A good website starts off with two things: excellent web hosting and a domain name.
But hold on, aren’t they the same thing? Nope, not at all!
While both elements work together, they’re both completely different concepts. That’s why it’s critical to understand their differences before creating your website.
In this guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know about domain and hosting and their main differences.
What Is A Domain?
Domains, in a nutshell, are basically your website’s identity.
It’s how people identify you and distinguish your website from millions out there. Think of it as an online address that people on the internet can access by typing it into their browser’s URL bar.
For instance, the domain name of our website is bitcatcha.com
As you may have noticed, domain names are composed of two parts separated by a dot. The first part, which is known as the Top Level Domain (TLD), is your chosen brand name or word (in this case, Bitcatcha), which can be any combination of letters and numbers. The second part is known as a domain extension or Second-Level Domain (SLD) and is simply represented by .com,.org,.net,.com,.uk, and other variations.
Below are a few examples of TLDs:
Additionally, each domain has its own web address. What this means is your own domain is unique to you and no one else can have the same domain name.
How to get a domain name for your website
To obtain a domain name, you must first register it with a Domain Registrar. Many people choose to go with some of the best domain registrars such as Namecheap or Google Domains. Others might get it directly when they sign up with a web host (more on that in a bit).
Before you do that though, there are some things you should remember before choosing a domain name for your website.
- Your domain name should be easy to remember.
- Keep your domain name short and simple.
- Make sure to choose a domain name that isn’t registered yet.
- Ask yourself why you’re making the website in the first place. Do you want to create a website for personal use? For your business? Or will you be creating one for an organization?
Now that you know what domain names are, let’s dive into what web hosting is.
What Is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is essentially your domain’s home, which serves as a storage location for your website’s content files. So, if your home’s address were your domain name, then your hosting server would be your actual home. Read more on what is web hosting.
Your website needs web hosting in order to be viewable online, either publicly or privately. When a user tries to access your website by typing your web address (domain name) into the URL bar of their browser, the domain name directs them to the files on the web server.
In the web hosting world, it’s easy to set up a website, as they allow you to install as many framework applications as you need.
Without hosting services, you won’t have a place for your files to live, so your domain will become like a disconnected phone number in the phone book. In short, your website won’t have an online presence without web hosting.
Domains And Hosting – How Are They Connected?
Just because domains and web hosting are two different services, this doesn’t mean that one is better or more important than the other. Both of them need to function together to make websites possible.
As we learned earlier, web hosting is the home of your website and where all of its files live. Domain names, on the other hand, are the address of that home. Without domain names, it will be impossible for people to find your website, and at the same time, you cannot create a website without web hosting. Capiche?
That being said, you can’t just choose between domains and web hosts, so you’ll want to get the best versions of both.
Luckily, you’ll find that a lot of the best web hosts also offer domain name registrar services.
Let me explain.
Can I Buy Both Domains And Hosting From One Provider?
Of course, you can. The same company or a different company can often be used to purchase a domain and hosting account.
If you opt for this, the setup process is made a little easier if you purchase both a domain and hosting from the same business. For this reason, a lot of businesses have started combining their two services.
In other words – when you’re signing up for a new web host plan, you’ll be asked whether you want to also get in a domain too.
Even better – many of these web hosts will throw in a FREE domain for the first year (or longer). They usually boast about this when they’re talking about their various plans and the goodies they’re throwing in.
For example – Hostinger offers a free domain on its Premium Web Hosting and Business Web Hosting (but not on their cheapest plan).
Here’s what some of the other best web hosts offer:
Just bear in mind that if you decide to cancel your web hosting plan during their ‘money-back guarantee’ period, most web hosts will still go ahead and charge you for the domain. In other words – the domain registration will not be free.
Can you buy web hosting without a domain name?
Yup – you can actually purchase a domain name without web hosting.
What’s more – the process is fairly simple to do and you can choose from one of the best domain providers out there.
Simply check to see if your desired domain is available, and then, after paying a fee to a domain registrar, purchase and register the domain.
So it doesn’t matter if you have a hosting account or not. The registered domain name can then be used when you later register with a web hosting company.
The opposite is also true. You can easily purchase web hosting without having to buy or register a domain name from the same company.
With that said, while you can buy one without the other, it’s still important to remember that a website can’t function even if one of the services is missing. So you should still buy both of them when setting up your website.
However, if you’re just looking to purchase domains without setting up a website, that’s totally possible. For example, you may be planning to park domains for future use, or to resell them to other buyers.
Domain vs Hosting: Both Are Important
In a nutshell – web hosting and domain names are not the same things.
They can be pretty confusing and easy to mix up, especially when you’re just starting out.
To recap: your web hosting is the engine that powers and stores your website’s files. Meanwhile, your domain name is your website’s permanent Internet address. However, just because they’re different doesn’t mean that you should just pick one over the other. Remember, you need both of them for your website to function.
So, make sure to choose a great web hosting service and a great domain registrar service!