Right, a lot of people know the answer to this question but a lot of people don’t – which is fine – we know what we know. I’m slightly baffled choosing between different bags of cement so tend to seek advice (and then there’s all that washing up liquid business).
Domains and hosting are separate things, incur separate charges each year and need to be linked together. What’s the difference between hosting and domain? The easiest way to explain it is to use an analogy – we’ll use your house.
Your domain is your website address, for example, the domain of this website is www.cyberfrogdesign.co.uk. It’s what people type into the address bar of their browser to visit your site. Similarly, with your house, your home address is how the postman finds you. All house addresses are different to make sure you get your own mail and all domain names are different. If you’ve ever tried to register a domain name and it’s not available it means someone already has that address.
A website is basically a folder full of files not dissimilar to a named folder (like ‘My Documents) you have on your computer. That folder needs to be kept somewhere so the world can see it. This folder full of website files is uploaded to your hosting provider who basically have a big computer that anyone with an internet connection has access to and charge rent for the privilege of looking after it for you. So, your home has an address, as discussed above, and your bricks and mortar house is where you actually reside. The domain and hosting are in the same place so people can find your house amongst all the others and ultimately find you.
I already have a domain but need hosting
I’ll try to extend the metaphor and see if it stretches far enough… You may have already registered your domain but have not sorted out hosting. This is okay. You can register a domain with one company and pay the rent for the hosting to another. “But, they’re not in the same place – how will people find me?” Your domain and hosting are linked by telling your domain where the hosting is. To use the analogy, it’s a bit like a PO Box address which is assigned to your home address – people can still find you by sending letters to your PO Box address.
Here’s an article about how to find web hosting which may help in your decision but if you’re still in doubt contact a web designer who will be able to help you more. If you haven’t obtained a domain or hosting try smaller registrars and hosting providers in the country where you live and not the big boys at the top of Google. Trust me, smaller domiciled companies provide a much better service and are cheaper than global companies in the long run.