Domain Names, Web Hosting, and Why You Need Both

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“I have a domain. Do I need web hosting, too?”

It seems like we hear that question or something similar at least once a week. It’s a fair and important question, because if you goof that up, your website could go poof.

First things first, let’s answer the question: Do you need a domain and web hosting?

Yes, you absolutely need both. To understand why, let’s take a look at what each does.

A Domain by Any Other Name Would Redirect to Your Site?

Plainly, a domain is your website’s address. In other words, it’s what people type into their browser to get to your site. You want Nike? Clickety-clack nike.com in the address bar and you’re there.

To get a domain, you work with a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy or Name.com, and they’ll reserve your desired web address for a fee. While you have rights to the domain, it’s all yours. That means no other individual or company can use it. Neat.

But a domain is just one part of the equation. To deliver your website to the masses, you’ll also need a web hosting service.

The Web Hostess with the Mostest

At the most basic level, a web hosting service operates servers and rents out space to individuals and organizations to store their websites. Essentially, you pay to keep your stuff on a big computer that can be accessed via the web. Web hosting services, like Bluehost and HostGator, will store the files that make up your website.

So, how does your domain name work with your web hosting service?

An Address, A Building, and Your Website

Probably the easiest way to explain domains and hosting is to think about a building.

The domain is the building’s address. It’s how people find the building. Your web hosting is the structure itself. It’s what stores all the cool stuff you want people to come see. The rooms and furniture in the building are the pages and content on your site.

Now, you can have your address at an empty lot, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense. And, you probably wouldn’t construct your building in the middle of nowhere if you wanted people to come visit you.

It goes the same for your webpage. If you have a domain name but your website isn’t hosted, yourawesomewebsitethatisreallycoolandstuff.com won’t connect to anything. The reverse is true, too. If you have your website hosted but no domain name reserved, people won’t know how to get to your site.

That’s why both a domain and hosting are vital for your website.

One Last Thing

Keep in mind, many domain registrars and web hosting providers now offer both products to customers. If you don’t use one provider for both services, it’s very important to ensure you’re up to date on billing for both. You wouldn’t want that shiny website of yours to go dark, would you?