keep it simple. say it well
websites that work

What’s a Domain Name Registrar and What’s an ISP?

One of the issues that we find our clients most often confused about is the difference between a domain name registrar and an internet service provider (ISP). The truth is that you may never need to know the difference. Indeed the only time this becomes important is when you are making changes to your website – especially when those changes involve moving your website to a new provider. And since we at Kaneworks are in the business of designing new websites or re-designing existing ones, we often need to move sites from their current provider to a new one. So let’s start with the technical definition according to Wikipedia.

A domain name registrar is an organization or commercial entity, accredited by a generic top-level domain registry (gTLD) and/or by a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) registry, to manage the reservation of Internet domain names in accordance with the guidelines of the designated domain name registries and offer such services to the public.

Did you get that? Let me simplify.

The first step in purchasing the rights to a domain name for either personal or business use is to determine whether that name is available. For now let’s skip the step of finding out if it is or isn’t and just assume it is. The next step is to secure the name. The company or entity with whom you conduct that transaction is the domain name registrar. (Some of the better know entities are Network Solutions and GoDaddy). You buy the domain name from one of these entities for a fee. It’s important to understand that in technical terms you don’ actually own the domain name – you just own the rights to use it (okay, that may be a distinction without a difference). Typically you purchase the rights to the name for a year or for multiple years. Whatever the case, at some point the domain name will come up for renewal. The domain name registrar will let you know well in advance that your name will be expiring. You can either renew or not. If you do not, the name becomes available for use by someone else.

So Who/What is my Service Provider?

Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say.

An Internet service provider (ISP) is a company that provides access to the Internet.

Wow! That was easy. Put another way, your ISP rents or leases space on it’s computer to “host” your website. In many instances the company that you purchased your domain name from also offers web hosting services as part of a bundled package. The important thing to know is that these two services are different services, and although you CAN use the same company for both services, you don’t have to. We have clients who use the same company for both and clients who do not.

Quick Reveiw:

  • Domain Name Registrar -the entity from which you purchase the rights to use your domain name
  • Internet Service Provider (ISP) – the entity that leases space on its computer to “host” your website

These are often the same company but don’t have to be.

So Why is Any of This Important?

Every computer on the internet has its own unique identifier called an IP (Internet Protocol) address. This is a sequence of numbers that looks something like this 74.201.12.111 – pretty dull. The domain name system (DNS) was developed strictly for convenience. It’s a lot easier to remember mygreatcompany.com than 74.201.12.111 and a lot better for marketing purposes as well, don’t you think? So when you put mygreatcompany.com into your browser’s address window, the magic of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (that’s the http part of the address) sends a request across the internet, finds the IP address of your website and matches it to your domain name – amazing stuff. Stay with me, we’re almost at the end. So if the process of designing your new website, or re-designing your existing one requires us to move your site to a new ISP, your new site will now have a new IP address. To make sure there is no interruption in service, your domain name – which has NOT changed – will have to be pointed to your new IP address. That’s why we ask you for the login credentials for your account with your domain name registrar. With that login information we will be able to access the management console for your domain account and make sure that your domain name is pointing to the correct IP address.

And that’s why it’s important.

Did this post clear anything up for you or did it make you more confused?

 

About Marvin Kane

Marvin has been floating in and out of cyberspace since the mid 90's and is committed to producing beautiful, high quality, standards based websites for a wide variety of businesses. He believes in keeping it simple and saying it well.
This entry was posted in Technical. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • Ryan

    So I know my IP address, but how do I find out what my Domain Name is?

  • RustyCat

    Marvin, the definition of ISP is different in Wikipedia. Can you please shed some light on this?

    • http://www.kaneworks.com Marvin Kane

      Hey RustCat, thanks for your comments. I checked Wikipedia again this morning. Here is what comes up first on a long page of information:

      An Internet service provider (ISP, also called Internet access provider) is a business or organization that offers users access to the Internet and related services.

      Clearly there are other functions offered by ISPs but my intent in this blog post was to clear up the confusion often expressed by my clients. The simple definition above is the one most relevant.