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Domain vs. Hosting

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Ever felt confused about the difference between domain names and hosting? Don’t worry, you’re not alone! While some might think they’re the same thing, they’re not. Domain names and hosting are like Batman and Robin: they work together, but they’re not the same.

This article simplifies these concepts, helping you grasp their roles in establishing and maintaining an online presence. Whether you're starting a new project or curious about the web's workings, this guide provides the essential insights needed.



What is a Domain Name

Let’s start with the basic.

A domain name is a unique Internet address that acts as a memorable shortcut to a website's numerical IP address, making it easier for people to find your site without needing to remember a complex string of numbers. It's basically the address people type in the browser bar to find your website, otherwise known as a URL. For example, the domain name for Bluehost is bluehost.com.

The Domain Name System (DNS) translates these domain names into IP addresses, allowing users to connect to the server where the website is hosted. Domain names, which are essential for branding and SEO, are registered through domain registrars and are typically renewed annually. Essentially, your domain name is what users type into their browser to access your website, serving as a crucial link between the visitor and your digital presence.

Tip: Creating a domain name might seem intimidating at first, but if you're eager to learn more, we've created a video outlining the essential things to know before you create one. Check out our video, Why Do I Need a Domain Name?

What is a TLD?

A top-level domain (TLD) is what comes after your business or brand name. This could be .com or .org or .us. It depends on what type of website you want to be—or rather, how you want to come across.

For example, .com is often used by businesses, .org by organizations like charities, and .net by tech-related stuff. But there are lots more than just these! Nowadays, you can find TLDs for all kinds of things, like .pizza, .ninja, or .love.

Multiple TLDs

It might be wise to own multiple TLDs for your brand. This way, customers can find you online no matter what TLD they use. In addition, you’ll make sure competitors can’t use your brand name with a different TLD to tarnish your reputation.

What is a Hosting Service

Website hosts are companies that house, serve, and maintain files for many websites. A website hosting company is like a shopping center that has space for many individual stores. A hosting account is like leasing a space in that shopping center where you can set up shop. Website hosting companies let you lease space on their web servers where you can store your website files and make them available for your visitors to view. Basically, this enables your website to be up and running and be accessible via the internet.

Note: Without a domain name, your website visitors won't have a memorable way to get to your website. And without a hosting account, there won't be a website to see or go to.

How is a domain name different from hosting?

Understanding the difference between domain names and hosting is essential if you want to create your own website. Because you need both to have a functioning website! So, let’s break it down.

Your domain name is the address of your site on the internet. For Bluehost, this would be bluehost.com. Web hosting, on the other hand, is the physical space where your site’s files, data, and content are stored. It’s like the difference between your home address and the physical structure of your house (the place where you keep your things).

To summarize: your domain name is how people find you online, and hosting is where the files and data of your website are kept.

What about domain hosting?

That’s just a different name for domain registration, which is the process of getting and managing a unique domain name for your site. Domains must be purchased from a registrar, and once purchased belong to the owner for the agreed upon subscription period.

Domain hosting providers, or registrars, like Bluehost will help you register, renew and protect your personal information about your domain name. Bluehost, like many domain registrars, also provides hosting services so your domain and website management is kept in one place.

Different kinds of hosting

When you’re ready to build a website, you’ll need web hosting space to store your files, images, and data. Depending on what your website needs, there are different types of hosting. Here’s a brief and simple overview of the three main types:

  • Shared hosting: You share server storage space with various different websites. This is the most affordable option! Think of shared hosting like living in an apartment building. You will share some resources, and might even be impacted by the behavior of your neighbors.

  • VPS hosting: You have your own storage space, but it’s on a shared server. VPS hosting would be like living in a single house on a block. You have control to make the changes you need, and should not be impacted by the neighbors.

  • Dedicated hosting: You have an entire server for your website, which means you have ownership of all the resources on that server. This is especially useful for large companies with a lot of traffic.

What you need to know about WHOIS

Don’t skim this section! If you’re purchasing a domain name, it’s important to know who WHOIS is and what they do. In simple terms: WHOIS is like a phone book for the internet. It helps you find out who owns a website and how to contact them.

When you purchase and register your domain, your name, email address, phone number and organization will be stored in the WHOIS database. This database is publicly accessible. So you might want to use privacy protection to keep your details private, because spammers regularly view this database for personal information.

Good to know: Bluehost can also do this for you! Simply log into your Bluehost control panel and enable Domain Privacy on any of your domains.

 

Domain Versus Hosting FAQ FAQ

Do I need hosting if I already have a domain name?

Yes, because a domain name is just your website’s address. You still need a place to store your website’s data and files. That’s where hosting comes in. Without hosting, your domain name will lead to nothing.

Do I have to buy a domain name and hosting together?

You don’t have to, but it sure is easier. If you buy them separately, you will need to change the DNS settings to point your new domain to your web hosting company. Otherwise, your website will become inaccessible.

Can I create an email account with my domain name?

Yes! Some companies already provide this when you purchase a domain name. If they don’t, you can sign up with an email provider like Gmail, Microsoft 265, or Zoho Mail. Then, you need to create an email account associated with your domain name.

To make sure emails sent to your domain reach your email provider, you’ll need to adjust some settings in your domain’s control panel. This usually means adding or updating MX (Mail Exchange) records in your domain registrar’s DNS settings. Your email provider will give you the details so you can add these records correctly.

Can I transfer my domain name to a different hosting company?

Yes, absolutely! Your new hosting provider will give you instructions on how to do this. Usually, you need to upload your website’s files, directories, and other content to your new hosting account, using a FTP (File Transfer Protocol). Then, you’ll need to transfer your domain name by updating the domain’s DNS (Domain Name System), so it points towards the new hosting provider’s servers.

If you want to switch to Bluehost, you’ll simply log into your Bluehost Control Panel, navigate to the domain management section, then follow the on-screen instructions to begin your domain transfer.

Summary

Understanding the distinction between domain names and web hosting services is vital for effective website management. Domain names serve as internet addresses, while hosting provides storage for website files. By exploring multiple top-level domains and hosting options such as shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting, you can tailor your online presence. Utilizing WHOIS ensures transparency in website ownership. Bluehost offers integrated domain and hosting solutions, streamlining website management. Remember, domain registrations are non-refundable. For comprehensive website solutions, explore Bluehost's domain and hosting options to optimize your online presence.

Bluehost offers both hosting and domain names to make it easy to manage your email, website, and domains— all in one place. You can register new domain names and transfer domains you already own right inside your Bluehost account.

  • If you want to see the hosting packages we offer and their differences, please check out our hosting options.
  • If you want to check if the domain name you have in mind is available and how much it will cost, please visit our domain name search page.

Please note: Once you have registered a domain name, it cannot be canceled for a refund. Domain name registrations are non-refundable.

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