The term “host” in computer networking refers to any type of hardware device that can be used to access a network through different means such as a user interface, specialized software, network access, protocol stack, or any other ways. In this article, I will discuss the basics of a computer network host, how it works with a graphical presentation, and different types of hosts.
What is a Host?
What is host in computer? Well, in networking, a host refers to a computer or device that interacts with other hosts over a network. These hosts can be clients or servers responsible for transmitting and receiving data, services, and applications. Hosts have their unique IP address on a TCP or IP network. See the below image where you will get a clear view of how all the hosts are connected over a network via the internet (wifi).
An Overview of How Different Hosts Work in Computer Network
What is a host in a computer network, and how does one host work, you may be a little bit confused. So here is the complete overview with some graphical visualization for you to clearly understand.
- Imagine a network model where different physical machines or hosts are interlinked over an internet
- In that model, a client computer requests access to a resource or service from the host computer or server.
- The server receives the request and checks if the client’s computer is authorized to access the requested resource or service.
- If the client computer is authorized, the server provides the requested resource or service. This can be in the form of data storage, processing power, or application services.
- The client computer uses the provided resource or service to complete its task.
- Similarly, a smartphone can also be a client-host device requesting access to a website service from a web host.
Check the following graphical image for a visual representation of a network model. Where different physical devices are connected over a network (internet) and client devices such as mobile which is requesting the server for the resources, at the same time the server provides information for other client computers.
Host IP Address & Hostname
Every host has a unique IP address & a hostname. Whereas an IP address is a physical address, a hostname refers to the label given to a specific device. Which helps to distinguish one host from another. Below I will talk about them in detail.
A. IP Address
All the hosts available, need a unique physical address, called an IP address. An IP address is a 32-bit number that uses a TCP/IP network. It is written in a dotted-decimal format, with four numbers separated by periods. For example, 188.8.131.52. Each number represents a byte of the host’s address. This address is divided into two parts, the network part ( first two sets of numbers) & the host part ( last two sets of numbers).
- The network part of the address assigns a unique number to the network and indicates the class of the host. The network part of an IP address remains the same for all hosts on the network
- The host part meanwhile assigns a unique identifier to each host within the network. It is important to note that, unlike the network part, the host part must be unique for each host.
A hostname is a label assigned to a device connected to a computer network. It is used to identify the device, and it can be a more human-readable and memorable name rather than the device’s numerical IP address. Which is flexible for humans to use.
Computers communicate through numerical IP addresses, which is quite opposite to human-readable names. Hostnames, along with a domain name form a fully qualified name (FQDN), which is easily readable. Computers use the domain name system (DNS) to translate FQDNs into numeric IP addresses. The most common hostname for a web server is ‘www’, while ‘m’ is used for mobile devices.
Node, Server, & Client
Some common terms related to the host are node, client & server. You need to know about each of them clearly for not to mix relations between all of them. Here, I will give a short detail of each of the terms.
A node is a general term used to describe any device that is connected to a network, such as a computer, smartphone, or printer. A host is a node that participates in user applications as a server or client or both. All hosts are nodes, but not all nodes are hosts.
A server is a computer system that provides shared resources and services to other devices on the network. For example, a web server provides websites to client computers over the internet. Servers give various types of services such as file sharing, email, or database management.
A client is a device that requests resources or services from a server. For example, a web browser is a type of client that requests websites from a web server. A client can also be a computer program that runs on a node and requests services from a server.
All Servers are Hosts but not all Hosts are Servers
A host can be any type of device that is connected to a network and has an IP address whereas a server is a specialized type of host that provides shared resources and services to other devices on the network. So, all servers are hosts but not all hosts are servers because a host device can also be a client device that simply consumes resources and services from other devices on the network.
Types of Host
In networking, there are different types of hosts available. You can categorize them in different aspects such as based on their work, physical location, operating system, network connectivity, etc. Here, I will discuss some of the most common host and their advantages & disadvantages.
A. Web Host
A web host is a type of host that provides server space for websites and makes them available on the internet. When you create a website, you need a place to store all the files that make up your website which is provided by a web host. It connects its servers to the internet and provides you with an IP address and a domain name so that you can acc s your website from anywhere in the world. Some web hosts also offer managed services such as security, backups, and software updates. Now, let’s learn about the advantages & disadvantages related to web hosts.
- Simple to set up and manage.
- Affordable, with many cheap & free options available.
- Provides a control panel for easy website management.
- Limited resources such as storage space, and bandwidth.
- Little or no control over server administration.
- Limited scalable options.
B. Virtual Host
A virtual host is a technology that allows multiple websites to share a single web server. In a simple context, a single web server can host multiple websites, each with a domain name, IP address, and content. This allows efficient use of resources and cost savings for both web hosting providers and website owners. The server determines which virtual host to serve based on the domain name in the request. Virtual hosting uses a configuration file for each virtual host with settings such as the domain name, IP address, and website file location. Following are the advantages & disadvantages of the virtual host.
- Provides a customizable virtual environment.
- Offers better security and privacy.
- Provides more control over the server environment.
- Limited server resources.
- Can be more complex to set up and manage.
- Can be more expensive.
C. Remote Host
The term “remote” in remote host refers to the fact that the host is not located in the same physical location as the user accessing it. So a remote host refers to a computer or device that is located at a different physical location and can be accessed over the internet. Remote hosts are often used to provide services, such as web hosting or file sharing, or to allow remote access to another computer or device through desktop software. Read the below advantages & disadvantages for the remote host.
- Offers high-level security.
- Offers a high level of reliability.
- Provides a high level of control over the server environment.
- May require a higher level of technical expertise.
- Can be more time-consuming.
D. Cloud Host
A cloud host is a type of host that uses cloud technology to provide scalable and flexible resources. Instead of relying on a single server, it utilizes a network of physical and virtual servers to host websites and platforms. This allows users to take advantage of scalable bandwidth and avoid hardware downtime issues. Moreover, it has many more advantages along with some disadvantages, check the below lists of them.
- Offers scalability and flexibility.
- Provides a high level of reliability with multiple servers working together to ensure uptime.
- Gives secure isolation website traffic.
- Pay-as-you-go model instead of flat rates.
- Can be more complex to set up and manage.
- May require a steeper learning curve compared to traditional host types.
This generation has grown up in an era where networking and connectivity are integral parts of daily life. The widespread adoption of technology has increased reliance on networking. Understanding how hosts work and their role in networks is fundamental for anyone these days. Hope this article on what is a host in a computer network helped you learn the basics about hosts on the computer network.