Hosting and domain names can be compared to peanut butter and jelly. They are a perfect combination! Both are essential elements in running a website. It is important to know the differences between them.
It is common to pair web hosting with domain registration. It is important to know what each does.
What is the difference between domains and hosting?
This is the quick version.
Domain – This is leasing a human-readable term (e.g. amazon.com) which directs users to specific files on a website using a web browser.
A computer account (aka server) that stores and serves website files over the Internet.
A domain can be thought of as an Internet address. Hosting is the place where your website files reside.
Web hosting and domain registration are not the only things that matter.
How Domain Names Work
Internet addresses can be described as “IP Addresses”. These numbers are a long list of numbers that are incomprehensible to humans. The IP address was the only way to access the first internet addresses.
Instead of entering 192.168.1.1 for a website, the owner can register a domain which will route to that IP address.
You lease a domain name from the Internet Corporation of Names and Numbers, or ICANN as it is commonly known. ICANN provides domains via approved registrars. In one way, your registrar is your domain host but not your web hosting.
A domain name is not able to do anything by itself. It’s like a telephone number that doesn’t have a phone attached.
Registering gives you the ability to point your domain anywhere you like with nameservers.
It can be told to redirect to another site – but most often, it will direct browsers to your website…on the hosting account.
You can find more information in What is a Domain Name.
How web hosting works
Web hosting is an account that hosts your website files on a web server.
You can access your domain without it being “pointed” by hosting. However, you will need to have an IP address with a string number.
Although you can build your server from scratch, the majority of web hosts offer hosting plans.
A web hosting company is one that has a number of servers they have pre-configured and that they lease to other companies. These instructions will often include how to point your domain to your hosting account. You will also find instructions on how to manage and build your website using software.
For more information, see what is Web Hosting?
There are often a few terms that can confuse matters. These terms may need clarification.
DNS (also known as Domain Name System) refers to a service that stores information about domain names in a database. DNS responds to other domain name information requests. It’s the equivalent of a phone directory. It is also known as “nameservers”.
There are many types of DNS records, such as A records for name to IP resolution and mail records that tell you where to find your mail servers (known as MX records).
Your DNS will be hosted by your domain registrar, or web hosting provider in most cases. There are also dedicated DNS providers, such as Amazon’s AWS, that you can use to host your DNS records.
Content Management System
Content Management System (CMS), is software that lets you create, edit and manage all of your website content, without having to understand the technology used to create it.
WordPress is the most used CMS. However, there are many website builders.
This how to build a WordPress website explains the steps involved.
How to Get Started
How can you get started with domain registration and web hosting?
It all depends on your goals. You have many options to combine them to make different configurations. Although it can seem overwhelming, most options come down to three options.
- You can purchase your domain name and web hosting separately
- Buy a Domain Name and Web Hosting Together
- All Bundled Together
1. Separate Domain Name and Web Hosting Purchases
This path allows you to register your domain at the domain company of your choosing and your hosting at a host provider. The domain will be “pointed” to your hosting account.
The next step is to install a content management software like WordPress. Most offer WordPress installation in one click.
This is the path I took. You can also use:
- Domain Name Registration: Namecheap
- Web Hosting: InMotion Hosting
- GoDaddy Domain Registration
- Google Domains Domain Registration
- HostGator – Web Hosting
- DreamHost – Web Hosting
There are many other combinations and options. You can read more about my Best domain registrars or Best web hosting comparisons.
- Better long-term pricing
- It is easier to transfer web hosting to another provider
- It is easier to manage multiple domains
- Access to more premium domains and domain extension options
- Most companies specialize in a single type of service.
- If the hosting project is not launched soon, it will be cheaper to buy the domain name and web hosting later.
- Don’t miss out on short-term discounts & specials
- It is not as convenient to use the same company for both services.
- Troubleshoot problems across companies
- Extra configuration steps
2. Buy a Domain Name and Web Hosting Together
This path allows you to buy both your domain name and hosting from one company.
This is the most popular way to create a website. This is a very convenient option and makes sense. Hosting is also offered by most domain providers. Most hosting providers also sell domains.
Many web hosting companies offer a free domain name for the first year. Here’s an example:
Domain Name and Web Hosting: Bluehost
- InMotion Hosting
- Simplicity and convenience
- One company provides unifying support
- Bundled Specials and Discounts
- There is no additional configuration
- Limited number of domain name extensions (typically only the most popular extensions:.com,.net,.co, and.org).
- Only for the first year, domain name renewals are usually more expensive than if they were purchased separately.
- It is harder to switch to another web hosting provider
- It is difficult to manage multiple domains, particularly if they are inactive.
- Loss of specialization when it comes to domain services (or hosting services).
This option allows you to transfer your domain to your web hosting provider. You can either wait for a specific period to transfer your domain name or pay a cancellation charge if you wish to cancel.
3. All Bundled Together
This path allows you to buy your domain, hosting and website software in one bundle from one company.
This is also known as working with a web designer.
This is a common path for website owners. It’s convenient. It’s easy and makes sense to many website owners.
It is important to remember that you still pay for the same components as the other options. This is simply a bundle that includes everything. This is one example of such a bundle that I recommend:
Web Hosting, Domain Name and Website Builder: WordPress.com
- Wix is a web site with a broad appeal and a drag-and-drop editor
- Weebly is a website that focuses on small shops and projects with a usable editor
- Squarespace is a great visual editor that offers lite eCommerce options.
- Shopify Create an eCommerce storefront
- Simplicity and convenience.
- Unified support for one product
- Integrated functionality means everything “just works”
- Professional speed, security and maintenance.
- Permissions lost and access denied to the server..
- Long-term, they are usually more costly.
- Inability to modify/customize certain features.
- It is difficult to solve problems without customer support.
- It is difficult to leave the company for another opportunity.
After you have activated and chosen your plan, you will need to follow the company’s steps to get going. They will usually provide a clear roadmap to help you get your website up and running.
It is important to know the differences between web hosting and domain registration if you are thinking about a website project.
They can work together, but they also act as different products.
No matter if you use a hosting company, or bundle services, a domain is essential for any website project.
Learn more about domain names and website hosting.
If you are certain of the domain name that you desire, you can go immediately to one of the domain registrars that I recommend.
You can find alternatives to these companies by reading my article on the best domain registry.
After you have purchased a domain name, you need to decide which is the best hosting or best website creator.