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We talk to people daily about websites, hosting, blogs, SEO, domains and social media. The most confusing topic that comes up is the difference between a domain and hosting. It can be confusing because they are both often purchased with the same company.

Before we start, let’s go ahead and mention that we provide free domains to our hosting clients. That is assuming that they are going to stay with us as their trusted web presence partner. Common domains (.com, .net, etc.) can be very inexpensive — dollars a year — and sold to customers in yearly amounts. Purchase a domain for three years upfront, get a discount. Or just become our client and the common domain is on us with your hosting package.

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domain vs hosting

Domain vs Hosting Analogy

When someone says that they have a domain with GoDaddy, we will ask ‘Where is your current hosting?’ Often times, there is confusion that hosting may be with another company and their previous web design company needs to give us access. 

Here is the analogy that we like to use to separate domain from hosting. In the physical world of commerce, a store has an address and a storefront. The store may be in a strip mall, or a stand alone building. People ride in vehicles or ride bikes or use public transport to get to your physical location and go into your store.

In the digital space, your address is your domain. The URL, the www, the dot com. That is all your domain is to the Internet, an address. Hosting on the other hand, is the actual store. Whether you lease in a strip mall or a stand alone building, you are leasing a property to place your items and do business. Hosting providers do the same for your website. They lease you space on their server for your online store or website. It can be a shared server, like a strip mall, or a dedicated server, like the standalone building. Either way, you do not need to own a server to have a website or domain. 

To recap: a domain is an address and hosting is the leasing of the space on a server for your website.

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A couple more fun analogies that can be food for thought:

  • A web browser is like the vehicle that gets you to your store. Remember, unlike a car, a browser can go to anyone’s store in the world, so work on your digital marketing.
  • An online Google or Yelp listing is like the phone book yellow pages. When you need something you ask Siri.  You need to be in these online directories just like you need to be in the yellow pages years ago.
  • A website’s content is like a store front window and the inside appearance. The website needs to work to funnel people to your virtual register.

We can help with all aspects of your web presence from domains to hosting to websites to directories, SEO and content. Check out our other articles or grab a free website checklist (click here).

Phillip is co-founder of Creative Boro and has an extensive knowledge of website design best practices.  There is more great information in the links below. Please check ’em out!

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