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FAQs: “What’s the Difference Between Web Hosting and a Domain Name?”

At Technology Matters, we think of ourselves as your resident web experts – except we’re in our funky Yarraville office instead of your basement. That’s why we often field questions about technical processes, give advice on design or marketing, or translate techy-speak into regular-person-language.
One of THE MOST COMMON questions we get is about hosting and domain names:

“What even is web hosting? Is it different to my domain name?
And do I have to pay for both?”

Like most everything in the world, the best way to explain what we’re talking about is with a metaphor:

If your website is a shop, the web host is the building it’s in

In its most basic form, a website is simply a collection of files and data – and those files have to physically reside somewhere. That somewhere is called a “host” – in most cases, a big room with racks and racks of servers and an uber-fast internet connection so that it can transfer your website to the world.

Those servers are usually very well protected – from fire, flooding, unauthorised access, etc. – and attended by a host of technicians, database managers, and more. They are (or should be!) constantly monitored, backed up, maintained and upgraded; looking after a web hosting data centre is a full-time job.

So in short, when you pay for “web hosting”, you are paying for your website to “live” on a web host.

…and your domain name is the P.O. Box

A shop is no good if no one can get to it, and neither is a website. Every single computer connected to the internet has an “IP address” – an identification number which you can use to connect to it by typing it into your browser. That is the essence of the internet, really – connecting remotely to other computers.

But it’s a little tricky to remember an IP address like “66.220.144.0” or “199.223.232.0” – which is why the powers that be invented domain names. Much like a P.O. Box, a domain name is connected to an IP address – when a user types in “Facebook.com” or “TechnologyMatters.com.au”, they’re redirected to the website’s “real” location.

Everybody gets where they’re going and nobody has to deal with complicated strings of numbers – it’s win/win!

Of course, there’s an infinite number of potential domain names out there, and they have to be managed by someone. That someone is a “domain name registrar” – the internet’s answer to telephone directories (anyone here remember telephone directories?) Registrars don’t sell domain names outright, but they rent them out – if you rent a domain and tell them where you want it to point, they will direct anyone who visits that domain name right to your website.

Technology Matters handles it all

Now that you know these two services, you’ve probably realised how vitally important they both are to your online business – which is why we recommend that you let us manage them for you. Why? Well…

1. This whole thing is a little more complex than I made it sound
I didn’t even mention how this works with email routing, subdomains, or trying to change host or domain name registrar down the track. Why work with (at least) two different companies when we can set it all up for you in-house?

2. Not all web hosts are created equal
There are many hosts out there, ranging from no-frills budget services, to high-end dedicated servers, to dodgy overseas operators who promise a LOT more than they deliver. We have a range of hosting packages to suit everyone (except those dodgy ones!), partnering with hosts we know and trust. They are all fast, reliable, and we’re on a first name basis with nearly every server technician there.

3. Your bill will only come from one place
We have had countless calls from clients who have received a spammy email asking them to renew their domain name – and most of the time, we tell them the same thing: if it didn’t come from us, ignore it. That is The Biggest Benefit of leaving it all in our hands – we take care of expiries and renewals, we deal with technical issues or upgrades, and the only invoices you’ll ever receive come direct from us.

Do you want to register or transfer a domain name right now? Guess what, you can

Nathan Dorey
Nathan Dorey
Nathan has been involved in nearly every aspect of web development for 12 years – from scoping to design, and coding to copywriting. He oversees Technology Matters' Association Suite, bringing together a range of services catered to professional associations.

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