We are often asked by our clients to explain what is the difference between a domain name and web hosting? Many beginners don’t know that these are two separate things. In this beginner’s guide, we will explain the difference between a domain name and web hosting.
What is a Domain Name?
Domain name is the address of your website that people type in the browser’s URL bar to visit your website.
In other words, if your website was a house, then your domain name will be its address.
Now let’s get into the detailed explanation.
Internet is basically a giant network of computers connected to each other through cables. To easily identify them, each computer is assigned a series of numbers called IP Address.
This IP address is a combination of numbers separated with dots. Typically, IP addresses look like this:
Computers have no problem identifying and remembering these numbers. However, it is impossible for humans to remember and use these numbers to connect to websites on the internet.
To solve this problem, domain names were invented.
A domain name can have words which makes it easy to remember website addresses.
Now if you wanted to visit a website on the internet, you don’t need to type a string of numbers. Instead, you can type in an easy to remember domain name, for example, wpbeginner.com.
To learn more about domain names, take a look at the beginner’s guide on domain names and how do they work.
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the place where all the files of your website live. It is like the home of your website where it actually lives.
A good way to think about this is if the domain name was the address of your house, then web hosting is the actual house that address points to. All websites on the internet, need web hosting.
When someone enters your domain name in a browser, the domain name is translated into the IP address of your web hosting company’s computer. This computer contains your website’s files, and it sends those files back to the users’ browsers.
Web hosting companies specialize in storing and serving websites. They offer different types of hosting plans to their customers. See out this article on WordPress hosting to learn more about choosing the right hosting for your website.
How Domain Names and Web Hosting are Related?
Domain names and web hosting are two different services. However, they work together to make websites possible.
Basically a domain name system is like a massive address book that is constantly updated. Behind each domain name, there is an address of the web hosting service storing the website’s files.
Without domain names, it will not be possible for people to find your website and without web hosting you cannot build a website.
What do I need to Build a Website? Domain Name or Web Hosting?
To build a website you will need both a domain name and web hosting account.
Buying a domain name alone only gives you right to use that particular domain name for a specific period (usually 1 year).
You need web hosting to store your website’s files. After you get hosting, you need to update your domain name settings and point it to your web hosting service provider.
Do I have to buy them together? Or can I buy them separately?
You can buy domain name and web hosting from two different companies. However, in that case you will have to point your domain name to your web hosting company by editing its DNS settings.
On the other hand, if you purchase your domain name and web hosting from the same company, then you will not have to change domain name settings.
It is also much easier to manage and renew both services under the same dashboard.