There’s a common question being asked by quite a few newcomers to the web hosting scene (and some who are already somewhat familiar with it, too): are domain names and web hosting the same thing? And, if not, what is the difference between the two?
This question get asked quite
often, mainly because there does exist some overlap between domain names and
web hosting. Additionally, web hosting services often come with domain
registration, muddying the waters even more.
This article will help clear the
air on the issue, giving you a clear idea of how these two differ.
So without further ado, let’s
begin by defining what domain names are.
Quite simply put, a domain name
is your site’s address. It’s how people
find your website through their browsers – they type in the domain name and
your site appears either directly or on the results page of a search engine,
depending on how they went about the search.
To go into a bit more detail, the
Internet indexes sites via number strings. These strings are called IP
addresses, and the Internet has no problem recognising them. However, humans
would have a much harder time trying to do so.
To remedy this, domain names were
invented. They’re mostly made up of words, which we tend to remember just fine.
So the names act as a kind of translation tool between people and the Internet:
we type in the words, the words get converted into an IP address, the site we
need is located, and everybody’s happy.
A domain name has to follow a
certain set of rules in order to be effective. The most vital of them are the
following: an ideal domain name is short,
understandable, memorable, and relevant to the site’s topic.
SafeAtLast, Dotcom and Buzzfeed are terrific examples of a good domain names. It’s brief and it makes sense, meaning people will easily remember it. It has a dramatic flair to it, so it will probably stick with you. Finally, they deal with home security, and the name fits with their business.
Now that domain names have been
explained, we can move on to the other half of this conundrum: web hosting.
To put it simply once again, web
hosting is where all your site’s data is
stored. Said data – files, images, HTML and the like – is usually stored in
specialised computers, and web hosting agencies exist to provide this hardware
and the maintenance it requires.
Anyone looking for web hosting
service will come across two kinds of platforms: shared and dedicated.
Shared hosting entails keeping data for more than one website on a single
server machine, while with dedicated hosting only one site occupies a machine.
Both of these have their own
perks and pitfalls. The shared type is cheaper, but slower due to bandwidth and
disk space restrictions, while the dedicated variety gives you more options and
control of a faster, safer site, although at a much higher price.
As mentioned earlier, most web
hosting providers also offer domain names. There’s a debate over whether you
should have the web host responsible for your name as well, but the general
consensus states that it’s smarter to
keep the domain name and web hosting apart.
The main reason for this is that
if your web host goes under, you won’t risk your domain name sinking along with
it. Domain names are particularly troublesome to acquire, especially good ones,
so losing that would actually be worse than losing your web hosting.
While reputable agencies likely
won’t go down just like that, you would still be wise to prevent a potential
problem from becoming a very real one.
Although domain names and web
hosting do share similarities at a glance, they are in fact quite different matters.
While the former is a way for people to find a site, the latter is where the
site is stored. Hopefully this article managed to de-muddy the waters on the
topic, so to speak, giving you a better understanding of how both work.