Welcome back to another edition of “Websites are way over my head.” Know that you are not alone on this one. But hopefully I can help simplify something that seems pretty complex. The topic at hand is, “What is the difference between a domain and hosting?” Here’s the easiest way to visualize it:
Hosting – Your house.
Domain – Your address, a simple and memorable way to remember how to find your house.
I know, you’re thinking, “This is a little too simple.” Maybe so, but the goal is to help you better understand how your website functions so that the next time your web guy tries to pull a fast one on you, you have a basic working knowledge of what you’re dealing with. Let’s dive a little deeper into each of these.
Your house is where you live. All of your things are there. Pictures of your family, your furniture, appliances, etc. In the website world this is often referred to as your hosting. Your hosting holds or plays host to all of your website’s files. These are the nuts and bolts of what makes your website work and function the way it does.
Your domain is your address. It’s how you know where your house is and how to easily find it. In the same way, your domain is how to find your website and its files – the information you want to share with the world. Domains were first publicly used in 1986 and are a more simple and memorable way to find a website. Before the use of domains, you would have to enter a numerical IP (Internet Protocol) address – think 192.168.1.100. Who is going to remember the IP address for Google, Amazon, or Apple, let alone a small business in their town?
Pretty simple, right? Now, where most people start getting confused is when your hosting and your domain are in two different places. For instance, if you purchase your domain from GoDaddy.com and a previous web company has your website hosted with NetworkSolutions.com. At the Thrivetime Show, we highly recommend that you consolidate where your domain is registered (or purchased from) and where your website’s hosting is. GoDaddy at the time of this writing offers competitive prices for both domain registration and reliable hosting. As a bonus, they offer 24/7 phone and chat support for all of their customers. So if your website or domain ever experiences any issues, they are easily reachable and available to help you out. Unlike the web guy who has your website hosted on his server in his mom’s basement.
Your Hosting = Your House; Your Domain = Your Address
If you find yourself in a position where your domain and hosting are separate, here are some steps you can take to consolidate these. Start out by determining if you like the service and performance of your current website host. It is far easier to transfer a domain to a new registrar than to transfer your entire website to a new host. The majority of web hosts offer a domain transfer service that allow you to easily transfer your domain to them for often a reduced fee (currently GoDaddy’s domain transfer fee is $7.99) and includes an additional year of domain registration.
If you are not happy with your current website hosting company, explore the options available to migrate your website to the same company where your domain is registered. In some cases this is not possible, such as websites hosted with Shopify or a website builder – i.e. Squarespace, Wix, etc. In these cases, your best course of action is going to be to set up a WordPress-based website that you can optimize with a hosting company that is reliable and big enough to offer 24/7 support every day of the year. We endorse Shopify-based websites for eCommerce, but highly recommend that you have a parallel WordPress-based website that allows you to reach the top of Google faster, but also allows you to continue selling your products.
In the cases where your website can be moved, reach out to your web developer or the new hosting company to see if they will offer to migrate the website for you or look into having a new website built to replace your current website.