Domain Names vs. Website Hosting vs. Websites: What Does That Mean?

Understanding domain names, website hosting and websites.The internet is a strange and wondrous place, but it is constantly changing. It’s hard to keep up. We are here to help by explaining “what does that mean?”

Is a domain name different from website hosting? Can I change my website but not my website hosting? Why am I so confused?

Don’t feel bad. Many, many of our clients get confused when it comes to sorting out the differences between different aspects of your website’s digital life. To make it easier, we’re going to explain each of these three critical website components for you. We’ll also make some real world comparisons so you’ll never be confused again.

Let’s get started.

Domain Names

Your domain name is like your address or your phone number. In fact, it’s so important, we wrote an entire blog post about it a couple years ago. A domain name is an alias to your website in the same way a phone number is an alias to your phone. It’s an easier way for someone to find you online. Think of it like the difference between map coordinates and a mailing address. Learning 1234 Main Street is a lot easier than a bunch of map coordinates. After a little more detail about the rest, you’ll come to understand its importance.

Website Hosting

Website hosting (link to plug alert!), to preserve the phone metaphor, is like your cellular service provider. A website hosting provider gives you space on your network for your website and the technology to run it. They may even provide additional services like email services and security. Like a cell phone provider gives power to your cell phone to make calls, web hosts give your website a home and the ability to work online.


It may seem silly to ask, “What exactly is a website?” In reality, however, it’s not always a simple thing to understand. In fact, your website is nothing more than a bunch of files held on the computer (called a server) of a website hosting company (more on that in a moment). They are kept in a folder just like files on your own computer. Those files contain code which help your website display properly on the internet. They rely on certain kinds of software to run, just Word document require Microsoft Word. That’s where the web host comes in. To access websites, people type a domain name into their browser.

How does all this work together?

Great question. Let’s go back to the cell phone analogy. Think of your website like your phone, your website host like your phone provider and your domain name like your phone number.

All three of these things are interchangeable. You can keep your phone number even if you go from T-Mobile to Verizon. You can usually keep your phone as well. Also, you can replace your phone and still keep your number and your provider. Or you can ditch it all and start over.

The same is true of all of the website items discussed above. Your domain name is yours even if you change your website and move to a new web host. Or, keep both and choose a new website hosting provider. Or, stay with the same provider and get a new website with the same domain name. It doesn’t matter because they all work together to produce the same outcome: a working website.

It is also worth noting that, like having multiple phone numbers going to the same phone (call forwarding), you can have as many domain names pointing at your website as you like.

Why do I even need to know this?

Another good question. Knowing this helps you better understand your website and how everything works. This allows you to make not only more well-informed choices, but, hopefully, better ones. You can learn to find the best deal on each item and understand their separate but symbiotic relationship.

It also helps you communicate better with the company designing and maintaining your website for you, like, I don’t know. US!

But all jokes (and sales pitches) aside, knowledge is indeed power. Knowing more is better for you and everyone you work with. As always, if you are still confused or have more questions, please contact us today at 888-424-6363.

27 August 2019