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The name assigned to any networked device to uniquely identify it on the network. This term is most often used to refer to the name given to Internet-connected devices in order to identity them over services such as the World Wide Web and email
Every computer that is directly connected to the Internet has a numerical identification, called an IP address, and a name, called a hostname. Most people using the Internet don’t need to know the hostname of a computer in order to access to it. URLs and e-mail addresses are all you really need to know.
Hostnames are generally added to the domain name in order to identify specific computers at that domain. For instance, the computer you are reading this on has its own hostname, which is appended to your Internet Service Provider’s domain name. Since there are likely thousands of other computers connected to the Internet via your ISP, your hostname allows your ISP and web services to distinguish you from them. In this case, your hostname is not something you chose, but likely a derivation on your IP address, which was automatically assigned by your ISP.
On internal networks, such as a company intranet, each computer will also have its own hostname, allowing the network administrator to easily identify individual computers. For instance, your work computer may be named WorkStation123. If your network admin needs to make an update to your computer or login to it remotely, he can find it by searching for that name.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I go to a website by entering its hostname?
Hostnames are often not publicly available for websites, since most websites and web services are hosted on servers that do not share the same domain name as the site, and many are hosted on multiple servers in order to improve performance and reduce the risk of an outage.
Every website is hosted on a server, but that server may or may have a hostname tied to the website’s domain name. It is more likely the server’s hostname will be tied to the website’s host than it’s domain. Thankfully, the DNS system keeps track of where servers are located, so you don’t have to worry about things like hostnames and IP addresses. If you need to visit a website, typing in its domain name or googling is the best way to reach it.
When would I ever need to know a hostname?
If you are a network administrator, knowing a computer’s hostname allows you to find that computer without knowing its full IP address. It also allows you to push commands, services, updates, etc. to that specific computer. If you are not a network administrator, you probably won’t ever need to know a hostname…unless your network administrator asks you to look up yours.