What is the difference between domain and hosting? - Sparx Digital
What's the difference between domain and hosting?

If your business has a website, you’ve probably wondered what the difference is between domain and hosting, and whether these are the same thing. All the technology behind getting your website online can be complicated and technical, and it’s something that often confuse our customers (even the tech savvy ones!). Here is a breakdown of the different working ‘parts’ that your website needs to be online.


Website Hosting

Website hosting refers to the technology and services that store the working files of your website, and serves them to visitors. This can technology can vary significantly between providers, and there is a whole important range of difference between types of  hosting like shared, cloud, or dedicated.

Using good quality website hosting is one of the most important factors in having a fast, secure and reliable website. The technology your website hosting consists of  can vary significantly between providers, and there is a whole important range of difference between types of  hosting like shared, cloud, or dedicated. We’ll leave the breakdown of these to a future article, but if your website hosting is with Sparx, you can leave the technical details to us and know that you have top quality hosting to keep your website fast, secure and online.

The important takeout here is that website hosting is the server or severs that store the code, images, files and everything else that makes up your website. Your website hosting can sit independently from your domain hosting, and your DNS hosting (more on that below).


Domain Hosting

A domain name is the address people enter in a web browser to get to your website. Your website can have multiple domain names that point to the same website (eg with our own site you can access via sparx.com.au or sparxdigital.com.au). Having a domain name associated with your website is required to have your website online and accessible by customers.

Domain names can be purchased through a wide range of domain registrars, and the prices can vary depending on top level domain you want to use (eg .com, .com.au, .biz etc).

Domain hosting refers to where your domain is registered, and what domain registrar it’s with. If you have an existing website you likely already have a domain registered, and hopefully you have the login details saved. If you’re not sure, you can use a Whois lookup tool to find the contacts for your domain such as AuDA’s lookup tool (for Australian .com.au domains) or ICANN’s lookup tool for other domain names.

To point your domain name to your website hosting, you need to update something called the DNS records to point to your website hosting. DNS stands for Domain Name System and matches your domain name with the server or network. There are two ways to point your domain to your host:

  1. Use Name Server (NS) records to point everything from your domain to your website host OR
  2. Use separate DNS hosting (this can sometimes be provided directly by your domain host as an inclusion or add on, or you can use a dedicated DNS host like CloudFlare.
What domains should you have for your business?

Our advice here is always don’t go overboard! Only register the main domains that you want to use, and then some common variations if available. If a customer accidentally enters your domain name as .com, instead of of .com.au – you still want them to get to your website (assuming the .com is available). If your business name has any common mis-spellings or issues with a plural, it’s usually  a good idea to pick these up. If your business is called Fullers Fruit Shop, a customer hears your ad on radio promoting fullersfruit.com.au, you want to make sure you also have fullerfruit.com.au which could be a common mistake by potenital customers.

.com.au or .com?
Although .com is the most well known domain, and one of the oldest; it doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it for your business. While .com started from being for a COMmercial business, it’s now primarily used for American specific or international businesses. We always recommend Australian based businesses use the Australia’s own .com.au top-level domain – it’s what most customers would assume and let’s Australian visitors know they’re dealing with a Australian business.

DNS Hosting

Just to make things more complicated… your domain hosting and your DNS hosting can be separate. DNS hosting refers to where all the DNS records live that point your domain to different services is hosted. These DNS records have several important roles in managing your website and anything connected to your domain like your email hosting.

Put simply, DNS records point your domain name to your website hosting.


So whats the difference between domain and hosting, and DNS?

Website hosting = The technology that stores and serves your website to visitors.

Domain hosting = A domain name is the address for your website, and domain hosting refers to registrar your domain is registered and setup with.

DNS hosting = DNS hosting refers to the records connected to your domain that direct your domain to other servers and networks.


Best practices for managing it all…

Managing the hosting, domain name and DNS can be a confusing and often frustrating experience for business owners. One of the worst things is here that a small mis-configuration issue somewhere along the line can mean your website, email or both isn’t functioning which can be a disaster for any business.

If you’re a Sparx Digital customer, we will generally host your website, domain name DNS records, which means you don’t have to stress about the ins and outs and technicalities of how everything works – leave it all to us!

Of course if you wanted to manage all or some of these yourself, you certainly can! We always recommend making sure you have access to these, and then ensuring you keep the login information details somewhere both secure and easy to access, in the future.
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