The biggest question for any beginner before they start a blog or a website is:
“What is web hosting? And What is a domain name? Are they both the same? What’s the difference?
It’s crucial to understand the clear difference between a domain name and web hosting. Because these two terms will appear frequently in your online marketing career.
Whether you handle your website on your own or you’ve hired someone, it’s important to understand the basics.
This a beginner’s guide where you’ll learn what is web hosting and domain name. And why there are they not the same.
What is a Domain Name
Firstly, you need to understand what is a domain name exactly.
When you register a domain name, you are registering an alphanumerical code to access your website.
Your website is only accessible through its particular IP addresses.
Alphabetical names are not utilized by computer servers to send and receive data packs. Computers use numbers.
These numbers are called IP addresses. Think of these numbers as an address to your home. You can’t find your home without knowing the address.
The domain name is a text version of the IP address.
A typical IP address looks like this:
This IP address is then pointed to the servers to access a website.
Humans can’t remember complex numbers in IP addresses. That’s why, to simplify accessing the websites, domain names are used.
The domain name is still using IP address, it’s just masked with the alphabets.
For instance, consider the IP address above is assigned to BforBloggers.com. Now, when you put the url:
The URL translates to 188.8.131.52 for computers.
When you type a domain and hit search, what you see is text. But computer servers are still exchanging the information in numbers.
Domain names are registered through various registrars, but each domain is regulated by ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). You can buy domain names only from registrars accredited by ICANN.
ICANN assigns domain names and their respective IP addresses. You can not get domains registered outside ICANN authority.
You can’t own a domain name, you simply register it under your ownership for a period of time. If you register a domain for 1 year, it will expire on the date registered in the next year.
To keep using the domain, you’ll have to renew the registration using your domain registrar.
As long as you renew it before the expiration, you can keep using the domain name as long as you may want to.
You can choose to renew the subscription for up to 10 years in one transaction.
Some of the popular and recommended domain registrars are:
Before you choose a domain name for your website or blog, you need to understand this will become your brand. It’s important that you choose it carefully. Read our detailed guide on how to choose a name for a new blog.
Next, you need to understand how web hosting works.
What is Web Hosting
A website is made up of data stored in files and folders on a server. A server is like a home for your website.
It is where everything your website is made up of is stored.
Web hosting is primarily servers you rent out from various providers. There are thousands of web hosting companies.
But all of them still provide the same thing: Servers.
These servers are powerful storage and computing devices. It’s a physical device built of RAM, network connections, CPU, and other mechanical parts. Much like your own computer.
All these servers do is answer client requests and store information.
These servers send and receive data when a browser or any application requests it.
When you access a website, the internet browser sends a data request to the servers.
The servers then respond by serving the requested files and the browsers convert them into a human-readable format.
All your media including audio, video, or any other format is stored in these servers.
So when you say you’re buying web hosting, you’re either buying or renting servers to store data.
Typically, there are five kinds of web hosting:
1. Shared hosting – When your website is hosted on a single server along with multiple other websites. All websites share the same server, hence the name – shared hosting.
2. Managed hosting – Built for WordPress CMS, a managed hosting plan gets you zero server maintenance, quick support, faster servers with low load share, and a bunch of other features.
3. Dedicated Servers – You get a single, dedicated server to host your website. No-load sharing. Typically, very high RAM and processing power. But you’ll have to manage most of the server setting yourself. Not recommended for beginners.
4. VPS – VPS hosting is where you get a virtual private server, which is highly configurable. You can scale a VPS server, tweak the speed and security settings as you may see fit. It’s complex, so definitely not for beginners.
5. Cloud hosting – Cloud hosting allows you to host your website on a cluster of cloud-based servers. You can add, remove, and optimize these servers individually or collectively. Extremely useful for developers and freelancers.
These servers run automatically most of the time. But they do need maintenance and tweaks to boost their performance.
When these servers need maintenance, they are turned off momentarily. This results in the downtime of your website.
Downtime is the time period when your website remains inaccessible. It’s usually for a very short duration. This happens once in a month or so.
Now that you know the basics of web hosting and domain name, Understanding this should be much easier now.
How Domain Name and Web Hosting Differ?
As you’ve read so far in this article, a domain name is like your home address. You need this address to find the location and identify your home.
And web hosting is your home. This is where you live, along with every other thing you own.
So the domain name is used to find the server.
The domain name is translated to IP address using DNS (Domain Name System).
DNS settings also allow you to use change Nameservers.
Nameservers (NS) are used to point a domain name to a server. There are other ways too, but changing NS is the easiest and recommended in most cases.
Web hosts like Cloudways don’t provide Nameservers. Instead, you need to point to the IP address assigned to your server by adding an A record in your domain DNS settings. It’s best to avoid cloud and VPS hosting for beginners.
It doesn’t matter what domain name registrar you’ve bought your domain from. It will always allow you to edit the Nameservers.
When you buy web hosting, you are also given a set of Nameservers. You should log in to your web hosting dashboard to check your Nameservers or ask the support team.
Below are the Nameservers, present in a Siteground hosting admin dashboard:
Let’s take GoDaddy as an example.
Go to your GoDaddy dashboard. Click on my products and choose your domain name.
Click on DNS settings and you’ll find your Nameservers there.
Below is an example of a Nameserver pointing this domain to WPX hosting.
There are at least two Nameservers needed to point a domain to your server. You can add even more, but four is enough.
When you shift from one web host to another, you need to change these Nameservers accordingly.
It would take about 2 hours to complete the update globally. You can check your domain DNS using DNSchecker.
All servers are not equal.
There are different types of web servers and their quality will depend on what price you are paying.
Web hosting provers will ask you to choose from different plans.
These plans are priced based on the server storage capacity, processing power and speed, security measures, monthly traffic usage, and uptime guarantee.
Initially, you won’t need more than 10GB of storage space, Which most of the shared hosting providers offer.
As you start uploading more media, generate more traffic and your database becomes more demanding of fast processing, you’ll need a better server.
There’s a cap on how many visitors your website can get on most shared, managed, dedicated, and even cloud/VPS hosting.
This is to ensure you’re paying for what you actually need and to protected others using the same servers.
Most web hosting providers give you HDD servers. These mechanical hard disks are slow and bound to fail repeatedly.
That’s why SSD web hosting providers are recommended. As you may already have guessed, SSD servers use Solid State Drives as a storage device.
Not only SSD is far more reliable, but it’s also super fast.
Some of the popular SDD web hosting providers are:
1. Do you need a domain name as well as web-hosting to start a website?
Yes. You can not create a website/blog with either of them alone. You need a domain name to find your website and web hosting to store all the essential data and files.
2. Why domain names are not available for a one-time fee? Why do you have to renew it from time to time?
The domains and IP addresses do not work on their own. ICANN operates, regulates, and ensures old and new domain names keep working. And it needs money to keep working.
A small part of the domain purchase and renewal fee is paid to ICANN for operations.
3. Can I purchase web hosting and domain names together?
Yes. There are many web hosting companies that offer free domain names on hosting purchases.
Some of the popular hosting with free domain providers are:
I’d recommend reading the complete comparison of Bluehost vs Hostgator to help you decide.
If you are just starting out, check this detailed tutorial to start a new blog.
I hope you’ve learned how domain and web hosting differ.
If you’ve any questions or doubts, let me know by leaving a comment below.