What’s the Difference Between a Domain Name and Hosting?
Let’s put an end to your doubts once and for all by answering what’s the difference between domain name and hosting.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is one of the most common questions asked by people who are looking to build their first website. In this post, we will not only explain each of these terms but we will also give you some helpful insights that will help you make the right choice.
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain name is what you will find right now when you look at the top of this very page, in the address bar of your web browser. Our domain name is gracethemes.com.
Every website on the internet has its own, unique domain name. In essence, the domain name is the human-friendly version of the site’s IP address.
But what is that? It’s a combination of numbers and dots that every online device has. Its purpose is to identify each device connected to the web, making browsing and sharing possible. An IP address usually looks something like this: 126.96.36.199.6.
If you translate this to the non-digital world, your site’s IP would be the GPS coordinates, while the domain name would be your home address. When someone asks you where you live, you will say the address, as it is much easier to remember, even though coordinates are far more precise.
Why Does the Domain Name Matter?
We already described the most obvious reason why the domain name matters, and that is convenience. It makes your site’s name much more user-friendly and easier to share.
But, your domain name also matters when it comes to branding. If you have a short and effective domain name that is easy to remember but also associate to your business, it will do wonders for your brand. That’s primary because once you buy the domain name, it stays yours forever unless you decide to cancel it or stop paying the registrar.
Also, while it is possible to change your domain name or have multiple domain names that point to a single website, it would be ideal to make the right choice right at the start. Changing your domain name later can be detrimental to your brand.
The domain name also matters for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, as it is a ranking signal. If you have your main keyword in the domain name, your site is more likely to rank better. This used to be much more important a few years ago, but it still matters today.
The domain name is often the first thing people type when they want to access your website. And you probably know the old saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
What to Look for When Buying a Domain Name?
To get a domain name for your website, you will need to visit a domain name registrar first. Those websites are like giant phonebooks that list domain names of every site on the planet. Using their search, you can check if the domain name you want to purchase is available. If it is, you can go ahead and purchase it.
The good thing about purchasing a domain name is that you don’t need to spend a fortune in order to get one. The tricky part is finding the one that meets your brand/business needs, but once you do, it makes sense to get the cheapest domain available.
The whole point is to have your website’s IP tied to the domain name, so there’s absolutely no reason why you should go the fancy and more expensive route.
What Is Web Hosting?
If the domain name is the address of your website, web hosting is the actual place where that address points to. It is a server where all of the site’s information is stored.
The IP address hidden behind a domain name points to a single server where all the website data is located. That server is actually a computer, and your web hosting company runs it for you. Their job is to keep your site up all the time, taking care of security, maintenance, and a plethora of other things, all depending on your hosting plan.
Without a web hosting company, it would be next to impossible to have a website that is available around the clock.
Web hosting companies specialize in creating a stable environment for your website. They have advanced security measures, both physical and digital, as well as state-of-the-art infrastructure to ensure maximum speeds and consistent site availability, all the time.
Of course, nothing is perfect, so your site can still sometimes go down. But, it will happen much less often if professionals take care of it, at least when compared to having your server stored at your office closet.
Why Does Web Hosting Matter and What To Look for When Choosing It?
Choosing the right web host is one of the most important decisions you can make for your website. In essence, your host is the backbone of your site, and the choice affects many vital parts of it, such as:
Security. It is essential that you pick a web host that has a proven track record when it comes to security. You want the data center to be protected physically from hazards such as fire, floods, as well as power shortages, but also digitally, from hack attempts, malware, and similar online threats.
Speed. Your hosting company needs to have the latest technology, which will ensure maximal speeds. This is not only vital for the user-experience, as nobody is willing to wait 10 seconds for each page to load. However, it is also crucial for ranking, as even Google encourages you to make your site fast.
Business reputation. This one is huge. If your website is supported by an unreliable host, your (potential) customers won’t be able to reach you. Instead, they will find one of your competitors that has a working website, and your business will suffer. Therefore, if you plan to build a business website, you must make the right choice, even if it costs a bit more.
Customer support. You want to sign up with a web hosting company that has premium support available to you 24/7. This is more important than it might initially seem, but you will understand it immediately when you come across issues for the first time.
Having a host that has support available around the clock and through different methods such as tickets, phone, mail, and live chat, is one of the central factors that separate good companies from bad ones.
Advanced features. While the primary purpose of every web host is to keep your site up and running, you can go a step further and get a better hosting plan with more extras. These can include your own private server, integrations with popular services, customization options, more freedom for advanced users, and other features.
If you run an online store, you should consider signing up with an eCommerce hosting company such as Woocart. That will ensure you have a team of experts at hand, ready to help you with any issue your customers might experience on your site.
Domain Name vs. Web Hosting: The Bottom Line
The domain name and web hosting are different, but both are essential if you plan to run a successful website. You need to get a great domain name to make it easier for visitors to come to your site. On the other hand, you need a stable host that will make sure your website is up all the time.
When buying a domain name, it isn’t unreasonable to find a cheap option, as it is more or less just about getting a unique name. As for the hosting, it is a better idea to stretch your budget a bit, as that usually means getting a faster, more reliable provider with much better support.
One bonus tip: Don’t get your hosting and domain name bundled. While that seems super convenient, it might turn problematic in the long run. If you ever experience issues and feel like you want to change, it will be much easier to switch providers/registrars if you don’t have all your eggs in a single basket.