The Difference Between a Domain and Web Hosting

If you’re looking to start a business, you know that you need a website. A website includes many elements in order for it to work properly and be indexed by Google.

When learning about creating and launching a website, you have undoubtedly come across the terms “domain” and “web hosting.”

Do you need them both or can you get by with one? Do you have to work with the same company for both?

A website does, indeed, need both a domain name and a web hosting server.

According to web hosting service provider Host Gator, all websites contain the following three elements:

  • Domain name
  • Web hosting server
  • Site files

Domains and web hosting both play unique, different roles for your website, which is why they are both necessary.

What are Domains?

Domain name isn't the same as web hosting

Your website’s domain name is its address. Domains are the what appears at the top of the browser when your website is up. It is often called the website’s URL. Most are in the form of

The purpose of a domain is to help computers find your website on a server. Popular analogies of domains include likening them to someone’s mailing address or phone number. Without either one you wouldn’t be able to get into contact with that person.

Domains are important because without them, a long series of numbers would appear in the browser instead. This is because computers communicate with each other using numbers. These numbers in the URL without a domain makes up the website’s IP address.

Since we’re humans, not computers, domain servers come in handy by translating the long, numeric IP address into words which can be more easily read and remembered.

You must register a domain name for your website. Once you register a domain name, no one else can use it as long as you “own” it.

What is Web Hosting?

A web hosting server and a domain are needed for a website

Web hosting is where you rent out space on a web hosting provider’s hard drive. A web hosting provider will charge you an annual fee to store your website’s files on their server.  A server is device that connects to the Internet and stores website files. It is this storage of your website files that allow others across the world to access and view your website.

According to Blue Host, Website hosting provides a powerful server, constantly connected to the internet with several high-speed connections. The server is managed by the hosting company so the hosting customers do not have to worry about server maintenance, upgrades and configuration. They can instead focus on setting up and managing their own website.

Many hosting providers will also store your website files in multiple locations for additional security and back-up should something destroy their main server.

Web hosting, however, can’t stand alone as your website. It is merely storage for your website files. You create and save the layout, content, and images on the files and upload it to the web hosting server.

There are some content management systems, such as WordPress that makes it easy to work with your website files without needing to go into the back end of your account. Some WordPress hosting services make it easy for you to access your website files with one-click installs.

Web hosting works with your website domain to complete the connection needed for web users to see your website. Without a web host, your domain name would make it impossible for anyone to reach your website.

There are multiple types of web hosting available, including:

Shared: Shared hosting has multiple users on the same server, all sharing the same resources of the server. You have your own space for your website files, but other users also use the same server, each with their own space as well.

Virtual Private Server (VPS): With VPS, multiple sites are on the same server, but the resources are divided up rather than all shared. With VPS, you have a specific amount of resources allotted to you and only you. VPS makes your site run faster than with shared hosting.

Dedicated: With dedicated hosting, you’re the only one on the server. You own all the resources on the server and can control it. The fastest websites are on dedicated hosting.

What are Site Files?

Your site files are what makes your website your website. It can be described as furniture inside a house.

Your webpage files are what visitors to your website see.

Site files are usually in either .php or .html with a mix of .jpg (images) and .mp3 (music).

Web hosting servers know how to read these files and display the webpage correctly.

Do You Need to Use the Same Company for Both?

There are many companies out there that offer both domain and web hosting services. This is the reason many people get the two confused or think they are both the same.

While you can select the same company for both services, it is not required.

Some like the convenience of having everything to do with their website located in one place and managed by one company.

Others like having the option to change either their domain name or web hosting in the future so they choose to work with separate companies for these services. Having one company oversee your domain and another for your web hosting, gives you the freedom to change one down the road without having to also change the other.

Many domain and web hosting companies now make it easier than ever to transfer one to another should you decide to change it. You can also have multiple domain names point to the same site.

The choice of whether you want to work with one company for both your website domain and hosting or use separate companies is up to you.

A domain name and web hosting are not the same thing, but you need to have both in order for your website to be found and to function and display properly. You also need to know what type of server you’d like to host your website’s files on.

If you’re looking for ideas for a domain name for your website, check out the large selection of available domain names at DomainMarket. We have both brandable and premium domains available for a variety of industries. Contact us today to find out how a quality domain can get your website off to the right start.

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