What Exactly? The Ins and Outs of Subdomains

Domain

www.merriam-webster.com is pretty much the go-to online dictionary of choice these days, and it offers a full 10 different categorical definitions for the word domain, but most people will understand it to mean ‘space thats yours.’ The prefix ‘sub-‘ generally indicates a state of being beneath or under the suffix, whether literally or figuratively. Here at 4GoodHosting, we’re web hosting experts in Canada but we’re the furthest thing from that when it comes to dictionaries.

Just this once though we’ll take a dissection approach to the word subdomain, and talk briefly about how it relates to web hosting as a whole. If we’re taking the literal meaning of it based on what’s explained above, it means ‘under space’ and while that’s vague and indeterminate it’s still fairly applicable.

A subdomain is the part of the website address before the domain name. More in sticking with our definition here though, subdomains are known as ‘third level’ domains, or canonical names, and as such they’re ‘beneath’ a website’s standard URL that’s registered, recognized, and functional within web directories. To put it more simply and understandably, a website’s URL will begin with the very recognizable http: (hyper text transfer protocol) – but you’re probably more familiar with it as it’s subdomain – www.______. com / ca etc etc.

Let’s use Merriam-Webster again as our example here. Their URL is https://www.merriam-webster.com/ but you’ll know them and link them with subdomain shown up on the first line of this blog post. That’s a subdomain!

So why subdomains?

Subdomains are commonly used to categorize portions of the website, and they can be easily moved to another server if the category gets very popular.

Subdomains are also used by free web hosting providers to resell web space under their own domain name (e.g. http://membername.hostname.com). Each member will have their subdomain, but every one of them there will still share the domain name of the hosting provider.

Subdomain names are also practical to balance the web servers for a high traffic website. Multiple web servers are assigned different subdomains like www.sitename.com, www1.sitename.com, www2.sitename.com etc, though each of them contain the same application code. When the request comes from the browser, the load balancing software redirects it to one of these servers. DNS load balancing is a simple method of load balancing using subdomains pointing to different IP addresses.

Webmaster Considerations

First and foremost, subdomains makes the URLs shorter and easier on the eyes. It allows website owners to categorize the content of the website, and – most importantly – facilitates better search engine rankings as most engines treat the subdomain as a separate website address.

However, there are certain things to consider before setting up subdomains for your website.

One of particular note is that if you use cookies in your website. A cookie set from a subdomain cannot be read from the main domain, and vice versa because of the security association feature tied to the domain which set it. This is also true for session cookies. If the user is logged in on the main site, and then moves to a subdomain, the subdomain site will not be able to access the same session cookie, and will assign a new session – which then forces the user to log in again. Implementing URL rewrites instead of session cookies is the common solution here, but it’s something a webmaster needs to be aware of.

In addition, your website stats will often not include the statistics of the subdomains and you’ll have to set up separate statistics for your subdomains. Subdomains allow a website to be broken down into smaller pieces without losing the brand image associated with the domain name. The subdomains can be hosted on separate servers in order to reduce the burden on the main domain hosting server.

Many web hosting providers do not provide subdomains in their hosting packages and / or charge extra for subdomain setup and maintenance. It’s also common that if you have a subdomain and want to move your site, you have to choose a provider which supports subdomains.

So if you’re looking for Canadian web hosting with subdomains included, we’ve got that for you with our Business and Advanced web hosting packages, competitively priced and featuring all the rock-solid reliability that 4GoodHosting is known for.

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