Understanding the difference between a domain name and web hosting will greatly help your understanding of looking after and managing your website.
What’s a domain name?
A Domain Name is your address on the internet. You register a domain name so that people will be able to search for or connect to your website.
The Internet uses numbers called IP Addresses to make connections. Numbers are not human friendly. A domain names main purpose is to convert a human readable name into an IP Address.
Typically Australian domain names tend to end in .com.au or .net.au but they can also end in .com or one of the many other hundreds of options available. These are called domain extensions or top level domains.
Your domain belongs to you when you register it. It’s important to make sure that when you register a domain name you do so in your legal entity name. Changing it later can incur additional costs.
A domain registrar is a company that is responsible for keeping your domain registered and active. Most registrations are performed via a web hosting company on your behalf. This where the domain name and hosting confusion can occur.
What Is Web Hosting?
Website hosting is where you store the files that make up your website. It’s also possible to store emails on your web hosting and a number of other possible web related services.
When people link to or type in your domain name into their web browser two things happen.
- The web browser uses your domain name to look up the IP Address for your web site.
- Once the web browser has the IP Address of your web hosting it connects to it and then downloads the files needed to display your website in the browser.
The files in step 2 need to be on a web server which anyone can connect to and download. These files are the text, images and everything else needed to show your web site to it’s visitors.
Why Does Web Hosting Have So Many Different Options?
Different websites have different requirements. However there some things that are consistent.
- The amount of storage you have available to store your website files.
Most web hosting companies also include services like your emails as part of this storage allocation.
- The amount of data your website is allowed to use.
This is called bandwidth or traffic. Everytime someone uploads or downloads a file to your website this takes up part of your bandwidth.
- Additional services such as email and SSL Certificates
Web hosting is usually billed as part of a hosting plan with everything bundled together as part of a package. It’s important to know the limits of your plan as some web host companies may be charge you if you go over. It’s a good idea to look for web hosts who have unlimited data or user accounts for example so you’re not hit with unexpected charges.
Finally the location of your web hosting is really important for your website visitors. If your website is hosted in a different country from the majority of it’s visitors then it will take a long time to load and appear to be slow to download.
Still not sure on the difference?
A good analogy is to think of it like your house. The domain name is your address. It’s how people find you. Web hosting is your actual house where you live and get your mail.
It’s a good idea to keep your domain name and web hosting with the one provider. Especially if you have multiple domain names or web sites. It’s just makes everything easier to manage.
If you have any questions or need help with registering a domain name or setting up your website we’re here. Contact Us and our friendly support team will help you with everything.