know. Also, keep an eye on the costs for things like postage even if you do know the company name. If they?re asking for $50 postage to send you a free magazine, then you know something is up. Lastly, beware giving out too much personal information. There?s no reason a company giving away free shampoo needs your bank account details. Protect your private info and if you?re unsure, move on to the next freebie offer.

Web Hosting - Look Before You Leap Companies that offer Internet-connected servers that provide space and bandwidth for a domain, for one or more web sites, are called Web Hosts. Large companies have private networks that allow them to host domains on their own equipment and IP address range. But for the majority of those who want an Internet presence, a 'rented' web host is a necessity. There are a wide variety of hosting plans available. Some are free, others charge up to a $100 or more per month. Some provide nothing but a tiny amount of disk space and minimal network bandwidth. The web site owner is on his or her own for any thing else. Others offer a range of services, including server and email administration, backups, web site design assistance, troubleshooting and many others. In the world of web hosting, you may often find yourself sharing a server with anywhere from one to a thousand or more other web sites. That allows the web hosting company to keep equipment and staff expenses lower. Many web sites are simple and low-volume enough that the arrangement works fine. When you or one or more of the others grow, it may be helpful to consider a dedicated server. A dedicated server, as the name suggests, hosts only your domain. You can put one web site on it, or as many as you wish. You control the access. You may also, as an option, take over much of the server administration yourself. That may save you money on support costs, but cost you considerable time. If you don't have the expertise, you can end up costing yourself much more than you save. In order to carry out those administrative functions yourself, even if you hire help, it's desirable to have some technical knowledge under your belt. Some of that knowledge will be useful, even for day-to-day tasks apart from dealing with emergencies. FTP, email administration, backup methods and other technical areas are among the more common areas you'll need to be at least somewhat familiar with. When your web site grows to a certain size and level of complexity, you'll begin to find it worthwhile to look at implementing a database. But that brings with it a still higher level of ability, both technical and logistical or creative. Implementing a database can be relatively simple. Designing one that provides what you want, with decent performance and maintenance that doesn't become a nightmare, will take some careful thought. Not everyone has the temperament for that type of work, especially those who prefer graphical design, content creation or development, and the many other web site tasks that are part of every implementation. There are other, more low level administrative matters. Managing disk space, maintaining domain names, dealing with registration and changes, and a number of other 'utilitarian' tasks are also not everyone's cup of tea. Some understanding of how DNS works, as well as the design of the Internet itself, are helpful. That provides a good context for understanding the role of some of those tasks. When you begin to seek out a web host to implement a web site, consider all these factors and look in the mirror. What kind of web hosting you should pursue is determined by a combination of who you are and what's being offered. Look before you leap.

Web Hosting - The Internet and How It Works In one sense, detailing the statement in the title would require at least a book. In another sense, it can't be fully explained at all, since there's no central authority that designs or implements the highly distributed entity called The Internet. But the basics can certainly be outlined, simply and briefly. And it's in the interest of any novice web site owner to have some idea of how their tree fits into that gigantic forest, full of complex paths, that is called the Internet. The analogy to a forest is not far off. Every computer is a single plant, sometimes a little bush sometimes a mighty tree. A percentage, to be sure, are weeds we could do without. In networking terminology, the individual plants are called 'nodes' and each one has a domain name and IP address. Connecting those nodes are paths. The Internet, taken in total, is just the collection of all those plants and the pieces that allow for their interconnections - all the nodes and the paths between them. Servers and clients (desktop computers, laptops, PDAs, cell phones and more) make up the most visible parts of the Internet. They store information and programs that make the data accessible. But behind the scenes there are vitally important components - both hardware and software - that make the entire mesh possible and useful. Though there's no single central authority, database, or computer that creates the World Wide Web, it's nonetheless true that not all computers are equal. There is a hierarchy. That hierarchy starts with a tree with many branches: the domain system. Designators like .com, .net, .org, and so forth are familiar to everyone now. Those basic names are stored inside a relatively small number of specialized systems maintained by a few non-profit organizations. They form something called the TLD, the Top Level Domains. From there, company networks and others form what are called the Second Level Domains, such as Microsoft.com. That's further sub-divided into www.Microsoft.com which is, technically, a sub-domain but is sometimes mis-named 'a host' or a domain. A host is the name for one specific computer. That host name may or may not be, for example, 'www' and usually isn't. The domain is the name without the 'www' in front. Finally, at the bottom of the pyramid, are the individual hosts (usually servers) that provide actual information and the means to share it. Those hosts (along with other hardware and software that enable communication, such as routers) form a network. The set of all those networks taken together is the physical aspect of the Internet. There are less obvious aspects, too, that are essential. When you click on a URL (Uniform Resource Locator, such as http://www.microsoft.com) on a web page, your browser sends a request through the Internet to connect and get data. That request, and the data that is returned from the request, is divided up into packets (chunks of data wrapped in routing and control information). That's one of the reasons you will often see your web page getting painted on the screen one section at a time. When the packets take too long to get where they're supposed to go, that's a 'timeout'. Suppose you request a set of names that are stored in a database. Those names, let's suppose get stored in order. But the packets they get shoved into for delivery can arrive at your computer in any order. They're then reassembled and displayed. All those packets can be directed to the proper place because they're associated with a specified IP address, a numeric identifier that designates a host (a computer that 'hosts' data). But those numbers are hard to remember and work with, so names are layered on top, the so-called domain names we started out discussing. Imagine the postal system (the Internet). Each home (domain name) has an address (IP address). Those who live in them (programs) send and receive letters (packets). The letters contain news (database data, email messages, images) that's of interest to the residents. The Internet is very much the same.