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What is the difference between a domain and a web site?

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If you want to set up a web site or have one set already, you may have noticed that you need two services in order to host a site effectively. If you’re curious about what you need both to run a web site, this guide will explain why each one, in turn, is needed. Let’s start by looking at each in separate.

What is web hosting?

Let’s start with what web hosting is. A web hosting plan means leasing space on Hostwinds servers, offering you a place to keep your web site’s files and run the code on it. As an analogy, think of web hosting like renting an apartment. When you rent an apartment, you don’t own the whole building, you pay for using a few rooms inside of the building each month.

Overall, everything you build on your site is stored in your web hosting server. Everything your website visitors see when they visit your site comes from that site’s web hosting. If you have heard of HTML, PHP, Javascript, or WordPress, all of those and many more use web hosting services to work properly. 

In a nutshell, web hosting is your site’s home for your website related files such as index.html or index.php (your site’s homepage), your email and email accounts, your databases and other web hosting related files and services.

Web hosting does the following for your web site:

  • Holds all the files that your web site needs and serves them out to visitors over the internet.
  • Gives your web site a place to run all of the applications and code associated with it.
  • Puts your web site in a place that is easily publically accessible to your visitors.

Additionally, if you have an email address, your emails will be sent and kept on your hosting as well.

Hostwinds products that offer hosting:

What is a domain?

To understand what a domain is, and why we need them, it’s important to know that computers do not use words to communicate with one another. Most computers use a sequence of four numbers called “IP Addresses”. IP Addresses look like this:

This works perfectly fine for computers, but people have trouble remembering arbitrary sequences of numbers, so domain names were invented to give computers more people-friendly names that are easier to remember. A domain name looks like this:

If you’re on the internet a lot, you probably use domains to find web sites frequently. Most domains end in .com, .org, or .net.

Think of an IP address like the computer’s equivalent of your home address. A domain is similar to adding “home” in your GPS, so your GPS looks up your home address.

A domain offers these benefits:

  • Makes it easy for people to find your web site on the internet
  • Allows applications such as WordPress that require a domain to function properly.

What is the overall difference between the two?

The hosting of a web site is where the web site is, it is the computer that holds it, and it’s where all of the data that the site owner worked to create exists. A Domain is a name, it points to the site, and attracts users and generates an easy to remember name that makes your site popular.

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