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Understanding the Difference Between Domains, Hosting + Your Website Itself

If you want a website, you need a web hosting plan and a domain. But what exactly does that mean… and what does a web host even do?

I recently did a search on Google for a simple definition to provide my design clients, but this is what came up as the best definition:

web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed in the Internet. Websites are hosted, or stored, on special computers called servers. (Source)

I was hoping for something a little more simple… and helpful. So I started looking around. Then I remembered back to a time where I heard the following analogy as it relates to your website and your home.

1) A domain name (also known as URL) is like your street address.

This is how people know where you live and how to get there. So if you live at 123 Street Lane, they’ll always come to 123 Street Lane to visit you. The same goes for when they’re visiting your domain address, the same URL will get them to your website each time.

2) A web host is like your house itself.

And just as there are different types of houses, there are different hosting plans.

Perhaps a dedicated server would be similar to a single-family house where you have your own everything. A shared hosting plan could be compared to an apartment complex where you might be sharing a laundry room but still have your dedicated space.

3)  Website files + data is like everything you put in your house to make it a home.

This is similar to your website files and data that makes your website look, feel and function as it does. This is where you’d install WordPress, decide on your theme and install your plugins. Then once you’ve got the basics, you’d begin designing it to your liking.

Curious about who I recommend, and personally use, when it comes to website hosting and business tools in general? Click here to view my favorites.

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Hi! I'm Katie. I'm a web designer and brand strategist who specializes in blending clean + crisp design alongside smart strategy for professional coaches + consultants.

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