Difference between domain hosting and web hosting

It can get confusing on understanding the difference between domain hosting and web hosting. Often when I ask a client “Where is your domain hosted?”, they say one of the following:

  • “Oh, I have everything in GoDaddy or X service.”
  • “What’s domain hosting? I bought the domain many years ago, I don’t know.”
  • “Don’t you host my website? You should know.”
  • “I don’t know, ask my IT guy.”

What is a Domain?

A domain is the “master” address of your internet name, for example nearsource.net is our domain. You purchase domains at registrar sites, for example we have our own registrar nearsourcehosting.com available for clients to register domains. There are many popular registrar sites like www.godaddy.com and register.com. These usually also offer web hosting as well (explained later in this article). Domains are normally purchased (registered) for 1 or more years and needs to be renewed yearly or when it expires. There is no one-time purchase option when registering a domain. Make sure you renew your domain before it expires, some sites charge a higher fee to recover an expired domain.

Ok, so what is Domain Hosting then?

Once you purchase or register a domain, it needs to “live” or be hosted somewhere. Most registrars offer the domain hosting included in the yearly price. This allows you to setup your IP address (also known as DNS records) for your domain. Each domain points to an IP address which is usually the internet address of your website. When you log on your registrar site, you will usually see something like “DNS control panel” or “Manage your domains”. This is where you can you setup your IP addresses. To recap: Domain hosting is where you host your DNS records which is where you setup the IP address for your domain.

Make sure you own your domain

It is very important to know where your domain is and also, you need to make sure you own it. When the domain is under someone else’s name or someone bought it for you under their account, then technically you don’t own it. If that person disappears or doesn’t work for you anymore it can be a nightmare to recover your domain. If this is the case, you should request them to transfer it to an account under your name. Normally, they will do this for you unless you are not on good terms with them. You may have to pay for a year of domain hosting for this transfer, but it’s worth it. When we develop websites for a client, we ask them to purchase the domain themselves so that they can have full control.

What is web hosting?

Websites run on web servers which are specially configured servers to show web pages. A web server can have one or more websites, even websites that are not yours. This is how you can pay low monthly rates to host a website without paying for an entire server (you can get hosting for $5/month at some web hosting providers).  Web hosting refers to this service to host your website so that it works when people enter your domain name in a browser.

Each web server has one or more IPs, and each website is setup to work with a specific IP. This IP is setup in the DNS records for your domain (which is why you need domain registration and hosting). The confusion happens because many times the web hosting company and registrar is the same one but they are two separate services. Web hosting is normally billed monthly and domain hosting (registration) is billed yearly.

Why do I need to know where my website is hosted?

We have had clients in the past whose website is down and they have no idea how to get it back up. They depend on a web developer or a person that has access to everything. If that person is not available or doesn’t provide these services anymore then they are out of luck. It is possible to guesstimate where the website is hosted, but the process to contact the web hosting company and prove that you are the true owner of the website can be very difficult.

When you setup a new website, you need to make sure you have access to the web hosting account (store your username and password), know what hosting company it is, and how to contact them. It has happened that all that was needed was a ticket submission requesting a server reboot. Without access or knowledge of where the website is hosted it is impossible to do this.

OK, I need to figure this out, can you help me?

Of course! Give us a call, let us know what your domain is and we can do some digging to find out where it is hosted, or you can forward all those emails with users/passwords that you don’t know what they’re for and we can help you out! If you want to move everything to a new hosting company to start fresh, click on this link to learn more about our hosting services.

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