A domain is a human-readable translation of an IP address
What is a domain? A domain is an address on the internet (e.g. google.com) that helps people use web-based services and communication (e.g. websites and e-mail) easier. Web traffic works with IP addresses (IP is the abbreviation for Internet Protocol). An IP address is an address that is designed for computers to easily find the resource that you are looking for (e.g. a website) - but this isn't very easy for people use and gives no indication as to what this resource contains.
An example of an IP address is 192.168.0.1. This address is easy for a computer to understand, but doesn't make sense to a person. That is where a domain comes in. A domain translates a human-readable address into a computer readable address (e.g. www.google.com translates to 18.104.22.168).
Why do we use a domain name for a web address?
The short answer is because it makes our lives easier. It is easy to remember a domain name, but it is difficult to remember an IP address of the same domain name. When you are looking for information (e.g. finding out what a domain is), it is easy to go to www.google.com and search for the relevant information. Now, if you typed 22.214.171.124 into your browser's address bar, you would also reach google.com - the name www.google.com is just much easier for humans to remember than the IP address 126.96.36.199.
Initially, the Domain Name System (or DNS) was developed to make it easy for people to remember the internet address of resources (e.g. a website) and to be able to share it with others - .e.g. go to google.com and search for something. Interestingly, as time passed, domain names has become so intertwined with our language (and our daily lives) that we even use some domain names as verbs - e.g. to google something.
Why do I need a domain?
How do I register a new .co.za domain?
You can register or renew your .co.za domain online at our online store. Please include the domain name you wish to register, renew or transfer in the special instructions on the order page.
.co.za domain registration & renewal fees
It is important to note that .co.za domains are registered once, and renewed annually. The fee is a recurring yearly fee and not a one time fee. The .co.za domain registration / renewal fee also excludes any hosting fees - this is just the fee for the domain registration or renewal. Any .co.za domain transfers are free of charge when tied to a web hosting package.
How domains and DNS work
Briefly, the Domain Name System (or DNS for short) is similar to a telephone number, only in reverse. If you were to tell someone your telephone number (e.g. +27 011 345 6789) they can immediately distinguish that this is a landline, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. We can do this by the country code (+27 for South Africa), the landline city code (011 for Johannesburg) and so on. The rest of the number is split into an area code and extension (assuming that this is not a VoIP number that was ported from Telkom to a VoIP provider), but that subject is outside the scope of this article - so let's not wonder too far off-topic.
Similarly, the domain name system can be used to distinguish certain information - you only read it from back to front. The first portion of the name points to a specific domain, the second points to the TLD (usually the broad category the site falls in) and the third portion is the country code where the domain is registered. For example, www.nedbank.co.za refers to the website on Nedbank's domain. This domain is registered in the commercial (co) domain in South Africa (za).
You can sum up the domain registration concept in a single sentence. A domain is registered on behalf of a registrant, by a registrar, under a TLD, which is managed by a registration authority (or domain name authority).
The domain registration authority keeps a register of all domains (under the TLD) and the Domain Name Server (DNS Server) records for each domain. The Domain Name Server records point to the Domain Name Server of the registrar (your hosting company). The Domain Name Servers at the registrar keep record of all the domains it is responsible for, and the domain records (records that point to IP address) of the domain These typically include A records, CNAME records, TXT records, etc.. These records are then pointed to web servers (that hosts website or e-mail accounts) who keep record of the domains that it hosts, and can directly serve the required resource or handle the required request.
Every time you browse to a website, your computer asks it's DNS server to resolve the domain name, which checks the central registry, which points it to the registrar (hosting company), which points it to the web server, which serves the web page. This might sound very complicated to someone who has no past experience of working with DNS, domains, or domain registration - so let's break that down a little to give you a clearer picture.
Terminology used when registering a domain
Once you understand the basic terminology, the concept and the domain registration process (and what it entails) becomes much easier to grasp.
What is a registrant?
The registrant is the person or company that registers a domain - the owner of the domain that is (or will be) using it. A domain is usually registered for exclusive use by a single person, company or organisation. A domain is the property of the registrant, and can be hosted by any qualified registrar. This gives the registrant (the owner) the ability to transfer their domain (obtain hosting services from another hosting company) without losing their domain name.
What is a registrar?
The registrar is the hosting company that registers, renews, and manages the domain on behalf of the registrant or owner. The registrar can be seen as the service provider (aka hosting provider, web host, or host).
What is a TLD?
A Top Level Domain (or TLD) is exactly what the name implies - the domain at the top level, under which all subdomains fall. An example would be the .za Top Level Domain. Any domain that ends with .za (including .co.za domains) falls under the .za Top Level Domain.
.za Is the internet country code Top Level Domain (or TLD) for South Africa, under which all other domains in South Africa should fall - excluding generic domains (e.g. .com, .org, .biz) and custom domains (e.g. .capetown, .joburg, .durban, .museum). Any domain that ends with .za is administered by ZADNA - the ZA Domain Name Authority and all domains under the .co.za TLD are registered on ZACR - the ZA Central Registry (administered by UniForum SA).
What is a .co.za domain?
A .co.za domain is a commercial domain under the .za TLD administered by UniForum SA. In general, that means a .co.za domain is a commercial domain (registered by a company) in South Africa. However, not only South African companies can register a .co.za domain, anybody can. This means that a blogger in South Africa could have their blog on a .co.za domain, or international companies can register a .co.za domain for their South African division.
What is a domain extension?
The domain extension is the last part of the domain name - e.g. .co.za or .com. The domain extension points to the authority that manages the TLD.
What is domain registration, renewal & transfer?
Domain registration is the process where you register a new domain (that doesn't currently exist) through a registrar under a TLD.
Domains are renewed annually. Which means that every year the domain basically has to be re-registered. It is recommended to ensure that your contact information is up-to-date before your domain has to be renewed. Your registrar will take care of this for you and you will be billed for the renewal as per the renewal fees of your registrar. You will not experience any downtime during this process, it is purely administrative.
This is when you transfer your domain away from your current registrar to a new registrar (i.e. switching hosting providers). You will experience downtime during this process. The amount of downtime depends on the hosting settings your registrar has configured and the update intevral of external DNS servers. Downtime usually range from 1 hour to 48 hours, during which time your website & e-mail service will be unavailable.