Help! Domain Name—Hosting—What’s the difference?
We get asked this question all the time.
Many clients are confused by these terms and why they need both.
Let’s start with Domain Names.
The definition of a domain name is:
The URL, which stands for “Unique Resource Locator”, contains your domain name and is displayed like this in your browser window:
Only one person can own a domain name. There is a universal registry for this database, and companies that sell domain name registrations, such as Network Solutions, Hostmonster, or GoDaddy, check with this database before telling you if can register your name or if it is already taken. The company you register with becomes your Domain Name Server (DNS).
If you were to register your domain with Network Solutions, for example, the process would look like this:
You can usually register your domain name and buy hosting at the same company. This makes keeping track of account logins easier. Registration currently costs about $10 a year. You need a registered domain name before you can make your website live.
Whatever you decide, register your domain name under your own account. Never let a third party register it for you under their name. Once someone else has control of it, it can be very difficult to get back later on. Keep your account logins and passwords in a safe place, so that you always have access to them. This is a valuable piece of your company property.
Now, what about Hosting?
In order to have a live website, you must have hosting. When your website developer creates your website, they make files consisting of code that your browser displays as your website. Your website’s files get uploaded to a hosting company’s servers, which “host” your files and “serve” them whenever someone types in your URL.
Below is a diagram of how these elements work:
A Little About Servers
Servers, sometimes called blades, have a lot of power, and are capable of sending a ton of data. A group of many servers are housed together in secure facilities called “Data Centers”. They are pretty cool if you get a chance to visit one. It looks like a control center from Star Wars, with lots of machines blinking in endless activity. A rack of servers in a data center may look like this:
Hosting companies, like Hostmonster or One and One, can be very large and host many thousands of websites. When you share a server with many other websites this is called “shared hosting”. This type of hosting usually costs about $100-$200 a year. For an individual or a small company with a brochure site, shared hosting is usually a cost-effective solution.
If you are a large company, or have information that needs security protection, you may want to go with a “dedicated server”, which would serve your files exclusively. Cost can vary widely depending on how much bandwidth you need.