The difference between domains and hosting

A lot of my clients are newer to owning a website and one of the questions that often comes up is “what the difference is between domains and hosting?”

My job as a web developer is to take away the worry of having to deal with configuration of domains and hosting. I work directly with domain registrars and hosting companies to make sure each of my client’s websites are up and running smoothly.

That said – it doesn’t hurt to know a little bit about how a domain and hosting work together to bring your website live to your audience.

Here is a simplified explanation of the difference between domains and hosting.

The difference between domains and hosting is:

domain is a NAME;
hosting is a LOCATION.


What is a domain?

A domain (or URL)  is the name you purchase that people can type in their web browser to access your site.

For example, the domain name for this blog is “” Domains most commonly end in “.com” – but there are many other options available now, such as “.net”, “.org”, “.us” etc.

Where do I buy my domain?

Domains may be purchased from a domain registrar. Usually they run around $9-12 per year.

There are many services out there, but the cheapest I have recently found is

How often do I pay for my domain?

Domains typically are purchased for 1 to 5 years.

When your domain expires, you must pay a domain renewal fee.

Tips for Domain Ownership

  1. Don’t let your domain expire- if you do, someone else can easily purchase it after a 60 day limbo period!
  2. Keep your contact information updated with ICANN- you will get an e-mail about it every once in a while. Don’t ignore!
  3. Don’t get tricked into purchasing your domain name from a WYSWIG service (like squarespace or wix). This can cause problems down the road.
  4. Keep the username and password for your domain registrar on hand in a safe place!
  5. If you like your domain registrar, turn on auto-renew so you don’t lose your domain by mistake.


What is Website hosting?

Website hosting is the a location that you “rent” out to store your files so they are accessible to everyone on the world wide web.

Every website is a collection of files that live in a specific location on a very powerful computer called a server. Servers can have multiple websites (think of each website like a folder on the computer).

Is the cost of web hosting included in my domain payment?

Not usually. Web hosting incurs a separate fee from your domain name.

Usually you can pay monthly, or for one year or multiple years. Most good companies include a range of services, including FTP, mySQL, free e-mail addresses, and even one-click installs for WordPress (although I’m still quite the fan of manual installations).

It is often possible to purchase your domain with your hosting, and some experts recommend keeping them separate. I find it to be better when they all live at the same company (I recently moved a number of my websites over to Siteground * – you can get both hosting and a domain there!)

Why are there so many different options for web hosting? How do I choose?

It really depends on how “big” you want to go!

Larger companies and websites that expect a lot of traffic usually benefit from cloud hosting or a dedicated server, which can be pricey.

Smaller companies with informational websites, and sites which don’t get thousands of hits per day are usually OK with shared hosting, which tends to be much cheaper.

If you are just starting an e-commerce website, I highly recommend Shopify!

How do I point my domain to my hosting?

In order for a website to be able to be accessed, you must tell your domain registrar where your hosting is by inputting a few different settings in your domain registrar account. These are called DNS settings.

Any legitimate website designer/developer (like myself!) will be very familiar with how to properly set up web hosting and e-mail.  It is not recommended that you mess with these settings on your own unless you are knowledgeable on it! Contact a web developer to help you get started on your website!



To recap:

  • The difference between domains and hosting is that domains are names and hosting is a place for files to live
  • In order to have a website, you must have both a domain and hosting
  • Don’t forget to renew your domain or hosting when it expires
  • Call a pro if you need help! That’s what we’re here for 🙂