What is the difference between a domain name, a website and website hosting

One of the most common questions I get asked by clients is what is the difference between a website and website hosting and  is it the same thing as a domain address. It’s important for a business owner to become familar with these terms so that they can become informed clients when choosing a website design agency. This article breaks down the difference between a domain name, website hosting and an actual website. 

What is a website?

I’m guess if you are reading this you already know what a website is. However, for the purpose of this tutorial lets’s  breakdown even further what a website is.

Firstly, let’s breakdown what a file is. A file can be anything from a video clip to an image. A quick way to remember what a file is, is  that if it can be saved, it’s a file. 

A group of files can be combined together to make a single page.

A single page refers to one individual page from a website such as the about page or contact page. Some websites only have a single page, however commonly websites are made up of multiple pages.

A website is a group of files that when grouped and linked together become a website.

Think of it like a book. A book has individual pages. If you take out a  page from a book it is no longer a book but a single page. Together the pages make up a book.

What is a domain?

A domain name is the address that people need to type into a browser’s URL bar to reach your website. A website address is called a URL.

A domain name is purchased and renewed on a regular basis, usually yearly. Domain names have many different endings such as .com.au, .net, .com and more specific ones such as .me or .rent to name a mere few.

Some domains cannot be purchased unless the buyer meets a certain restriction. This is true for Australian domain names that end in .com.au Generally, the buyer will need to have a business name or ABN to qualify for that domain name.

There is often confusion from business owners about which domain name variation they should buy .com or .com.au.  What we recommend for Australian businesses is to buy both variations but to set one as the main domain and have the other domain redirect to the main chosen domain.

If you own a bricks and mortar business or if the  majority of your customers online are based in Australia, then you should use the .com.au as your main domain.

However, if your website is more global a domain ending in .com may be more appropriate.

What is website hosting?

Website hosting is the part that can confuse people sometimes. I like to describe website hosting as virtual land.

You have the website (the house) the domain (the address) now you just need some land to place the website (all the files) on.

Just like in the physical world, not all land is created equally and location matters. When a website visitor goes to their browser and enters your domain address into the URL bar they are connecting to your website from a data server. If that data server is located in one country and that website visitor in another country the result will be a slower loading website. You want to make sure that the data server that your website is hosted on, is in the same location as where the majority of your website visitors are. 

It’s important to note that just because your website agency is based in Australia it does not mean that they are using an Australian host. You need to ask your web design agency which country your website will be hosted in. This is also true for your actual website host.  Some Australian hosts do in fact host your website overseas. You also need to clarify with your website design agency whether or not they will host your website.

Here at Cleo and JoJo Media all our client websites are hosted right here in Australia.  The exception is for our international clients. In that case we select a data server closer to our’s clients main customer base. 

Another final word of caution. Regardless on whether you personally purchase your domain name or whether one is provided to your by your website design agency, you must make sure that the domain name is in your name and that you, not your web agency retains ownership.  Think of your domain name like the deed of your online business. 

If our clients don’t already have a domain name purchased we will on their behalf register a domain name,  however this domain name will 100% be in our clients name.