The Difference Between Website Hosting and Domain Names
I often find that there is confusion about the difference between purchasing a website domain name vs. website hosting. Here are the key things you need to know to keep the two straight and to make smart decisions when it’s time to choose providers for these services.
First, let’s review the basics. To have a website on the internet, you need two things:
- Website files on a server that can be accessed by the browsing public, and
- A website address (URL) that people will type into their browser in order to find your website.
Providing a server that stores all the information that makes up your website is called hosting. (And if you’re wondering, a server is simply a computer that can be accessed by other computers.)
The domain name is what people type into the top of their browser, like jessethomasdesign.com or whitehouse.gov. The domain name points the browser to the server where your website files are stored. The company you buy the domain name from is often called a registrar.
Separate or Together?
Hosting and domain services go hand and hand and are often, but not always, handled by the same company. Companies usually specialize in one and then offer the other service as an additional convenience. For example, GoDaddy is known for domain registration but they also offer hosting services. Bluehost offers domain registration but their primary service is hosting.
You can keep a domain with the registrar you bought it from and have the hosting done elsewhere. This is called pointing your domain. You will need to log on to your registrar site and change your DNS settings to point to the hosting server. You get the DNS settings from your hosting company.
You can move a domain from one registrar to another. Even if you pay for your domain several years in advance, you can still have it transferred (with the time you’ve already paid for) to another registrar.
You can also transfer a website from one host to another. This involves making a copy of all your website files and uploading them to the new host server. It is best to keep your old hosting active until the transfer is complete so that you can check to make sure everything made it over smoothly.
Cost & Payment Structure
It’s easy to get confused when it comes to paying for domains and hosting because they have different payment structures.
You pay for domain registration as a one-time charge each year. (You can also pay for multiple years at a time.) The average price of domain registration is between $8-10 per year for a dot com.
Hosting is billed monthly as an ongoing service. The price varies depending on how much space you need and other factors.
Choosing a Provider
Domain names are easy – you can buy one from anyone who sells them. But when it comes to where you host your website, you want to be very picky.
Here are some important things to consider when choosing a hosting company:
- Customer service – Problems with websites are common. Make sure your host has great customer service that can help you day or night.
- Storage & bandwidth allowances – Make sure the limitations are right for the size of your website and how much traffic you expect. Too little and your site will crash. Too much and you will be overpaying for hosting.
- Script support – Not every host supports WordPress, which is important to know if you plan on creating a WordPress site.
I recommend Bluehost. It’s the number-one recommended host by WordPress and is great for all the above reasons. Hosting at Bluehost starts at $3.49 per month. It also includes a free domain registered at Bluehost.
Still have questions about how to set up hosting and/or domain names for your website? Or maybe you’ve got those taken care of and now you’re wondering how to get the site built… Call or email me and I’ll do what I can to help you out.