Last Updated: February 2, 2023
What is a host in terms of computer networks and IT infrastructure? What types of hosts are there? And how does it differ from a network server? This article addresses these questions as you learn more about hosts, networks, types of hosts, and servers. We also answer your most challenging questions about hosting services.
What Is a Host?
A host (or network host) is a device that links with other hosts on a network. It can either be a client or a server that sends and receives applications, services, or data. Hosts have their unique IP address on a TCP/IP network, consisting of the device’s local number and the network number it belongs to.
In the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model, protocols are responsible for host communication. Hosts use various protocols. Examples include transmission control protocol (TCP) and user datagram protocol (UDP). The term ‘host’ is also used flexibly in the IT industry and a variety of contexts.
What Is Host IP Address?
The IP address essentially serves as the physical address of a computer in a network. For example, on the internet, the host address is the IP address of the host computer. An IP address is a 32-bit number, meaning it uses the TCP/IP network.
They’re written in a dotted-decimal format, with four numbers separated by periods, e.g., 184.108.40.206
Each of the numbers represents a byte of the host’s IP address. Meanwhile, the full address consists of two main parts: the network part (the first two sets of numbers) and the host part (the last two sets).
The answer to ‘what is a host on a network‘ includes these unique addresses, which determine a host’s host on a network, allowing other hosts to connect. Thus, the network part specifies the unique number assigned to your network and identifies the host’s class. Meanwhile, the host part is the unique number assigned to each host within a network—it uniquely identifies the host machine.
The network part of the IP address will be the same for each host on the network. The host part, however, must be different.
What Is a Hostname?
While a host in networking may refer to any device on a network, a hostname refers to the label given to a specific device. Thus, it helps distinguish one host from another. Moreover, computers can find each other through hostnames, which facilitates data exchange within a network.
You can freely select a hostname. But if the device needs to be available online and locally, the hostnames come with information that shows its location on the internet. Host to host communication is possible on the internet using a unique combination of hostname and domain name. These unique names are called fully qualified domain names (FDQN), which are easily readable.
An example FDQN would be www.example.com, where “www” is the hostname, “example” is the second-level domain, and “.com” is the top-level domain.
Unlike humans, computers read through numeric IP addresses. To translate the alphanumeric FDQN into a numeric IP address, computer hosts use the domain name system (DNS). The domain name is assigned to a corresponding IP address, which will then call up the page you want.
The ‘www’ hostname is the most conventional name for a web server. If the server is for mobile devices, the hostname is usually marked as ‘m’ (e.g., m.example.com). Sometimes, the hostname refers to a specific location or country. You won’t need to create new top-level domains. Take ca.example.net, for example, where ‘ca’ is the hostname, referring to Canada.
|NOTE: While a shared host in networking is more common, virtual private service (VPS) hosts are becoming more popular. Website owners use the best VPS hosting services for their greater security and stability.
Types of Hosts
The type of hosting service you use is essential to the function of your website or platform. Hosts are categorized into the following:
As the name suggests, cloud hosting uses cloud technology to make resources accessible. The solutions aren’t deployed on a single server. Instead, it uses a network of physical and virtual cloud servers to host the website or platform. Unlike a traditional computer host, cloud hosts allow for greater flexibility and scalability.
Traditional hosting has limited bandwidth, whereas cloud hosting scales as your demand grows. It’s also more reliable in avoiding hardware downtime problems. Website traffic travels across separate interfaces, where it’s segregated and secured. What’s more, it typically uses a pay-as-you-go model, which differs from the flat rates of traditional hosting. Instead, you only pay for the resources you’ve used by the hour or month.
Web hosting falls under the traditional meaning of hosts—they’re devices that store your website or software resource for them to be available on the internet. A web hosting company provides the servers you need to do this. The most popular web hosting around is WordPress hosting, which has preconfigured settings for efficient WordPress hosting.
Web host providers let you create email addresses with your site’s domain name. You can also expect robust support, especially with WordPress hosting.
Like the standard definition of a host, virtual hosts allow you to put your website on the internet. A virtual host, however, uses a single web server to provide for multiple websites simultaneously. As a result, you don’t have to purchase and maintain your web server.
Virtual hosts can be configured in multiple ways. They can use IP-based hosting, which uses unique IP addresses to respond to connection requests. They can also use port-based hosting, which relies on server ports instead of IP addresses. Finally, providers can also use name-based hosting, which simply depends on a unique domain name to call up a website.
As with the computer host definition, virtualized servers let you publish your website online. The difference is that server virtualization divides a physical server into multiple unique and isolated virtual servers. Typically, companies do this using software. Each virtual server can run operating systems independently.
There are three kinds of server virtualization:
- Full virtualization uses a hypervisor to communicate with the physical server’s disk space and CPU. The hypervisor keeps each virtual server unaware of others.
- Para-virtualization uses a hypervisor but involves the entire network’s processing power.
- OS-Level virtualization doesn’t use a hypervisor. In this method, all virtual servers must run the same OS.
What is a host computer? It’s the device where files and resources are stored—where it differs from remote hosting. Remote hosts use servers in data centers instead of the users’ PCs and laptops. When users access an app or file, they log in to the remote server via the Cloud. Businesses can house multiple applications on a data server hosted remotely. They can also use hosted desktops or remote desktop solutions to let users access their software.
What is a network host in terms of remote hosting? In this case, the network host is the data center that you access through the cloud. The advantages of using remote hosting services include:
- Minimal maintenance: Since you’re using another organization’s data center, the onus of system upkeep lies on the data center owner. Little to no money is spent on server space upkeep, updates, patches, issue resolutions, hardware replacements, and others.
- Low risk: Since remote hosting uses cloud services, there are minimal financial risks. You use the pay-as-you-go model. Unlike traditional hosting, where you have to purchase and determine ‘what is a host computer,’ remote hosting cuts your expenses by letting you try the infrastructure first before committing to it.
- Convenience: You can access the applications and software anytime and anywhere you want—a hallmark of remote and cloud computing technologies. Whatever device you use, you can access the host and server as long as you have an internet connection.
- Easy integration: You can integrate remote hosting solutions among platforms. Again, as long as you have an internet connection, you can access virtually anything in the network.
Mainframe Computer Environment
Mainframe computers are computers with huge sizes and storage capacities. They also have great processing powers that result in a high level of reliability. But what is a host in terms of a mainframe environment? It’s simply the computer that hosts services to other devices or workstations.
What are the benefits of using a mainframe computer environment when it comes to hosting services?
- They’re more cost-efficient than modern cloud providers since they can handle larger amounts of workload. This applies to huge enterprises with huge networks and IT infrastructures, which inevitably leads to greater IT needs.
- What is a host in computer terms and in a mainframe environment? Large enterprises use mainframe computers as their hosts, and transitioning to another hosting platform would be impractical. Additionally, most of them already run their business applications on a mainframe; rewriting those applications for the cloud would be highly complicated.
- Mainframe computers’ superior computing abilities make them invaluable to website owners and enterprises—such power offers better control over workloads. What’s more, mainframe computer-based hosts can manage large amounts of workload over a set of distributed systems.
|NOTE: While VPS hosting is more expensive than its traditional counterparts, the truly great Windows VPS hosting services provide more power for your money. Additionally, they’re flexible and can accommodate more users.
|A host is a device that links with other hosts on a network and allows you to put your website online, manage other devices, and other functions.
|A hostname is a label given to a specific device, which helps distinguish one host from another.
|A host has a unique IP address that helps other devices in a network find and transmit data to and from it.
|Different types of hosts exist, ranging from physical and virtual hosts to cloud- and remote-based ones.
|Cloud hosts use the power of cloud technology to provide robust hosting services.
|Remote hosts, virtual hosts, and mainframe computer environment hosting are more powerful than standard web hosting services.
Server vs Host
The main difference between a host vs server is that a host is a computer, while a server is a software or hardware device that provides services to programs or devices within a network.
Moreover, the host connects to the network and enables device communication within the network. Devices have designated IP addresses that the host uses to identify them and facilitate data transmission among devices. Other times, the host uses hostnames instead of IP addresses. In this case, the DNS converts the hostnames to the relevant IP address.
Unlike the meaning of host, which serves devices, a server provides services to clients, which can be a piece of software or hardware. Servers can connect multiple clients, and a single client can connect to multiple servers. You can run the client and server on the same device, though servers are usually separate devices.
Servers are categorized based on the services they provide. Common server types are web servers, file servers, database servers, mail servers, and application servers. As their names suggest, these servers offer such services as data management and storage, resource sharing, and computations to multiple clients.
Other Key Terms
Apart from host meaning, you should also distinguish between the following terms:
- Domain Host is an internet service that manages your domain name. They use DNS records to connect your domain name with email, websites, and other web services.
- Node is any addressable device connected to a network that sends, receives, or forwards information but doesn’t necessarily have an IP address. Switches, hubs, bridges, servers, and printers are all nodes.
|NOTE: You can resell hosting services by letting a third party use your allotted hard drive and bandwidth to host their website. The reseller hosting services are quite popular among low-budget website owners.
What does host mean in computer networks? It’s a device that facilitates connections for devices in a network—it might be a laptop, desktop, or other powered device. It identifies network devices through their IP addresses or hostnames. Servers, on the other hand, provide services to hardware or software pieces. A server can serve multiple clients. Likewise, clients can connect to multiple services.
The difference lies in the type of server you’re using. With shared hosting, your website resides on the server with other websites that use the same server. On the other hand, dedicated hosting plans let your website use the whole server for itself, giving you the ability for total customization.
A host is any hardware device that permits access to a network via a user interface, software, network address, protocol stack, and other methods. Examples of host devices include computers, personal devices, thin clients, and multi-function devices. Hosts must have an IP address and communicate with other hosts and servers.
No. The main difference between an IP address and a hostname is that an IP address is a numerical label attached to each device connected to a computer network. Meanwhile, a hostname is a label assigned to a network that sends the user to a specific website.
From a network standpoint, a host functions by offering information resources, services, and applications to users or other hosts in the network. Web hosts, for example, store and transmit data for one or more websites. Meanwhile, a cloud host uses cloud computing technology to provide hosting services to end-users.
Web hosts allow users to create and store content and websites on internet servers. Meanwhile, domain hosts provide domain names unique to your website, such as www.yourdomain.com. Domain hosts store such names and facilitate registration. For example, if you’re using GoDaddy or Hover, they’re your domain provider.
The hostname—which can be freely set—refers to the unique label assigned to a host in a network. But to make the host accessible on the internet, it must contain a unique combination of hostname and domain name. These combinations are called fully qualified domain names (FDQN).
While all hosts can be nodes, not every node can serve as a host. Every host has an IP address assigned and can request or provide networking resources to other hosts or nodes. Meanwhile, nodes are devices that don’t have IP addresses, such as hubs, switches, or modems.
The main difference between the two is that a host allows connection between devices within a network. Meanwhile, a server provides services to other programs or devices within a network. Therefore, fully comprehending the question (and answer) of what is a host and a server’s function is essential for successful network setup and IT infrastructure maintenance.