Every website needs both good web hosting and domain hosting. It’s common to get confused between the two. They are in fact two different things.
Hosting services like Bluehost, SiteGround, and GoDaddy offer both web hosting and domain hosting. When someone starts their first website, it’s common to buy both domain and web hosting from the same provider. That makes it easy to assume that the two services are the same.
Let’s take a look at what each service is for and why it’s best to keep them separate.
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What is Domain Hosting
Domain hosting is a service that provides domain names for websites. A domain hosting service sells domains and registers them to an owner in exchange for a yearly subscription fee. Different types of domains have different prices, from as low as around 10$ reaching up to the $1000’s. Depending on how common or uncommon the domain is.
A domain is set up like this; www.YOURWEBSITENAME.com. It has different sections separated with dots. What a domain does is direct visitors to a specific website, much like the address of a house. Every domain has a matching IP address that sets its location on the internet. Of course, it’s much easier to remember and share a domain name than an IP address.
Domains are categorized into levels. The most common are top-level, generic top-level, and second-level. All web hosting providers that also offer domain hosting all have top-level domains, some generic top-level domains, and some second-level domains. The usual domain names are .com, .net, .org, .edu, .edu
There are also specialized domain hosting providers that offer all sorts of second-level domains, and generic top-level domains like .photo or .media.
Some top-level domains like country-code top-level domains are only used for websites in particular countries. In some cases, a country domain can be used outside of the country it stands for as long as the owner of the website has permission. For example, bit.ly, uses the country code top-level domain for Lybia. Bit.ly permission to use that domain even though they are in the US.
By buying a domain from a domain host, you gain ownership of that domain for as long as you pay the yearly fee. But you can’t build a website without web hosting, a domain only gets you an address.
What is Web Hosting
Web hosting is a service that offers space to keep all the files for your website. To be able to buy web hosting, the provider will require that you already own a domain. If you don’t already have one, the web hosting provider can sell you one. We’ll see later why that might not be a good idea, and why it’s best to keep them separate.
There are a few different types of web hosting, including free, shared, managed, enterprise, reseller, and dedicated. Depending on what type of web hosting you buy, you will have different tools at your disposal. Some web hosting offers services that help keep your website running without you needing much technical knowledge.
Other web hosting services give the owner partial or full control of the servers, therefore needing a skilled tech team. Also, there’s managed hosting, which can make any type of web hosting easier to handle with the help of the hosting provider’s own developers and techs.
As the name suggests, free WordPress hosting allows you to host your WordPress website without having to pay for it. While this sounds like an excellent deal, there are some caveats, mainly limited storage, bandwidth, and features. Free hosting is a good option for those who are just starting out or looking to learn WordPress. However, if you want more features, it’s best to go with at least a good cheap WordPress hosting platform.
In shared web hosting, a number of websites are hosted on the same server. This is the best choice for small websites, bloggers who are starting out, and new business owners.
In a shared server, all the websites use the same RAM and CPU, meaning that if all websites stay small, there shouldn’t ever be a problem. On the other hand, if one of the websites in a shared server gets a surge of visits and crashes the server, all the other websites hosted there will be affected too.
Just as there can be confusion between domain hosting and web hosting, there also tends to be confusion between shared and managed hosting. The reason it gets confusing is that all types of web hosting, be it shared, dedicated, or cloud, can also be managed.
That’s because what managed hosting does is add a full suite of tools to install and run WordPress, manage files, and manage email. All that plus a team of developers always at your disposal who keep things running smoothly under the hood.
Having managed hosting saves time and eventual headaches when things go wrong. Shared managed hosting is the most common type of web hosting for many types of small businesses and blogs. Dedicated and cloud-managed hosting is the best for big companies with websites that get a lot of traffic.
There is enterprise hosting, which caters to larger websites. As the most expensive option for WordPress hosting, it’s best utilized by large corporations that require white-glove support, large amounts of storage, and excellent security features. Some options include Kinsta, Liquidweb, and Pressable, who all offer excellent enterprise-level hosting plans.
If you want to be your own boss, you can purchase reseller hosting, which allows you to sell hosting packages to other customers. Generally, it works by purchasing a larger hosting plan, splitting it up into pieces where you can white label WordPress, then market it to others as your own. That said, when acting as a reseller, you become the point person for maintenance, such as updates and security issues. When considering offering reselling plans, you should choose a good reseller hosting provider that offers managed plans, allowing you to pass the maintenance off to the company itself, leaving you to reap the profits.
Lastly, there is dedicated hosting, which hosts each website on its own server. Since websites arent’s sharing a server, they can have a much larger bandwidth for high traffic. Dedicated servers also offer a large amount of file storage for websites with lots of information.
With a dedicated server, the client has direct access to root and admin access. This is a good choice if the company has a skilled tech team. Nevertheless, dedicated web hosting can also be dedicated managed hosting for large websites without tech teams.
Why You Should Keep Domain and Web Hosting Separate
Just how a hosting provider can offer domain hosting and web hosting in the same package, it’s not always a great idea to buy them from the same provider. There are a few reasons why.
1. Better security against hacking. Separated domain and web hosting can help keep a website safe from being hacked completely. If a hacker gets access through your domain, they can then get access to all your files. Then they could lock down the website and transfer the domain to wherever they want. You’d lose it all.
If a domain is not hosted with the same provider, then at least you won’t lose it. Of course, as long as you don’t use the same login and passwords for both.
2. Preventing domain loss. Let’s say you pay for web hosting and domain hosting on the same day with the same provider. One year later, your subscription expires and your domain goes into a holding pattern. If you didn’t switch hosts before that happened, you could lose the domain completely.
The confusion between domain hosting and web hosting is not as complicated as it might seem at first. When a client of your web design business asks what each thing is, this article can help you explain it. You can also simply send them the link.
We hope this article helped clear up some confusion and helped you better understand the difference between domain hosting and web hosting. If you’re ready to look for a host, check out Pressable, SiteGround, and Flywheel.
Featured Image via Mr. Thanakorn Kotpootorn / shutterstock.com
You explained this SO simply thank you! I tend to over-complicate this when explaining it to my clients so I am going to save this for future reference.
Thank you for the basic and useful information about web and domain hosting. I believe it’ll be useful for beginners .
Please use the reserved URL for example websites, http://example.com. Someone could have yourwebsitename dot com already registered and get hits from this site. What if such a URL is harmful?
This is a good summary of the differences between the two. I just started some blogs and didn’t really have a clue! Started out at one website thinking I could get a cheap domain and point it to my site, that didn’t work out too well as I couldn’t do hidden forwarding with an SSL. Take 2 I got a wordpress site, but signed up with the ‘com’ as I didn’t even know the difference between the com and org!
I’ve since moved on to shared hosting as I have 3 sites all needing webmail too and found a good solution and saving over $1500 a year for all 3 sites with emails!
To clarify, and be helpful (one of my clients got confused by some of the points in this post). It is not called “Domain Hosting”. It is called “Domain Name Registration”. That is why we have web hosting providers, and domain name registrars. Thanks much! 🙂