Let’s say you are setting up a small network for your little business. While you, the loving and caring administrator, will without doubt remember that POP3 runs on 10.0.0.9, Jabber on 10.0.0.10 and FTP on 10.0.0.11, most of your users will probably soon be clamoring for easy to remember host names. This, of course, means you have to set up DNS on the network (which you may have already have done if it’s facing the Internet) but it also means you have to name your hosts.
Host names are indeed a nightmare to assign: they need to be short (or many routers will freak out and “drop the sponge”, as we Frenchies say), they need to be easily remembered and they need to survive network expansion and diversification. For example, naming servers after your company or your department isn’t a good idea in that it may be a headache after mergers. Naming servers alphabetically or numerically may make them hard to remember as people will have trouble memorizing the names — and it may put restrictions on you as well if you need to add a server “inbetween” two existing ones for some reason.
Of course, some servers have relatively straightforward names: “www” for your web host, which explains most sites live on “www.example.com”, “pop” or “mail” for e-mail, “smtp” for, well, SMTP sending and so forth. There are times however at which these conventions cannot apply: what if you want to keep the role of a host relatively under cover? What if a single server has different roles?
The result? Many administrators resort to using cute names, betting on the fact that users will easily remember they are hosted on “Paul”, “Marie” or “Marguerite” as they’ll be able to tell themselves little stories about the server. In fact, many hosts tell their users they are hosted on a specific server upfront, and expect them to remember that information — which I consider poor form but many such companies couldn’t care less about that last point.
Let’s take a look at the Google domain, for example: there is www.google.com, the web host, groups.google.com, for the groups, news.google.com and so on, depending on the service. One of the Internet’s hottest hosts at the moment hosts customers on “nelson”, “pendrell”, “gilford” etc…
Of course, I’m simplifying here and CNAME records can ease that task considerably - one host can reply to many names if it runs multiple services. Also, in the web of today, a single name or domain does not necessarily correspond to a single host but you get the idea.
Different setups, different ways to organize a network, all perfectly sensical to the people who designed them! So, what’s your solution?