Websites, Domains, and Hosting are three different things that go together to create and present your presence on the Web.

Websites, Domains, & Hosting: a primer

Websites, Domains, and Hosting are three different things that go together to create and present your presence on the Web.

Ripped from the Headlines…

Well, maybe not ripped from the headlines but this blog post comes from a recent situation that a client found himself in as well as some questions that I’ve gotten from other clients.

Today, we’re going to talk about Websites, Domains, and Hosting. If you are asking yourself “Those are the same things, right?”, then this post is for you.

They are Not the Same

I love analogies so we’ll start with this one: let’s think about this as an apartment that you live in. Your apartment is the Website: it has all your stuff and tells people a little bit about who you are. The apartment building itself is your Hosting. It’s where you’re apartment is and you pay rent to have your stuff there. Your address at the apartment is your Domain. It’s the address that the Post Office knows to send you your mail.

I realize that this isn’t the perfect analogy because, normally, you don’t have to pay the Post Office to get your address (unless you use a PO Box) but I think you get the idea.

The Domain is an Address That Points to the Hosting

A domain is a phrase (,, that humans can understand that is registered by an entity (like you) to point somewhere more specific: an IP address. The street address that you give someone to your house has an equivalent set of coordinates but it’s easier to use the street address than the coordinates.

Domains are registered through places like GoDaddy, NameCheap, You go there, pick your domain, and pay to lease it. Like the apartment, you don’t own your domain but you rent it. If you don’t pay for your domain on a regular basis, you will lose it.

Pro Note: When you register your domain, don’t use an email address that is associated with that domain. For example, I shouldn’t use to register because if I get locked out of the domain and can’t access that email, I don’t have a way to recover my account. Trust me on this one.

Hosting is Where the Website is Stored

When you sign up for hosting, you are renting space on a server somewhere so that you can store your website files, receive emails there, and other things. Much like buying a new computer, what you are looking for in a Web Hosting company is a combination of specs (how much storage, memory, bandwidth), speed (how fast files are served), and dependability (how often does the server go down) for a good price. There are plenty of websites that compare different hosting providers for you to explore.

Currently, I work with three hosting providers for myself and my clients. All WordPress websites are hosted with InMotion Hosting, my Gatsby websites (with the exception of one) are at Netlify, and I have some personal websites on Gatsby Cloud.

Pro Note: Since choosing the right web hosting can get overwhelming, it might be best to get a web developer involved in this decision. Most web developers have a hosting company that they normally work with and they might prefer to have the website that they are building on their hosting platform.

The Website Is Where the Rubber Meets the Road

A website is nothing but a collection of technologies working together to make things happen. Depending on how your website is built, it’s usually a combination of HTML files (the pages that your browser reads), programming files (like JavaScript, PHP, or something else that have actions and functions in them), and a database (to store data in). Your browser requests files and through the magic of the Internet, the website that you have helped build (even if it was only looking at the thing and saying “That’s great!” is sent to your browser to render. All these things work together to make something that your users can connect, engage with, and, hopefully, act upon to interface with your company. Websites are complicated systems that have a lot of moving parts to them. When they are working correctly, they seem simple but any of the different elements that go into a website can upset the whole system.

Pro Note: If you hire a web developer, please hire one that is relatively close in timezone to your own so that you can connect with them should problems be happening with the website. I have heard from many different people the frustration they feel when their website is down and they can’t get a hold of their web developer.

All on the Same Web Page… Get it?

Now that you have a better idea (at least I hope you do) of why Websites, Domains, and Hosting are three different things, I want to add one more element: you need to pay for them all.

  • You need to lease and renew the lease for your domain on an annual basis. Sometimes you can pay for multiple years.
  • You need to pay for your Web Hosting. Whether you are paying a hosting company directly or a company that is managing your website, you have to pay for your web hosting.
  • You need to pay for your website to be developed and maintained. Yes, you might build it yourself (and I plan to dig into this more in another post) but that still takes time that you could be using to make money. Any way you look at it, building a website costs money.

Pro Note: Please, please, please make sure you have access to all of your accounts (hosting, domain, and website) and that you keep cards on file up to date so that you don’t have any hiccups like domains not being renewed. Trust me on this one.

What’s Next

I’m working on some one-shot blog posts over the next couple of weeks. I am going to write about different website technologies next post. I plan to write about ADA compliance and how that relates to website design. Also, I’m going to dig into hiring a web developer to build your website vs building it yourself.

If any of this intrigues you and you want to hear more about how this connects to your business, you can drop me a line through my contact form or you can set up a time to talk to me:

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Using web design, email marketing, and automatation, I build and connect companies to technologies that deliver amazing results.

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