To make a website you must own a domain name and web hosting. But what’s a domain name? What’s a web hosting? Aren’t them the same?
It’s important that you are crystal clear on their differences before you move on to create your first website.
What is a Web Hosting?
A web hosting is a computer where people store their websites. Think of it as a house where you store all your stuffs; but instead of storing your clothes and furniture, you store computer files (HTML, documents, images, videos, etc) in a web host.
More often than not, the term “web hosting” refers to the company that rent out their computer/servers to store your website and provide Internet connectivity so that other users can access to the files on your website.
For most cases, these hosting companies will handle server maintenance work, such as backup, root configuration, maintenance, disaster recoveries, and so on.
Web hosting companies to visit: InMotion Hosting, SiteGround
What’s A Domain Name
A domain is the address of your website. Before you can setup a website, you will need a domain.
To own a domain name, you need to register it with a domain registrar.
Domain name is not something physical that you can touch or see. It is a string of characters that give your website an identity (yes, a name, like human and businesses). Examples of domain name: Google.com, Alexa.com, Linux.org, eLearningEuropa.info, as well as Yahoo.co.uk.
All domain names are unique. This means there can be only one alexa.com in the world. You cannot register a name once it is registered by others (governed by ICANN).
Registrars to visit: Name Cheap, GoDaddy.
Domain Name vs Web Hosting
To simplify: A domain name, is like the address of your home; web hosting on the other hand, is the space of your house where you place your furniture.
Instead of street name and area code, set of words or/and numbers are used for the website’s naming’. Computer hard disk and computer memory are used instead of instead of wood and steel for storing and processing data files. The idea is presented clearer with the diagram below.
Should you buy domain name and hosting from the same company?
One reason why newbies are confused is because domain registration and web hosting services are often offered by the same provider.
Most domain registrars nowadays also offer web hosting services.
Most hosting companies have the facility to register a domain name for their users. Some companies even offer a free domain with the purchase of hosting package.
Should you get these two items at the same place? My personal recommendation…
Never register your important domains with your web host
I usually register my domains with Name Cheap and host them with a different hosting provider. This site you are reading, for example, is hosted at InMotion Hosting.
Doing so ensures that my domain remains in my hands in case anything go awry with my hosting provider.
It is much easier to move to a new hosting company when you register your domain with a third party. Otherwise, you wind up having to wait for your hosting company to release your domain. This can get tricky since they are also losing your hosting business.
But wait… that’s just me (I’m a dinosaur). Many webmasters do buy their domain and host it at the same place. And it’s okay – especially if you are residing at a reputable solution provider with good business track record. Here’s a different opinion quoted from Twitter:
So what if you have already registered your domain with the hosting company?
Well you have two options.
- Just live with it and do nothing.
- Transfer your domain name to a third party registrar.
For #2 – here’s the detail instructions on how to transfer your domain name to Name Cheap. And here’s how you can do it for GoDaddy. Basically all you need to do is
- Obtain the Auth/EPP code from your current registrar (in this case – your hosting company)
- Submit transfer request to the new domain registrar
Note that, as per ICANN’s Transfer of Registrations Policy, domains that are less than 60 days old or were transferred within the last 60 days cannot be transferred. You’ll have to wait at least 60 days before transferring.
We have covered A-to-Z in how to buy a domain name and the technical details of how web hosting work. These tutorials should be useful for those who are creating and hosting their website for the first time.
Also, here’s the list of hosting companies I have tested and reviewed in the past; and here’s my best 10 hosting picks.