What Is a Domain? 6 Key Differences Between a Domain and a Host

There are almost 2 billion websites online today. What’s more, that number grows every second.

In the Republic of Ireland alone, there were 31,665 website registrations made in 2016. Including .ie domains (more on this later) registered outside of the island, the total count is 221,871.

These figures should tell you how valuable a website is to your small business, especially in The Emerald Isle, home to over 250,000 businesses. 99.8% of these websites are SMEs.

Before you can have a website though, you first need to know what is a domain and how it’s different from a web host. These are two different things, although they share a tight relationship.

No need to worry though, even if you’re not web-savvy. We’ll cover the most important stuff about these two, so keep reading!

What is a Domain?

Every website has a unique string of numbers for identification. This series of numbers is what you call the IP (Internet Protocol) address. The IP address distinguishes one website from others.

An IP address looks something like this:

That set of numbers is what connects computer users to the server of the website they want to visit. By the way, that example is one of Google’s public IP address ranges. Whether you can access it or not depends on where you live.

In any case, an IP address, as crucial as it is, isn’t that memorable. In fact, it’s something not a lot of people will remember right away.

That’s where a domain name comes into play.

Web users are people, and people find it a lot easier to memorise words than strings of numbers. The domain name replaces those digits with easy-to-remember words. Your brain would have a much easier time remembering “Google.com” than “”, wouldn’t it?

Remember, domain names are words, although they can have numbers in them. IP addresses are pure numbers (with periods separating them).

What is a Host?

In essence, web hosting is a service that grants users access to websites they want to visit. It’s the service that provides websites a place to store the contents of their sites. A web host is the term you use to refer to these service providers.

Still confused? That’s understandable. To make things clearer, let’s further differentiate domains and hosts.

1. You Create Your Own Domain Name, You Choose a Web Hosting Service

If you don’t have a website yet then your domain name doesn’t exist, but there are already web hosts waiting for you to choose them.

As a would-be site owner, you need to make your own domain name. It needs to be original and one-of-a-kind. From a technical (and marketing) perspective, domains must be unique.

In short, there can’t be two of Googles, Facebooks, or IrishTimes. When creating your domain name, it needs to be new and unregistered.

Web hosts are services already established and in operation. As we’ve mentioned above, a host is who you turn to for the storage of your site’s contents. Even if you haven’t come up with a domain name yet, you can choose a reliable web hosting service.

2. Your Domain Name is Your “Address”, Your Web Host is Your “Landlord”

Here’s an easier-to-digest answer to the question, “what is a website domain and how does it differ from a host?”.

Think of your website domain name as your digital address. Your website is the “structure” of your digital home. The “furniture” and other valuables your online home contains are your web pages. That includes all their content, from files to images to text.

What is web hosting then and where does it enter the picture?

A web host is the party that provides you with the place to store these “contents” in. This storage is a web server. Looking at things this way, you can think of a host as the landlord of the storage space.

You need a host before you can launch your website. Granted, you may already have a domain name and the web content prepared, but if you haven’t chosen a host yet, the site can’t go online.

3. The Domain Name is Front-End, the Web Host is Back-End

Your domain name is a visible part of your website. After all, it’s one of the first things web users see. That makes it a front-end component of your website.

A web host is a component that runs on the background. Most people don’t know which host their favourite sites use. In fact, they don’t have to know, unless they’re curious.

That doesn’t make a web host less important though. Again, you can create and register a domain name without having a host yet. For that domain name to work and the website to be accessible, they need a storage location.

4. You Own Your Domain Name, But You Can’t Own a Web Host

Since a domain name is something you create, it follows that you own it. Again, domain names are unique, so you want to make sure you come up with something as original as possible.

As a business owner, you can use this as a branding opportunity. You can create your domain based on your business’ brand name. This’ll also lend more power to your marketing campaigns, like search engine optimisation.

A web host isn’t something you can own unless you start your own hosting company. In that case, you’d need supercomputers and an endless supply of storage equipment.

The bottom line is, you work with a web host as one of their clients. They’ll provide you with the storage you need for your site and its contents. So long as you choose a reliable hosting service, you can expect your site to be up and running 99.99% of the time.

5. Your Domain Name is Yours Alone, But a Web Host May Be “Shared”

Once you register a domain name, it’s yours to keep. No one else can claim it, so long as you keep paying the annual fee to the domain name registrar. Keep in mind your registration’s expiration period to ensure you can keep the domain name.

As for web hosting, it can be a shared service. There are several options, from shared hosting to cloud hosting.

You may also opt for a dedicated server, which means you own the entire web server. This offers the greatest level of control and space since it only stores and handles one website. Dedicated servers are at the top of their class, so they’re also the most expensive.

Small business websites don’t need that much power, but they still need powerful and reliable hosting. For this, a reliable virtual private server (VPS) will suffice.

6. Domain Names Comprise Two Main Components, A Host is Much More Complex

When choosing a domain name, you only have to worry about two main components. One is the second-level domain (SLD), and the other is the third level domain (TLD).

Let’s use our domain name “host.ie” as an example.

The host part is the SLD. That alone tells you a lot about our site – that we’re a web host. When choosing your own domain, you may want to follow suit. Choose a name that describes what your site is about.

Remember what we said about domains being a marketing tool? That’s because your domain name can serve as your most visible branding tool online. It can be your actual brand name or part of it.

Next, we have the domain suffix .ie, which is the TLD part. As you may have already guessed, that stands for Ireland.

That doesn’t mean the site is Irish-exclusive. People can access our domain name from anywhere in the world.

We chose this suffix because we’re based in Ireland and we want people to know that. If your country is in Ireland, you should consider getting .ie too.

The most common TLD is .com, although .net and .org are also popular.

What about the components of a web host? Like we’ve mentioned, it’s way more complex. Don’t worry, a reputable hosting service will make thing less-complicated for you.

At the very least, you’d only have to choose which kind of hosting service you want. We’re referring to shared hosting, cloud hosting, VPS, or dedicated servers. Once you’ve made your pick, your host will do most of the technical stuff of keeping a website up and running.

All that’s left for you to do is to keep your website pretty, useful, interesting, and updated.

Claim Your Domain Name Now and Start Building Your Online Presence

At the beginning of this post, we mentioned that the number of online websites increases every second. Take that as a sign not to delay registering your domain any longer! The longer you do, the greater the risk of someone else claiming it.

Besides, your business needs a website as soon as possible. Now that you know what is a domain name, use this knowledge to start building online authority. This way, you can begin raising your chances of getting more potential clients.

Once you’re ready to work with a host you can rely on for the greatest uptime, know that we can help. Our various hosting plans exist to serve the needs of websites, small or large.