If you’re an absolute beginner in the world of websites, URLs, and IP addresses, you might not know the difference between a web host and a domain name. These are the two most commonly confused pieces of information for many prospective website builders.
In this article, we’ll let you know the difference between a domain name vs. web hosting, so you don’t mix them up when you’re pitching your website to future stakeholders.
What’s Website Hosting?
Website hosting is done by companies that have private servers where all your website data is stored. Theoretically, you can host your website by turning your basement, attic, or a level in your corporate headquarters into a server farm. However, you’ll have to make a significant investment in server equipment, building construction, and power because server farms require a lot of electricity, heat management, and personnel to run.
Most people rent server space from private companies like Hostinger, Host Papa, and SiteGround, so they don’t have to invest in infrastructure. These companies are called web hosting providers, and they have data centers all over the world. If you’re doing business in Europe, for example, web hosts might store your data in Amsterdam or Stockholm. The connection between the website and you, its administrator, must always be immediate and reliable.
Web hosting providers will keep your website’s pictures, sounds, videos, and other information readily accessible inside their data centers. When a customer visits your site in the wee hours of the night, they can still make purchases or view your products. Data centers are managed by robots and security professionals who keep them running and stable throughout the years.
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What Are Domain Names?
Domain names are the easily recognizable brands that web developers and bloggers make into web addresses. People type these addresses into the address bar of a web browser to access the products and services a company or an individual offers. For example, YouTube is the property of Google, but you wouldn’t type in google.com in the address bar of Chrome or Firefox to access YouTube. Instead, you key in youtube.com because that is YouTube’s domain name.
Domain names are different from IP addresses, although that’s where they originated. In the early days of the internet, people used to type in eight-digit long IP addresses into web browsers to access the content they wanted. In certain parts of the internet, like the deep web and the dark web, IP addresses still rule because the creators of websites in those spheres don’t want them remembered as brands.
People grew tired of memorizing confusing numbers to get to a website, so domain names or URLs became a solution. Now, instead of typing numbers like 220.127.116.11, you could type in Facebook.com or reddit.com without the affixed Http.
How Domain Names and Website Hosting Work Together
Many website hosting providers pack in a domain name with their hosting packages because people compete for the most catchy domain names on the internet. For example, if you want to launch a fashion website called Red Hat, you’ll have to buy the domain name from redhat.com, an American company that sells open-source software. For domain names that are still free, you need a registrar who will rent it to you.
Registrars are responsible for routing people into a web hosting server where your website’s data is stored. Without a registrar, you will only own a domain name to an empty website.
Domain names by their nature can only be rented and not purchased because they will always need a router to direct people to where your website’s pictures, sounds, and texts are stored. You can be your website’s registrar, but as mentioned above, it will entail a significant investment in IT infrastructure.
Can I Buy Just One of Them?
Most web hosting providers throw in a free domain name with their offerings, so it won’t make much sense to purchase one separately. However, if you already have an established domain and want to switch web hosting providers, many web hosts offer free migration to their platform.
You can buy a domain name from a company other than your web host, but it’s generally not recommended. Having the same web host and domain name router is more straightforward and cost-effective.