If you are looking to setup your first website, or you already have a website, you may know that there are 2 things you must have; a domain name and web hosting.
But what’s the difference?
This is something clients ask me all the time. And I get it - it’s not very clear. Domain names and web hosting can often be confused as being one and the same thing. But they are quite different! Let’s have a look at what they are and their differences.
What you will be learning in this article;
- What is a Domain Name?
- What is Web Hosting?
- How Do I Purchase Web Hosting?
- Let’s Take a Closer Look at Domain Names
- But What About the WWW Part? Don’t I need that?
- So How Do I Purchase a Domain Name?
Ok! Let’s get started!
A domain name is the address you type into your search bar on your browser (such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Internet Explorer). For example, if you wanted to browse to Amazon’s website, you would type amazon.com into your browsers’ address bar.
Put simply, a domain name is a unique reference that tells a web browser which website you would like to display. The domain name is linked to the website and all of the files located in the web hosting directory. More on that in a minute…
A domain name is a human-friendly address that tells your browser which website files to load. Hang on - a website has files? Oh yes! Again, I will get to that shortly. Underneath the friendly exterior is a sequence of numbers and decimal points that is unique called an IP Address. It looks something like this: 66.123.456.23. Your web hosting server is set up with this IP Address and the domain name is configured to point to the IP Address, thereby linking the two together and telling the browsers where to go to find your website.
Human’s find it hard to remember long strings of numbers so domain names were invented to make things easier!
Make sense? Put simply, a domain name is;
- a more human-friendly version of an IP Address
- a unique identifier that you can choose to represent your website in a catchy way
Think of your website as a house. You want to attract visitors to your house but you need to give them an address. So you go and register your address, something like myonlinehouse.com. Now you have an address!
But you also need a house and you need somewhere to put it. So you’re going to need a plot of land to put your house on, or - web hosting! Your website is going to be made up of lots of files and folders, just like the documents and files you have on your computer. But you can’t store your website on your computer, you need to store it somewhere else where lots of people can visit it at any time, day or night 24/7/365. So you need to rent a plot of land, or online storage. Web hosting companies rent out storage space for you to put all your website files in and they do some super technical wizardry to enable the storage space to be accessible by people all over the world. They assign an IP Address to your “plot” and then all you need to do is point your address (domain name) at that plot. Then when someone types in your address into their browser’s address bar, hey presto - they can load your website!
There are lots of different options for web hosting out there. Choosing the right plan for your website is important. Prices and options vary significantly depending on what you need. The bigger your house, the bigger the plot of land you require (disk space). The more visitors you have, the more parking spaces you need (bandwidth). There’s also security, backups speed and uptime to consider.
If you’re using WordPress, we recommend choosing one of our Managed Service Hosting Packages which include all of these features and more. Contact us today to enquire.
What makes up a domain name? A domain name is actually made up of two parts; a TLD (Top Level Domain) and an SLD (Second Level Domain). In the case of myonlinehouse.com, they are split out as follows:
myonlinehouse - SLD
You can choose whatever you like for your SLD, so long as it’s available. You can use any sequence of alphanumeric characters (a-z, A-Z, 0-9), hyphens or words — but no spaces.
.com - TLD
You are more restricted in choosing your TLD as there are a finite amount of varieties but more and more are being created and released all the time. Popular TLDs include .com, .co.uk and .org but you can get all sorts of TLDs such as .biz, .xyz, .online and more.
Your domain name is created by combining your TLD with your SLD.
Choosing the right combination for your website is another challenge altogether and I’ll be writing a separate post for that soon. Keep an eye on our blog and social media!
You can pretty much dispense with the www. and the http:// part of the address. Modern browsers will figure out the http:// or https:// part automagically and the www. part can just be assumed. What is shown in your address bar will be dependent on how your website and domain are configured.
Whilst that might leave the question of how to configure it unanswered, what you can take away from this is that you don’t need to publicise the https://www. part of the domain. This makes things simpler, you can just tell your visitors to go to myhouseonline.com and the browser will take care of the rest! Your business cards will look a whole lot neater too ;)
So now you know the difference between a domain name and web hosting. Now you need to get your domain! Domain names are generally purchased in bulk by Domain Registrar companies and then leased to people on contracts with annual term lengths. You generally don’t own a domain name, you lease it. I recommend using GoDaddy. They have a huge selection of TLDs and SLDs available and they offer good prices. Some of their domains can be leased from as little as $0.99 a year! Just keep in mind you don’t need to purchase all of their additional add-on options.
You can search for the domain name you want to purchase using GoDaddy’s domain name search tool. If the domain name you want is not available, it could be because of one of the following reasons;
- Someone else already “owns” it (or is leasing it from GoDaddy)
- The registrar you are using to search for the domain name doesn’t own it and therefore cannot lease it to you
- The TLD doesn’t exist (yet)
Try changing your TLD and SLD combination until you find a domain name that is available and suits your budget. If GoDaddy doesn’t own the domain, that means another domain registrar owns it and you will need to search around a bit to find the registrar that can supply it to you. If someone is already leasing the domain, they might be open to transferring it to you - at a cost! People make a lot of money buying and reselling domain names and you may have to pay a premium to obtain the one you want. Sometimes it can be worth the cost.
Hopefully this has clarified the difference between a domain name and web hosting for you. If not, feel free to contact us for advice or a free consultation on your website requirements. We’d be happy to help!