Web hosting services often come with domain registration. Illustrated is a network data server with realistic cloud | Courtesy Photos.
Web hosting services often come with domain registration. Illustrated is a network data server with realistic cloud | Courtesy Photos.

There’s a common question being asked by quite a few newcomers to the web hosting scene (and some who are already somewhat familiar with it, too): are domain names and web hosting the same thing? And, if not, what is the difference between the two?

This question get asked quite often, mainly because there does exist some overlap between domain names and web hosting. Additionally, web hosting services often come with domain registration, muddying the waters even more.

This article will help clear the air on the issue, giving you a clear idea of how these two differ.

So without further ado, let’s begin by defining what domain names are.

Domain Names

Quite simply put, a domain name is your site’s address. It’s how people find your website through their browsers – they type in the domain name and your site appears either directly or on the results page of a search engine, depending on how they went about the search.

To go into a bit more detail, the Internet indexes sites via number strings. These strings are called IP addresses, and the Internet has no problem recognising them. However, humans would have a much harder time trying to do so.

To remedy this, domain names were invented. They’re mostly made up of words, which we tend to remember just fine. So the names act as a kind of translation tool between people and the Internet: we type in the words, the words get converted into an IP address, the site we need is located, and everybody’s happy.

A domain name has to follow a certain set of rules in order to be effective. The most vital of them are the following: an ideal domain name is short, understandable, memorable, and relevant to the site’s topic.

SafeAtLast, Dotcom and Buzzfeed are terrific examples of a good domain names. It’s brief and it makes sense, meaning people will easily remember it. It has a dramatic flair to it, so it will probably stick with you. Finally, they deal with home security, and the name fits with their business.

Now that domain names have been explained, we can move on to the other half of this conundrum: web hosting.

Web Hosting

To put it simply once again, web hosting is where all your site’s data is stored. Said data – files, images, HTML and the like – is usually stored in specialised computers, and web hosting agencies exist to provide this hardware and the maintenance it requires.

Anyone looking for web hosting service will come across two kinds of platforms: shared and dedicated. Shared hosting entails keeping data for more than one website on a single server machine, while with dedicated hosting only one site occupies a machine.

Both of these have their own perks and pitfalls. The shared type is cheaper, but slower due to bandwidth and disk space restrictions, while the dedicated variety gives you more options and control of a faster, safer site, although at a much higher price.

As mentioned earlier, most web hosting providers also offer domain names. There’s a debate over whether you should have the web host responsible for your name as well, but the general consensus states that it’s smarter to keep the domain name and web hosting apart.

The main reason for this is that if your web host goes under, you won’t risk your domain name sinking along with it. Domain names are particularly troublesome to acquire, especially good ones, so losing that would actually be worse than losing your web hosting.

While reputable agencies likely won’t go down just like that, you would still be wise to prevent a potential problem from becoming a very real one.

The Takeaway

Although domain names and web hosting do share similarities at a glance, they are in fact quite different matters. While the former is a way for people to find a site, the latter is where the site is stored. Hopefully this article managed to de-muddy the waters on the topic, so to speak, giving you a better understanding of how both work.