Domain name, hosting, website… what’s the difference?

Domain name, hosting, website… what’s the difference?

Since I see this question pretty frequently, I want to start your journey towards website success by answering one of the most common questions you may have when building a new site:

What’s the difference between a website, a domain, and hosting?!

It’s easy to get confused. A lot of website providers don’t make the answer clear, and most want you to sign up then pay for abilities you probably should be getting for free.

Here are some quick and dirty definitions, as well as a few links to help you out.

Let’s get the basic one out of the way first. A website is a location on the Internet, made up of pages with links to other places on the same site and across the Internet.

Think of your website as a house. Each house is made up of multiple rooms (web pages) that are linked together. Any sites (other houses) you link to outside of your site can be traveled to via roads that are all (very complicatedly) connected.

A domain is your web address and what others will use to navigate to your website. In our house analogy, your domain is your house’s address. In real life, you may tell someone you live at 123 Discovery Road, whereas in the web world you would tell them you live at discovery.com.

A tool I always use when searching to see if a domain is available is Instant Domain Search. You can type in any domain name and it instantly tells you is someone else already owns that web address.

The last, and most confusing, is hosting. Hosting is the physical location where your website sits on the Internet and actually stores all the files and configuration your site needs to actually display when people type in a domain/web address.

Your site files are stored on a server (a special computer usually sitting in a large warehouse somewhere in your country), and when you purchase hosting, a specific section of this server is allocated for your site.

In our analogy, hosting would be the plot of land that your house sits on. If you are building your home (or website) from scratch, you purchase the land first, then build your house next. If you would rather buy something “move in ready” or that needs just a little fixing up, you can purchase a pre-built house: in the website world, this would be similar to purchasing a plan from a web platform such as SquareSpace, Shopify, Wix, or WordPress.com – they provide hosting for your site (and sometimes throw in a free domain) so you don’t have to worry about purchasing it beforehand.

I’m going to be providing a more in-depth look at hosting, including options, costs, etc. in the near future, but I want to provide some of my recommendations in the meantime.

I’m a big fan of hosting your own site and using WordPress, which many web hosting providers now provide for free using a “1 click installer,” making your life much easier. It gives you more flexibility to do what you want with your site, even if there is a steeper learning curve.

My recommendations for website hosting are Namecheap and Bluehost. Both are extremely affordable (less than $5/month) for hosting, and Bluehost even provides you with a domain for free.

Regarding pricing, hosting can run anywhere from $5 to $5,000+ per month, depending on the size of and the number of visitors per month to your site. Fortunately, most people can run their website for less than $100 a year in hosting costs. I currently run a few different websites and pay $50 a year total for hosting.

Domain names are much more straightforward. If a domain is not included with your hosting or web platform, you can purchase a .com domain from Namecheap for around $10. Domain names need to be renewed every year, so this is not a one time cost.

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Hope this helps a bit! If you have any questions or need some further clarification on anything, leave a comment down below!

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