We are often asked by our readers to explain what is the difference between a domain name and web hosting? Many beginners don’t know that these are two separate things. In this beginner’s guide, we will explain the difference between a domain name and web hosting.
What is a Domain Name?
Domain name is the address of your website that people type in the browser’s URL bar to visit your website.
In other words, if your website was a house, then your domain name will be its address.
Now let’s get into the detailed explanation.
Internet is basically a giant network of computers connected to each other through cables. To easily identify them, each computer is assigned a series of numbers called IP Address.
This IP address is a combination of numbers separated with dots. Typically, IP addresses look like this:
Computers have no problem identifying and remembering these numbers. However, it is impossible for humans to remember and use these numbers to connect to websites on the internet.
To solve this problem, domain names were invented.
A domain name can have words which makes it easy to remember website addresses.
Now if you wanted to visit a website on the internet, you don’t need to type a string of numbers. Instead, you can type in an easy to remember domain name, for example, wpbeginner.com.
To learn more about domain names, take a look at our beginner’s guide on domain names and how do they work.
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is the place where all the files of your website live. It is like the home of your website where it actually lives.
A good way to think about this is if the domain name was the address of your house, then web hosting is the actual house that address points to. All websites on the internet, need web hosting.
When someone enters your domain name in a browser, the domain name is translated into the IP address of your web hosting company’s computer. This computer contains your website’s files, and it sends those files back to the users’ browsers.
Web hosting companies specialize in storing and serving websites. They offer different types of hosting plans to their customers. See our article on WordPress hosting to learn more about choosing the right hosting for your website.
How Domain Names and Web Hosting are Related?
Domain names and web hosting are two different services. However, they work together to make websites possible.
Basically a domain name system is like a massive address book that is constantly updated. Behind each domain name, there is an address of the web hosting service storing the website’s files.
Without domain names, it will not be possible for people to find your website and without web hosting you cannot build a website.
What do I need to Build a Website? Domain Name or Web Hosting?
To build a website you will need both a domain name and web hosting account.
Buying a domain name alone only gives you right to use that particular domain name for a specific period (usually 1 year).
You need web hosting to store your website’s files. After you get hosting, you need to update your domain name settings and point it to your web hosting service provider.
You can also buy both the domain and hosting from the same company. Typically a domain name costs $14.99 / year, and web hosting normally costs $7.99 / month.
If you are starting your first website, then this may sound like a lot.
Thankfully, Bluehost, an official WordPress recommended hosting provider, has agreed to offer our users a free domain name and over 60% off on web hosting.
Once you have purchased hosting and registered your domain name, you can start building your website. For complete step by step instructions, see our guide on how to make a website.
Do I have to buy them together? Or can I buy them separately?
You can buy domain name and web hosting from two different companies. However, in that case you will have to point your domain name to your web hosting company by editing its DNS settings.
On the other hand, if you purchase your domain name and web hosting from the same company, then you will not have to change domain name settings.
It is also much easier to manage and renew both services under the same dashboard.
Can I Move My Domain Name to a Different Company?
Yes, you can. Normally when you register the domain name, you own the right to use it and transfer it anywhere you want.
You can easily do that. Both companies have detailed step by step instructions that you can follow to transfer your domain name.
Note: We recommend you to wait at least 45 days after the registration or renewal to initiate the transfer. ICANN, the international organization that oversees domain names, requires one year renewal whenever a transfer is initiated. By transferring your domain name before that period you could lose that year’s renewal fee.
Can I Move My Website to Another Web Hosting Company Without Changing Domain?
Yes, you can do that as well. You own the domain name and can change its settings to point it to any web hosting company.
For example, you purchased your domain name and hosting from Godaddy, and now you want to move your web hosting to Bluehost. You can move your site from one host to another by simply transferring files and data. After that you need to edit your domain name settings and point them to your new web hosting provider.
Another example, you purchased your domain name from WordPress.com (See our guide on the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org). Later you want to move to self hosted WordPress.org website.
First, you will need to sign up for a WordPress hosting account. After that you can move your site from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. Lastly, you will just edit your domain name settings on WordPress.com and point them to your new WordPress hosting provider.
We hope this article helped you learn the difference between a domain name and web hosting. You may also want to see our comparison of popular website builders for beginners with pros and cons.