What’s the Difference Between Domain Name
and Web Hosting?
You’re just getting into the world of the web. You plan on making your own website, maybe a blog, or even an e-commerce website to help you put money in your pocket. However, you have a problem. You don’t know very much about making websites, website hosting, and everything that goes into running a site.
If you have been looking into making your own site, you have probably come across some terms you may not be familiar with.
Two terms that you will see often here, ones that can be confusing to differentiate between, are ‘domain name’ and ‘web hosting.’ These are not the same things, although they are related. So, what’s the difference between domain name and web hosting?
What is a Domain Name?
In simplest terms, a domain name is the address of a website. For example, ‘www.xxxxxxx.com’ would be a domain name. Before any website can be set up, there needs to be a domain name. It’s the address that people type into their browser’s navigational bar. When you set up a website, you need to own your own domain name, because this is what the address to your site will be.
Not more than one person can own or use the same domain name, but domain names can also be leased or rented, although this really is not recommended. Keep in mind that a domain name is nothing physical. You can’t touch it with your hands.
A domain name is more or less the same thing as a human name, but for a website as opposed to a human. However, unlike humans, where multiple people can be named ‘Jeff,’ there can only be one website named ‘www.Jeff.com.’ A certain domain name is unique to a specific website.
Let’s also keep in mind that there are various levels of domains, which are separated by the periods you see in the domain names. There are subdomains, usually ‘www,’ then there are second level domains, something like ‘Amazon’ or ‘Google,’ and then there are top level domains, such as ‘.com’ or ‘.org.’ Put all domain levels together and you get something like ‘www.Google.com.’
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting on the other hand is where that website is stored. Web hosting requires a physical computer or processing unit combined with a server. You can think of this like a storage unit where you would store clothes, furniture, and whatever else, but instead of physical belongings, web hosting is where the website is stored, or in other words, the HTML, documents, images, video, and everything else that comprises a website.
A web hosting server is the home or the storage unit for the website. In most cases, web hosting refers to a specific company which rents out its physical equipment and its servers to others with the aim of making a profit by storing these sites. Unlike a domain name, this is not just an address or the name of the site, but where all site info, and yes, the site itself is stored.
What is important to note is that web hosting companies often do much more than just host and store website information; they can do other things, such as domain registration for one.
A web hosting provider will usually allow you to buy and manage your domain names through them, making things much more convenient because all website aspects can be managed from the same provider. Web hosting companies also often offer basic hardware for hosting; they may offer website builders; and they may offer email hosting as well.
Domain Name vs. Web Hosting – A Simple Analogy
To try and put this in a very simple way, let’s use an analogy. The domain name is the specific address of the site, whereas as the web host is the actual land which that address can be found in.
Web Hosting and Domain Names – Combined vs. Separate
What is important to note is that it is not necessary to buy and manage your domain name from the same source that handles your web hosting; however, it is possible to get your domain name and get your web hosting service from the same provider.
Therefore, it’s probably good to know what the respective advantages and disadvantages are for getting your domain name and web hosting from the same provider and from separate providers.
Buying Domain and Hosting Together
The most common way of creating a fully functional website, what most people do, is to buy the domain name and the web hosting service from the same company.
The majority of website hosting providers will also provide domain name services, and this also tends to be true for the other way around as well. Even better, many web hosting services even offer free domain names for a certain period of time when you purchase a hosting plan.
Why might you consider buying your domain name and the web hosting from the same company?
- Usually more cost effective – discounts and bundles
- Much simpler to deal with
- Very convenient
- You can get support and assistance in one place
- You usually won’t need to make additional configurations
Why might you not want to get your domain name and web hosting from the same source?
- Much harder to transition to a new company
- Can be expensive in the long term – expensive domain renewals
- Can be difficult to manage multiple domains
- You may suffer from a loss in specialization of services
Buying Domain and Hosting Separately
You may also choose to buy your domain name from a different provider than the one providing your web hosting service. What considerations should you take into account?
Why might you want to consider buying your domain and web hosting from different sources?
- Generally more cost effective in the long run
- You will get specialized service for both
- Generally has fewer commitments that need to be made
Why might it not be ideal to get your domain and web hosting from different companies?
- Probably won’t get any short term deals
- Will require additional steps for configuration
- Will need to get support from different companies
- Not very convenient
Whether you get your domain name and web hosting from the same place or from two different companies is totally up to you; both have their advantages and disadvantages. However, one way or another, you need both of these things to set up a functional website.