Host (network)

A host (also known as “network host”) is a computer or other device that communicates with other hosts on a network. Hosts on a network include clients and servers — that send or receive data, services or applications.

Hosts typically do not include intermediary network devices like switches and routers, which are instead often categorised as nodes. A node is also a broader term that includes anything connected to a network, while a host requires an IP address. In other words, all hosts are nodes, but network nodes are not hosts unless they require an IP address to function.

Different types of host

The term host is used in several other areas within the information technology field, carrying a slightly different meaning depending on the context.

Web Host – For companies or individuals with a website, a host is a web server that stores and transmits the data for one or more websites. A host can also refer to the service provider that leases this infrastructure, which is known as hosting.

Cloud Host – A cloud host is based on cloud computing technologies that allow a number of servers to act as one system in which website performance can be guaranteed by multiple machines. It often includes a network of servers pulling from different data centres in different locations. Cloud hosts operate as a service that allows clients to buy as much of the service as they need. Cloud hosting is an alternative to hosting a website on a single server.

Virtual Host – The term virtual host has two uses. One refers to the technology used to run multiple domains or applications on a single physical server, and the second refers to companies that sell virtual infrastructure services.

Remote Host – In this context, a remote host is in a different physical location than the user accessed using a private network or the internet, which provides users with remote access. Examples include servers that can be logged into remotely or a host computer for a remote desktop.

Hostname –  A hostname is a plain text name identifying a host in a given domain. On a local area network (LAN), a server‘s hostname might be a nickname like mailserver1. On the internet, a hostname makes up part of a web address and has three parts: the subdomaindomain name and top-level domain. 

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