Web Hosting vs Domain: What’s the difference?

In this post, you’ll learn the difference between a domain registrar and a web host, and the role each one plays in keeping your website up and running.

Maybe you’re just getting into the whole website ownership thing, and you’re coming across alien terminologies like “Hosting” and “Domain.” Or, perhaps you’ve had a website for a while now, but you still aren’t totally sure what the difference is between a host, domain, and even how exactly WordPress fits into it all.

Well, today I’ve got a handy metaphor that ought to help you keep these different softwares straight once and for all.

A domain is like your website’s address.

If your website were a house, your domain would be its physical address. A domain is simply the “www.yourwebsite.com” of any site.

You see, all computers are connected by wires, and how they actually communicate with each other is with something called an IP address. An IP address is simply a set of numbers and periods (i.e. 216.3.128.12).

But people can’t remember IP addresses. That’s why domains were invented. So, instead of navigating to my website by typing “216.3.128.12” into the address bar, you can instead just type in “www.jennielakenan.com” (or simply leave off the www. altogether!).

If you’re wondering which domain registrar to go with, I like Namecheap.

A web host is like your website’s plot of land.

So, your domain is your website’s physical address. Applying this same house metaphor to your web host, your host is the internet landlord that rents you the land for your website house to sit on.

It’s not a perfect metaphor because most of us don’t rent land and then plop a house on it. But it’s the closest metaphor I’ve found to help my clients understand hosting. Hosting is simply the landlord you’re renting your little plot of internet land from. And your website is the house that sits on that land.

You see, the physical files for your website must live on a computer server somewhere in the world. And your web host is the one who gives you that physical server space.

Web hosting companies specialize in storing and serving websites so that when someone types in your domain, the host fishes out your website’s data and sends it to that user’s computer.

Pretty nifty, eh? Oh, and if you’re wondering which web host to go with, read more on the topic here.

You need a domain and a web host to have a website.

Any functioning website needs a domain and a web host to be available for people to visit, just like any house needs a physical address AND the land the house resides on for people to Google Maps their way to it.

A domain registrar is essentially a huge address book that’s constantly updated with new website addresses (i.e. new domains), and at the address of each domain there’s a web host who is serving up the website content that particular domain points to.

You need both to make a website happen.

So what’s WordPress, then?

This post’s explanation might beg the question, “How does WordPress fit into the domain and web host picture, then?”

Well, to take the house metaphor farther, you could say WordPress is the house YOU build on your rented plot of land. It makes it easy to layout the rooms (or pages) according to your business needs. You can do whatever you want with your WordPress house — the files are all yours.

You can even use a page builder to design the pages inside of WordPress just as your heart desires.

Should I use my domain registrar as my web host?

Some domain registrars are also web hosts (GoDaddy and Bluehost fall into this category). Sometimes my clients ask me if there’s a good reason to go with this all-in-one approach, or separate the two services?

My response is there’s technically nothing wrong with using one provider for both hosting and domain registration, though I’m always a fan of not putting all my eggs in one basket. That’s the same reason I don’t recommend using your host for professional domain email.

If Bluehost goes down, and that’s where your domain, host, and email are all located…well, you’re going to have a harder time transferring service or handling that outage than if only one of those services are with Bluehost.

A word on GoDaddy.

Here are my thoughts on GoDaddy, both from my personal experience and from the wisdom of fellow peers and mentors in the WordPress community:

GoDaddy is just fine as a domain registrar. But its hosting is awful.

I could probably write a whole separate blog post on why GoDaddy isn’t a great web host, but I’ll just leave it at that most of the developers I know won’t touch GoDaddy hosted sites with a bargepole. I haven’t quite drawn that line yet, but I’ll never say never.

If you’re already hosting with GoDaddy and it’s working alright for you, then no need to change. But if you’re just getting started and haven’t picked a host yet, I direct you to this post about the host I do recommend.

Next steps

Now you know my address, land, house metaphor for domains, hosts, and WordPress. Hopefully you feel like you’ve got this all down, now, and can move forward with your coaching website.

But if you’re feeling overwhelmed with all of this tech and would really appreciate someone who’s familiar with the coaching industry to walk alongside you as you build out your website strategy, you can reach out and let me know about your project details here.

Hope that was helpful!

Jennie

P.S. Your domain is like your website’s physical address.

Your web host is the one who rents you the land for your website to sit on.

WordPress (if you’re using it) is like the house you plop on that rented internet land.

You can use the same provider for your domain and hosting, but I don’t recommend it.

And just avoid GoDaddy if you can!

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Hi, I’m Jennie.

I build beautiful, highly targeted websites for life coaches so they can get their mind off their website and onto becoming an example of what’s possible.

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