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Howdy, Nate here to provide some entrepreneurial tech tips! I’m the Tech Host here at the Hub. Many of our coworking members here at Impact Hub Boston are just getting their ventures started, and they often ask about what tech you need to launch your social enterprise or nonprofit. When launching a social enterprise, one of the first things you need is a website. Even when you’ve been in business a while, a website refresh helps you keep your online presence fresh, which can turn into more clients or donors.

In this post, I’ll focus generally on how websites work and how all of the pieces connect. I find that when I’m building a new site for a client it is super helpful to give a quick overview of all the pieces and how they fit together to ultimately make a site functional.

In terms of websites you have three main pieces:

  • Hosting platform
  • Domain, and 
  • Content management system (CMS)

All three of these pieces tie together to make your site accessible and visually appealing when you simply type in your URL. Before I explain how they all tie together I want to explain what each of these pieces are independently:

Hosting plan: Think of it as internet accessible hard drive. Of course, this is a very rough way to explain it. It’s a server that stores information; just like the hard drive in your computer. These servers are accessible publicly by using an IP address. So, in theory you could have someone find your site with a raw IP address, which is essentially a string of numbers. 

Domain: Your domain is what takes the raw IP address of your hosting server and remaps it to be the pseudonym for your IP. For example my website for Temper and Forge has a raw IP address that would look something like this: 11.111.111.11, but by registering my domain: temperandforge.com and tying the two together I effectively tell a user’s browser to take anyone who types in my domain to my hosting servers IP address: think of it like a vanity license plate!

CMS: The most common CMS you’d find is WordPress. We’ve all heard of it, but the term itself is a little nebulous. Think of WordPress and as operating system for your hosting server–and your website. This is another really rough way to explain it, but it does the trick. You build your website via a CMS system that effetely organizes all of the files on your website, which after some work, will give you a visual representation that a user will find when they type in your URL. A CMS also means you don’t need to code to maintain your site. Everyone from the Executive Director to your marketing team can post blog content, add events, and publish images. The CMS is what makes all your editing possible.

In summary: You have three pieces that make up a whole. I’ll finish this off with a final rough analogy. Think of a laptop: The domain is the brand of a laptop, the hosting is the hardware of the laptop, and the CMS is the operating system it’s running. After all of that you have a functioning whole.

I hope this helps and good luck building your site!