Users who are starting their first website often ask us “What’s the difference between a domain name and web hosting?”. Beginner’s often don’t know the difference between the two, and that’s okay, because we’re here to explain the differences between them, and when to use a domain name and web hosting.
Before we outline the key differences, we’re going to go in-depth into domain names and web hosting so you know what they each are, and what they do for your website.
What Is A Domain Name?
A domain name is the URL that people type into their address bar to access your website. The domain name for this website is webhostingprof.com – you can think of it as an address. If you navigate to the right address, you’ll reach your desired destination.
When the internet first started, domains were identified using their IP address. An IP address is something that looks like this: 126.96.36.199
While computers have no trouble identifying IP addresses to connect to them, remembering a string of numbers for every website a user visits is near on impossible. Domain names were invented for this reason; to allow users to type in a memorable domain to access the IP address.
Rather than typing in the IP address of this website (188.8.131.52), you can simply type in www.webhostingprof.com and access the same website.
What Is Web Hosting?
Web hosting refers to the server where your website’s files and databases live. If you imagine a domain name is the address, web hosting is the place that houses the location.
Every website on the internet requires hosting. Some platforms like WordPress.com and Wix include hosting as part of their pricing plans, but regardless, your website will always be hosted on a server.
There are many different types of web hosting to suit different user’s websites, just as there are different houses that suit people’s requirements. Some website’s need more resources so they can store more data, some need different features, and so on.
How Are Domain Names And Web Hosting Related?
While domain names and web hosting are two separate entities, they work together to allow people to visit your website.
If you don’t have a domain name, people can’t access your website. Without hosting, there would be no files to access from a domain name, thus no website.
This is the reason that many domain registrars and web hosting companies offer free domains or hosting as part of their package. For example, if you sign up to Bluehost’s web hosting, you’ll get hosting plus a free domain for the first year.
Can I Buy A Domain Name And Web Hosting Separately?
Yes, you can buy them separately through the same provider or different providers. You can also have your domain name and web hosting in the same place if you want them, too, it’s entirely up to you.
If you purchase your domain and hosting from different companies, you’ll need to point your domain name to your web hosting server via the DNS settings.
Sounds like too much effort? If you get your domain name and web hosting from the same company, you won’t have to change your domain name settings. I recommend this method for beginners as it’s just more straight forward.
What Do I Need To Build A Website?
You’ll need both a domain name and web hosting to start building your website. If you use a website builder like Wix, your web hosting is included within the price. You can then either purchase a new domain name for your website, or connect your existing domain name to your account.
Generally speaking, domain names cost around $11.99 per year, but some companies like NameCheap will offer a discounted rate if you purchase over a 2-year period. Hosting costs on average $5.99 per month, but there are plenty of companies offering cheap web hosting, like Hostinger, from just over $1 per month.
It’s worth scouting around to find the best deal, and if you can, try and get your web hosting and domain name from the same company if you’re just starting out.
Can I Move My Domain Name Or Web Hosting To A Different Company?
While there is a key difference between a domain name and web hosting, both can in fact be transferred to a new company.
When you purchase a domain name, you own the rights to the name and can transfer it to any company you want. If you bought your domain name from NameCheap but wanted to move it over to Bluehost where your hosting is, you can do this.
The process is fairly simple, both your web hosting company and domain registrar will offer instructions on how to do this.
Similarly, if you wanted to move to a different hosting company, you can move your hosting files over to a new web host. Some companies provide this service free of charge, so they’ll transfer your files over for you, for free. Alternatively, you can do this yourself via FTP, however, if you’ve never done this before, I would recommend reading some guides to learn how.
Remember, whether you’re transferring your domain name or web hosting, make sure you update your DNS to point to the correct web hosting provider. If your domain is pointing to the wrong server, people will not be able to access your website.