Creating a website is a vital element for success in today’s Internet-driven world. It’s important to understand how they are established. For example, there is a distinct difference in how domain names and web hosting operate even though they work in tandem. Knowing how each of these function separately will help you understand how to manage and maintain your site.
Let’s put it into terms of real estate. Essentially, that’s all a website is: a piece of digital space in the cyber world people can visit from various devices. It’s really not much different from owning an office space downtown.
Instead of people walking in, it’s visitors using devices like smartphones and computers who access your company or personal website.
In reality, the difference between hosting and domain is similar to the difference in address and the actual building.
1. Setting Up the Domain Name
The domain name is what people will type to access your website. It’s the address of your digital real estate which guides people how to get to your location on the worldwide web. Instead of something like 123 4th street, it will be something like, “http://YourDomainName.com.”
A registrar is needed to set up a domain name. Many companies will act as both a registrar and a web host. This means you can set up your domain name and build your website all from one location. This is often convenient and it usually means you only have to worry about one bill every year.
The registrar submits your domain to a worldwide registry for identification. In essence, it tells everyone else around the world how to access your website. In the real world, it’s similar to how companies like FedEx or UPS can find your address by using the street, city and state information.
In this case, it’s the domain name used in a web browser.
2. Setting Up Web Hosting
If the domain name is the address of your digital real estate, web hosting is the actual land your site is built upon. The web hosting company is the one who provides you with the space and Internet access so people can access your site’s content. Many of them will even offer tools like WordPress to build a website on your digital space.
Now, sometimes web hosting companies can help you set up a domain name. In fact, our hosting platform offers this as a free service. However, the domain name and the hosting platform are separate entities. It’s like the difference of a street address and the building that stands there.
It’s important to find a web hosting company that will promote your growth. Things like server hardware, access to content deliver networks, unlimited space and other features work to improve the experience of those who visit.
Would you rather build an office on a strong foundation or one that is prone to constant repairs? That’s kind of how you would look at various web hosting companies.
3. How People Access Your Website
Another easy way to know the difference between hosting and domain is how people access your content. What they type into the address bar is your domain. If you share a link on social media from your website, it contains the domain as well.
What if you’re ordering a pizza for your business. Do you give the delivery driver GPS coordinates, or do they go by the street address? Visitors access your website in a similar fashion. Instead of going into detail regarding IP addresses, subnets and ports, people can simply type the domain name in software like Google Chrome and arrive to your site.
OK, so when the pizza guy gets to the address he/she walks into the establishment and makes the delivery. In this case, the web hosting is the Internet version of the land that building stands on.
Instead of brick and mortar, it’s hard drive space in a server.
4. Understanding Package Deals
I mentioned earlier how some hosting companies such as GreenGeeks offer package deals for both domain names and hosting. Although these are easily combined for high-end web host providers, they are still separate elements.
Not all web hosting companies offer domain name registration. And not all domain name registration companies offer web hosting. In cases like this, you would have to sign up with each company individually and set your domain name to point to your web hosting.
In some cases, you’re also able to move domain names and hosting accounts form one to another without it affecting your website. I’ll go over this a bit more in a moment.
5. Know the Job of the Domain Name Server
The Internet is powered by what’s called a “Domain Name Server.” This is the system that is used to connect website addresses to the web hosting company. It takes the IP addresses and port information from the web host and connects it to domain names.
The DNS is part of how everyone accesses the Internet. Without it, it’s extremely difficult to visit your favorite websites.
If the domain name is the street address of your site, then the DNS would be like the post office. It contains all the addresses used to make sure mail gets to the right location and the basis for how people find the property.
Only it’s more efficient than the real life post office. You’re far less likely to get someone’s mail. And, there is very little chance someone looking for Google.com would access Apple.com.
Common Points You Need to Know
Owning and maintaining a website isn’t as difficult as many might assume. It’s actually much easier than trying to manage a real piece of property. For one thing, the overhead is much lower online than it is operating a real life business.
What are the absolute basic necessities to build a website?
For any website to work, you absolutely need three things:
- Domain name for people to find the site
- Web hosting to build the site for people to visit
- Content for visitors to read or watch
All other components are simply used to make each of the above points easier to control. Obviously a higher quality of service with a lot of features will make the process easier on yourself as well as guests. But these are the absolute needs to set up your own site.
Can you buy domain names and web hosting separately?
A lot of people will use one company to buy a domain and a second to host the actual website. For example, you can use another company as your domain name registrar and have it point to our web hosting services.
Your domain name company doesn’t have to be the same as your web hosting service. In fact, a lot of people prefer domain names from one company while setting up the site on another. Usually, this is because it’s often less expensive in the long run. That is, unless you use a free domain name service with your web host.
Is it possible to move a domain name to a new company?
Many registrars will lock the domain name by default. This means the domain name stays with that company while removing any automated processes to move it. However, you can manually change these and allow the domain name to move to another company.
For instance, let’s say you wanted to move your domain name from GoDaddy to GreenGeeks. You would have to change the lock feature in GoDaddy and allow GreenGeeks to transfer the domain.
Can you move a website without moving the domain name?
What if you want to move your website to a new host while leaving the domain name on the old one? This is actually quite a common process, and it’s not overly difficult. For example, you can migrate a GoDaddy website to WordPress by copying the files and changing the nameserver information. This would keep the domain name at GoDaddy while pointing to the new web host for your actual site.
Moving a website is quite a common practice. If you do it correctly, your visitors wouldn’t even realize a move had taken place.
Can you change the domain name without changing the web host?
Changing the domain name is a bit more tricky if you want to keep your site where it is. Let’s say you want to keep the web host account but want a new domain name for the site. This often causes issues because many web hosting companies use your primary domain name as your account information.
A way around this problem is to use a web host who offers unlimited domain names. Once you create a new domain, you can enable a domain redirect to point to your website’s content.
Luckily, some web hosting providers will help you change the primary domain of your account without having to create redirects or sub accounts. For this, you’ll have to contact customer support directly.
Knowledge Helps Fuel Good Decisions
It’s a good idea to understand the difference between domains and web hosting. It will help guide you to make good decisions regarding what services you want to pay for and how you want the site set up. Don’t be a victim to someone trying to take advantage of your lack of knowledge. Not all web hosts are created equal, and some may try to sell you things you don’t really need.