Hostname

A Hostname, which is also referred to as a site name or computer name incomputer networking, is simply the label or the name used to identify and distinguish one computing device from another. Any computer or machine connected to the internet can be identified by two ways, either by its IP address or by its hostname.

 A hostname could be simple words containing just a phrase or could be well structured for easy recollection. For example, the hostname for a computer connected to a home network could be something like HomePC or Guest-Desktop.

Domain Name Systems(DNS) servers also use hostnames on the internet; this eradicates the option of having to use a string of numbers to open a website. If the name includes a top-level domain label, parted by a period or (dot) then that hostname is referred to as a fully qualified domain name (FQDN). If a URL address is pctech.help.com, then the hostname is pctech while the rest of it is the domain name. The domain name is the name of the network an organisation uses and usually takes the form of.org,.com,.edu,.gov and a few others.

Overview

The hostname www.printalot.com would specify a World Wide Web server called “www” in the printalot.com domain (this is the network affiliated with the Printing and Design Company). While the hostname ftp.stanford.edu would refer to an FTP server called “ftp” on the Stanford University’s network, hence the domain name Stanford.edu.

Hostnames are readable names that match the address of a machine or device connected to a network. Hostnames are used by different naming systems, e.g. Server Message Block (SMB), Network Information Service (NIS) and Domain Name Systems (DNS). The meaning of a hostname may differ, depending on the naming system used.

Internet hostnames

On the internet, a hostname is the identifier name assigned to a host computer. This name is usually the combination of the local name and the parent domain name. The local host file or the DNS server then converts this hostname into an IP address. The hosts’ operating system uses one name for the host itself, but it is possible for a host computer to own different hostnames.

Finding a hostname in Windows

Using Command Prompt to execute a hostname is the easiest way to show what the hostname of the computer being worked on is. This method opens up a terminal window and also works on Mac and Linux systems.

Another way to see not just the hostname of your computer, but also the names of other devices that are connected to the same network is by using the net view command

Changing a hostname in Windows

To check the hostname of the computer you are using, a simple way is to go through System Properties from your windows device; this also gives you the option to change the hostname

Start, Control Panel and then system applet to access the advanced system settings link to open System Properties. A shorter method would be to run the Command Prompt and execute control sysdm.cpl.

Rules on using hostnames

Just like every domain name, hostnames are comprised of labels, separated by dots. As can be found in www.wikipedia.com (hostname). The length of every label must not exceed 63 characters, and the full hostname, which includes the dots, can contain no more than 253ASCIIcharacters.

The rules on hostnames were made consistent in the initial host name specification “DOD Internet Host Specification Table”. The text states the hostname would be a text string, which consists of the characters A to Z (both upper and lowercase), Numbers 0 to 9, the minus sign (-) and the dot or period (.). The first character in the name must be an alphabet, and the last character must not be a period (.) or a minus sign. The period (.) is only allowed as the last character if it is the delimiter of the domain name. It also specifies that hostname labels must not start with a number or the minus sign. Another version of the specification table however allowed hostname labels to start off with digits. Punctuation marks and symbols are not permitted.

Choosing a good hostname for your Computer

The point of selecting a proper hostname lies with the system administrator or owner of the computer. A certain ground needs to be established that no two computers in the same domain space can have the same hostname. Here are a few guidelines to getting a good hostname

  • Avoid using alternate spellings
  • Use memorable words
  • Stay away from domain and domain-like names e.g. (forget.com)
  • Avoid using long and embarrassing names
  • Use real words and names that are rarely used
  • Do not use digits at the beginning of the name
  • Do not use Alpha-Numeric Characters

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