Domain vs Web Hosting: What’s the difference?

Domain vs web hosting

Planning to start a website? There are two main things that you will need to make that a reality. You need a domain name and web hosting. These two things are usually mistaken for the same, but they are. There are several differences between the two, some of which we’ll explore.

What does Web hosting actually mean?

Web hosting is just as the term suggests. It’s a service provided by a company that allows businesses and individuals to post a website or web page on the internet. Think of a web host like landlord of a house. The business or individuals are the tenants and the websites are the occupants of the rented house.

Web hosts will often take care of your server maintenance work, including as web based backup and website monitoring software.

What is the definition of domain?

Domain and domain name are used interchangeably. But whichever one you choose to use, they are the same thing. In fact, a domain name is an internet address that’s used to recognize web addresses and emails.

It is what you put in the URL bar on the browser, when you are trying to locate a certain website.

For example, the domain for this website is BlueHosting.com.

Just like your home address directs mail to your home, a domain name directs users to specific websites.

Why are the two often mixed up?

Confused Rooster Teeth GIF By Achievement Hunter
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Before we get into how these two differ, let’s look at why they are often mistaken for the same thing. It has been well established that domains and web hosting are two different services. But the close relationship they share, cause them to be often mixed up for the same thing.

This close relationship though intricate, is not equal, because while one can exist without the other, the other cannot. This means, you can have a domain name without a web host, but your need for a web host is highly dependent on having a domain name.

If you don’t have a domain name, what are you hosting?

Another reason the two are often confused, is because the two services are usually offered by the same provider. At one point, domain registrars would focus on offering and registering domains. It was the same for web hosting companies. Now they can do both, which somehow contributes to the confusion between the domain and web hosting.

What are the differences between domain and web hosting?

The main differences between domain and hosting can be found in their definition and characteristics.

Here are five differences based on those two things.

1. Definition of domains and hosting

A domain is an ID or address on the internet. Web hosting on the other hand, is done using a powerful server connected to the internet.

2. They let you access websites

Domain simplifies the process of accessing a website. Without a domain, you’d have to remember difficult numeric IP address. When you register a domain name, it allows you to use an easy to remember address to access a website.

Hosting: Unlike a domain that changes from site to site, hosting is more stable. It is a fixed server that stores websites data files so they can be easily accessed.

3. How do you register?

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meme.paessler.com/
Source: giphy.com

Domain like your website, is unique.  It locks in a specific internet address for you that no one else can use. It becomes yours.

Hosting is, however done on a server that’s managed by a hosting company. And depending on the type of web hosting service you sign up for, you may have to share your web hosting space with other subscribers.

Your web hosting options can range from shared hosting, as mentioned before, to dedicated server. There are also other types of web hosting such as:

  • Virtual Private Server (VPS)
  • Cloud
  • Managed
  • Reseller

Shared hosting is the most common, most cost-effective and most recommended, particularly for beginners.

4. What about maintenance?

To keep a domain active, you will need a monthly or yearly subscription. If you don’t maintain that subscription, your domain name will expire and someone else can quickly swoop in and purchase it. 

This subscription fee is only to keep ownership of the name. Everything else, maintenance wise, is up to you.

While hosting services have to also be paid for, maintenance is usually done by the company providing the service. This allows the owner or operator of the site to focus on other things and not worry about maintenance, upgrades, and configurations.

5. Storage for your website

Storage Organization GIF By The Container Store
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Another key difference can be found in how storage works for domains and web hosting. A domain name helps users to access a website’s content. Hosting however helps to store content.  Web hosts or hosting provides clients with a physical space to store content such as a website on a web server.

If we were to break all the variances down into one key difference, it would be this. A domain is an exclusive address and location on the internet that helps users get to specific web content. Hosting however is a physical space. It is where a web page’s content is saved and published, which allows it to be accessed through the internet.

To learn more about hosting for beginners, check out this article on our blog.

Summary

In summarizing all that have been said, it is important to remember that domain and websites are different things; created to serve different purposes. A domain is similar to your home address, while web hosting is the space of your home where you put your really nice furniture.

Remember a domain can exist without a web host, but you are more than likely going to need a domain to use a web hosting account and publish a website. One is just not that independent. But at the end of the day, one thing is crystal clear and it’s that you need both to create a fully functional website.

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