Understanding the Difference Between Domains, Hosting and a Website

Posted at October 23, 2015 at 8:30 am by InterServer Staff

Understanding the Difference Between Domains, Hosting and a Website

If you’re thinking about building a website, you’re going to be hearing a lot of different terms as you learn about this process.  While it may seem overwhelming at first, building your own website is actually surprisingly easy, and we here at Interserver are here to help you every step of the way.  One of the sources of most confusion for those new to creating websites is the differences between domains, hosting and the website itself.  This article will help to explain each of these terms, and how they should be used.

What are Domain Names

Simply put, a domain name is the same thing as the URL of a website.  For example, the domain of this site is Interserver.net.  Typically, these domain names are chosen to be easy to remember and descriptive of the website that they are associated with.  Domain names are basically the address people need to type in or click on in order to get to the website they want to view.

These names are important because unlike people, computers communicate using numbers.  Each website has its own number designation, known as an IP Address.  Using this site as an example again, our IP addresses (we actually have two for added redundancy) are 198.41.189.28 and 198.41.188.28.  Rather than requiring people to memorize numbers, domain names are used to help make it easier.  When you type in interserver.net to your web browser,  the computer automatically translates that into the proper numbers so you don’t have to worry about it. 

What are Hosts

A website host is the actual location where all the files and other information for a website are stored.  Just like you can save documents, pictures and other information on your home computer, you can save pages, pictures and other information about your website on a host computer.  If you host your website with Interserver, for example, all the files for your website will be stored on one of the powerful computers we have in our state of the art datacenters.

In addition to providing the disk space and processing power to house the files for thousands of websites, we also provide the bandwidth necessary to send the websites to visitors.  There are hundreds of different hosting companies out there, each providing slightly different services.  In general, however, a host will store your website data, serve it to visitors, provide some security to your files and even manage backups to ensure you don’t lose your data. 

What are Websites?

The actual website that people view is just a bunch of files organized in a way that makes them easy to access.  Depending on the type of website you have, it may contain image files, text files, databases and much more.  All these files are normally organized and accessed using either a content management system (like WordPress, Joomla or Magento) or just coded manually using HTML or other web design languages. 

How do Domains, Hosts and Websites Work Together

When you type a domain name into your browser and hit enter, your computer will connect to the Internet where it can learn what IP address is associated with the domain name you typed in.  Once it goes through this process, it will send a request to the proper IP address, which will be owned by the web hosting company.  When that request arrives at the web hosting company, the files of the website are accessed and sent to the computer of the person who typed in the domain name.

Of course, all of this happens in just seconds, allowing you to browse through websites quickly and easily.  While this can be confusing at first, it is important to have this basic level of understanding when running a website.  It will help you to identify where a problem may be occurring, and get a good idea of how visitors are getting to your page.  If you ever have any questions about any of these processes, please don’t hesitate to contact our technical team, who will be happy to help you.

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