Just like any other industry, those who want to build a website need to familiarise themselves with its own set of terminology. From HTML to Secure Sockets Layer, if you don’t know what you’re looking at things can be tough. Today we will look at the differences between two key terms – web hosting and the domain name.
Although associated very closely, domain names and web hosting are entirely different things, so let’s look at each in turn and then how they are associated.
What Is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the space where you place all the files that make up your website. Every website in the world needs web hosting and there are no exceptions. It is usually provided by web hosting companies which specialize in the business.
There are several different kinds of web hosting, but the primary difference is that each offers different features from one another. Within the same category, the difference is usually in capacity. The cheapest form of web hosting is shared hosting, which is also the least feature-rich.
For those who are looking to improve website performance or who are looking at higher volumes of traffic then they would need to consider either VPS hosting or perhaps a dedicated server. These cater to site owners who need more resources such as memory and processing power. Some hosts offers many different types of web hosting packages, from shared to Cloud hosting
There are literally thousands of web hosting companies in existence today, each offering multiple hosting packages, Website owners should look for web hosting comparisons to be aware of the differences between those on offer.
What Is A Domain Name?
While some people may think of a domain name as a website it is only the means by which a website is located. A domain name is an address that is used to locate a website and is what allows people to get to your site on the Internet.
The Internet is a massive network of computers which are connected to each other. In order to identify themselves, they make use of addresses which are a combination of numbers. Domain names are user-friendly ways to associate with those numbers.
Types Of Domain Names
Because they are meant to be user-friendly ways of identifying addresses, domain names can be anything you choose, if it is not already in use. Whatever domain name you choose, it needs to work with a domain name identifier to be complete. Let’s look at some of these domain name identifiers;
Top Level Domains or TLDs are the highest level of domain name identifiers existing and cover two main areas – generic and country specific. Generic TLDs are the most usual and familiar with most people, such as .com, .net, and .org.
Country-level TLDs are similar but help users identify which countries those domain names originate from such as .au for Australia, .sg for Singapore or .jp for Japan. Country-level TLDs are usually restricted for use by businesses who are in those countries.
One step removed from TLDs is second level domain names. This is when TLDs are combined with country-level TLDs to identify the nature of websites within a country. For example, a .com.au for Australia or .net.my for Malaysia extension.
While there are many more forms of domain names, these are the most basic identifying ones around and are what most website owners would be looking for.
Where To Buy A Domain Name
Domain names can be purchased at many places on the Internet but are always done through a domain name registrar. These are the companies that manage domain names and are all accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
ICANN is not a commercial company, but a non-profit organization which has been given the responsibility of managing the global Domain Name System. Just take this information as it is, since it is not vital to know it to buy a domain name.
How web hosting and domain names work together
Through the descriptions above, you can see that domain names and web hosting handle two entirely different things. Yet for a website to be accessible to users on the Internet, it requires that they work together.
Domain names need to be configured to point at a web hosting space for users to be able to access it. Users type the domain name into their browser address bars and are directed towards a web hosting space. The files you keep on that web hosting space then form your website for the user to make use of.
Without the domain name, it would be impossible for users to reach your website. Without your web hosting space, there would be nowhere for you to place your files to serve your website to users who are looking for it.
As you can see, there is a very distinct difference between these two things that are yet so vital for each other in the role of serving websites. Because of this, you will commonly find that many web hosts also allow users to buy domain names from them.
However, this isn’t a necessity. You can buy hosting and a domain name from two separate sources. New site owners who are not used to configuring domain names should buy them as a package to avoid issues there.
However, for those with some experience with domain names you can sometimes find cheap deals on some registrars. For example, NameCheap often has domain names on sale for as low as $1. Doing this, however, means that you will need to manually point your domain name to your web hosting company by editing its DNS settings.
There are also other things to consider, such as having to pay separate bills for a domain name and web hosting. One good reason for shopping elsewhere for a domain name could be if you were looking for a specific name which might be owned by someone else looking to resell it, but that’s another story altogether.