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What’s the Difference Between Domain Name and Web Hosting (Explained)

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.

Difference between domain name and web hosting

What is a Domain Name?

A 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 would be its address.

Now let’s get into the detailed explanation.

The 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 Addresses.

This IP address is a combination of numbers separated with dots. Typically, IP addresses look like this:

66.249.66.1

Computers have no problem identifying and remembering these numbers. However, humans can’t remember and use these numbers to connect to websites on the internet.

To solve this problem, domain names were invented.

How domain names work

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?

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.

This is why many top domain name registrars also offer web hosting services.

What do I need to Build a Website? Domain Name or Web Hosting?

What you need to build a website?

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 one 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.

If you want to buy domain names separately, then you can do so from top providers like: Domain.com, Network Solutions, Godaddy, or NameCheap.

Can I Move My Domain Name to a Different Company?

Moving domain name

Yes, you can. Normally when you register the domain name, you own the right to use it and transfer it anywhere you want.

For example, let’s say you purchased your domain name from Domain.com and bought your hosting from Bluehost. Now you want to move your domain name to Bluehost, so that it is easier to manage and renew.

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.

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Reader Interactions

90 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Hi, Thanks for sharing such an blog. I was confused in domain name and domain hosting but this blog helped me to understand the difference.

  2. Thanks for this article! If I want to keep a Domain name for future use, and no website has been built yet. Do I need to purchase a hosting service in order to keep the Domain besides paying for the Domain name?

    • No, if you only plan to keep the domain for the future, you do not need a hosting provider. :)

      Admin

  3. I want to purchase new domain and my old hosting plan is still running, so i can add or migrate my new domain to my old hosting plan?

  4. My question is, let’s say I registered my domain with a different company and i wish do domain transfer, during the transfer process will the domain be inactive on the previous hosting because the domain is presently running on a website now and i wish to transfer it.

    • It would depend on your domain provider for how the domain would be handed. You would want to check with your providers support and they should be able to clear that up for you :)

      Admin

  5. Hi, when you own several domain names and you have hosting with the same provider, I would like to know why my hosting is linked to one of the domain names on my domain name list.

    • You would need to reach out to the host for technical reasons but in general, it is to keep things organized on the hosting’s end.

      Admin

  6. Thank you so much for this insightful article! It helps me a lot.

    I have a question. I have a project to start my commerce website but I still haven’t got the material to put on the website. Can I buy the domain name first so that I am sure the name I want to use for my business is not taken by someone else and then after I have all the materials ready to start my website, can I register for web hosting?

    Thanks in advance.

  7. Hello. I recently bought a domain name and web-hosting package from WordPress. I then decided to buy a second domain name for a separate business I run. Am I able to host this new website, with its separate address, as part of my existing WordPress hosting package, or do I have to buy an entirely separate hosting package?

    Thank you in advance!

    • That would depend on your hosting provider. If you reach out to them they should be able to answer that for you.

      Admin

  8. Is it possible to make wordpress website first without domain name and hosting? I just want to first make my website functional and then buy domain or hosting for it.

  9. Is it possible for me to update my website after getting them on the Internet.
    I used WordPress template.

  10. I have a domain name that I use for my email address (through Network Solutions). I also have a web hosting account with NS but now use GoDaddy for my website. Do I still need a web hosting account with NS?

    • Unless you transfer your domains, you would still need your account on your domain’s hosting.

      Admin

  11. so i’ve been lookin at a bunch of things and your site seems like the clearest info.

    I’m just looking to use the email hosting (using google g-suite) with the domain name. I do not need a website for my domain. do i still need to have the domain hosted with say bluehost?

    I’ve got my domain name on namecheap and they have freeDNS servers. is that all i need?

    I hope i’m making sense. thank you for the help in advance.

  12. I have a domain name. But no hosting now my site is on blogger. Without hosting can I move to wordpress.

  13. Thanks for the elaborate explanation. Pls may I know if it’s possible to link an extra domain name to a website? For example, I hosted my site with example.com and now I just bought another domain, example.com.ng. So, is possible to link the new domain to the same site? Your response will be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    • You would want to check with your hosting provider as some hosts have a method for setting up that redirect for you :)

      Admin

  14. Excellent post! It’s really helpful for all those who are confused by the domain name and web hosting.

  15. Hi,
    Thank you for this detailed article. I bought my domain name on GoDaddy though want to work on my Domain name website on Siteground. Is it safe to move the domain name I bought 2 days ago if though you stated “We recommend you to wait at least 45 days after the registration or renewal to imitate the transfer?”

    • We would still recommend waiting the day limitation and changing your domain’s nameservers to point toward SiteGround so you can use your site while waiting to transfer your domain.

      Admin

  16. Hi…
    I have doubts..
    Can I buy the web hosting, if it comes with domain names? Can I change the domain name or web hosting, if I am not satisfied?
    Why can I buy domain name with web hosting?
    Please reply.

  17. Hello
    My question is, is it better to buy domain from a hosting company, or buy domain from a domain that specializes in domains? Vice versa, should I buy hosting from a hosting company and not from a domain company?
    Thanks

    • For purchasing domains, it is personal preference as most providers have improved their ability to handle domains. For hosting, we recommend purchasing from a hosting provider.

      Admin

  18. Again, please does every website have a blog section?
    And can I use my website domain name for my blog?

    • No, a blog section is not required. Yes, you can use your domain name for your blog.

      Admin

  19. You can’t imagine how much help you’ve given me.
    Only from the first paragraph the confusion in my head was cleared. You explained it so well and detailed. That’s a while lot lot.

  20. Yes, this is really important to know the difference between a domain and web hosting, it will helpful for everyone. Every beginner can get information from this post despite of any other sites.

  21. This is a really informative post! Quick question – so my domain name and web hosting are both with Bluehost but I’m going to go elsewhere. When looking at other websites, I can choose the option for web hosting or WordPress hosting…is it the WordPress hosting option I choose? I have a WordPress.Org website. Also do you know how it works when you have a domain name up for renewal and choose to move it i.e. do you move this then renew it with the new provider or will the date of moving it be the start of the renewal?

  22. if you have a domain name and your own server that you built with a hdd that has all the files on it then why would you need web hosting to store your files it just don’t make no sense

    • Purchasing hosting means a user does not need to know how to set up a hosting environment that is able to be connected to on the internet.

      Admin

  23. Thank you for the information. Can i switch the names around? I bought both domain name and web hosting but i liked the web hosting name better. Can i use the names interchangeably?

    • If you reach out to your hosting provider they can help you use one domain while pointing the other domain to your primary domain.

      Admin

  24. I have a web hosting account with Godaddy but I don’t want to buy a domain name right now. What address would I have to type to view my web files in my hosting account if I don’t have a domain name?

    • You would want to reach out to GoDaddy for their current methods available to do this.

      Admin

  25. I thank you for your article. It has been informative. But I guess what I would like to know is the cost, bottom line. I mean after all the “first year” offers. I keep a budget for my business and I would just like to know what the final cost will be two years from now so I’m not surprised.

    • That would depend on your hosting provider, on their pricing pages they should state the cost for renewal or you can reach out to the host and they should let you know.

      Admin

  26. Yes this was an important step. When I initially started my website back in 2012 the instructions for a beginner self taught like me was very confusing. I started hosting from Bluehost but has a registered domain name through WP. So basically I’m paying hosting fees separately on top of the fees of $18 on WP. If I did miss it back then bluehost didn’t have its own domain name registration just hosting. Since I was using WP theme I used WordPress.com for this to point to my website files in bluehost.

    • Thanks for sharing, should anyone run into this issue now, once you wait 60 days you would be able to transfer your domain to BlueHost :)

      Admin

  27. Hello, so your post is helpful but i have a similar yet different question.
    So i opened a blog on simplest today and bought my domain name, however i ‘tried’ to insert ads to my dashboard and now my simple site editor won’t load. Nevermind that, my question is, if i transfer my domain name to wordpress, will i be charged an extra fee on top of the one i paid for simple site and for my domain, or is wordpress free to use their platform as long as you have a domain name? thank you!

  28. Its really great article!!!
    If i bought domain from Godaddy and host from hostgator, later i decided to change my host to bluehost, is that easy ?
    Please guide me.

  29. I have learn about domain and hosting from this post.This is a great article.Thanks for sharing this article.

  30. Pls I have 2 Questions
    1. If I signup for bluehost blog will it be seen on the browser as
    mydomainname.bluehost.com or will it appear mydomainname.com
    2. Can I buy my domain name first from bluehost and later host with bluehost

  31. Hi – just to check so if I have a domain name with wix i can use that same name/ site to another web hosing?

  32. Great post. Thank you for covering up such topic in your article. It’s really helpful for all those who are confused by the domain name and web hosting.

  33. Awesome and Analytical post, I have understood the relationship domain and hosting.

  34. Another great topic, and the analogy you use, to address and actual home was inspired. And helpful. Please go on to a great New Year!

  35. That’s a major misconception of people with Domain and a hosting service. Both are different,

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