What's the difference between a domain, website, and email hosting?
Your online presence may be comprised of different elements, including your domain name, website or hosted content, and email address. But what is the difference between these elements and how does that impact your online presence?
Select a question to see its answer:
What is a domain name?
A domain, such as coolexample.com, is a human-readable series of letters and numbers that translate into an Internet Protocol, or IP, address. When entered into a browser's address bar, a domain can direct the Internet user to your website. You can think of a domain like the street address of your house—it's the specific location, or piece of land, that you'll use to build your house.
To get to this location, you must register a domain through a domain registrar. A domain registrar is an accredited organization, like GoDaddy, that facilitates the registration of domains to the public. The person who registers a domain is called the registrant. A registrant keeps a domain registered in exchange for a registration fee and risks losing the domain if the fee is unpaid.
What is web hosting?
A common way to use a domain is to connect it to a website for users to visit. To operate a website, you must make its files and content accessible by having web hosting through a web hosting company. A web hosting company houses and serves your website's files and content, and enables you to make your website's content accessible to the world.
You might have your domain registered with a different company than your web hosting company, so it's important to know where to manage each element. For example, if you need to change the contact information on your domain, you go to your domain name registrar, but if you have an issue with an image on your website, you go to your web host. Many people prefer to have all aspects of their online presence with one company for easier management, but others prefer the separation for a variety of reasons.
What is email hosting?
Email hosting is a service that stores your email messages and files on a server. Those servers manage the sending and receipt of emails. You can use free email hosting providers, like Gmail and Yahoo, or you can set up a custom email address with your domain.
Your registered domain, web hosting, and email hosting can all be with different companies. You can also keep everything with the same company, often in a bundled option when registering a domain or setting up web hosting.
Why is the difference important?
Domains, websites and email addresses are all pieces of the greater online presence. Having a custom email address and website depend on having a domain. Visitors get to your website by entering your domain in their browser's address bar, and they send emails to your custom address. You can have a domain without an email address or website, but you can't have an email address or website without a domain.
Knowing the difference between your domain, web hosting and email is important for keeping track of your online presence. You need to be able to determine where an issue might be coming from, such as whether it's your email or your domain having problems. If you have your domain, web hosting and email through different companies, you'll also need to know which company to go to for fixing issues or managing your services.