Domain Names vs. Web Hosting: Understanding the Difference

question bubbleDomain names vs. web hosting can often trip people up – especially if they are new to the online landscape.

Savvy Internet users may view this as a no-brainer. However, it is not as obvious to others who may be unfamiliar with such a distinction.

Statistics reflect 40%-50% of SMB owners remain without a website – or digital presence.

The intimidation aspect of technology is thought to be a contributing factor to these stats. So with that in mind, it’s no wonder the domain names vs. web hosting confusion is a thing.

Experience has shown me while explaining the fundamentals of a new website to a client for the first time, the topic of domain names vs. web hosting needs to be addressed. Hopefully the following info will help to clarify matters.


A Little Computer History First

When I purchased my first computer I was confused with Ram or Memory vs. Hard Drive disk space. Actually it confused the hell out of me!  Sometimes the most basic analogy can bring clarification that sticks. In the Ram vs. Disk Space it came down to Ram was like food that fueled your computer and Disk Space is where everything (like your files, images, photos, etc.) lived.

Suffice to say I didn’t always know off the top of my head how much Memory or actual disk space I had, but I DID know the difference. Now I know more Ram or Memory usually means a faster more powerful computer and more Disk Space (or a larger Hard Drive) means more room to store stuff. Easy-peezy!

An Easy Visual Analogy for Domain Names vs. Web Hosting

Working with a variety of clients, I learned that not everyone enjoys tech speak. In fact it can quickly make people’s eyes glaze over. So being an incredibly visual person myself, I opted to come up with a little visual analogy solution. Doing so enabled folks to easily understand the Domain Names vs. Web Hosting distinction. It continues to work beautifully – AND it’s incredibly simple. NO tech speak involved 🙂

So here you go:
• A Domain Name (your web address such as is like a car.
• Your Web Hosting is like a garage (where you park your car).

And you MUST have both for your website to be visible and active online!

domain names vs. web hosting graphic


Generally speaking, when you purchase/register your Domain Name it is good for one year – but it is advised to buy it for several years. Google likes to see a commitment (so I’ve been told). Web Hosting can be paid monthly or can be yearly as well. There are MANY different providers such as GoDaddy or HostGator and you can have your Domain Name and Web Hosting with the same provider if you choose to do so.


Avoid Cancellation of Your Domain & Hosting

domains and hosting avoid cancellationAllowing your business website domain name to expire and web hosting could find you in some deep doo-doo!

Sadly, nefarious people lay in wait to buy your domain – especially if it is deemed valuable. Getting it back could cost hundreds if not thousands of $$$. That is if you can get it back at all!

Furthermore, allowing your website hosting to expire could cause you to lose all of your site content. This is especially true if your site runs on a platform such as WordPress and your database is not kept backed-up! Talk to your webmaster or web admin. Website maintenance is your friend 🙂

In a nutshell, make sure to avoid cancellation of both your domain name and hosting!


If Your Credit Card is Hacked, Update Your Info!!

Unfortunately the Credit Card you may have associated with your Website Hosting or Domain account may get hacked. If you are on “auto-renew” and forget to update your account with new info – this can cause you to lose your site too!

Just like updating other accounts you may have associated with your CC, make sure your website hosting and domain name stays on your radar too.

Don’t ignore those Renewal Notices…
Keep tabs on things. Set-up “Auto-renew” if you know you can be kinda flakey. But be sure the CC you may use for payment is not expired.


eco-conscious graphic designer barbara rogersWritten by Barbara Rogers of Future Primitive Graphics. Graphic Designer and Nature Inspired Art photographer visually enhancing client’s print and digital media. Creatively collaborating with those who genuinely want to make the world a better place.