28 Feb 2017

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

A lot of confusion (understandably) exists about how domain, web hosting, and email hosting works and what the difference is between them. It's easy to think a domain name, web hosting, email hosting and a website are all the same. While they are closely connected, they are very different things.

What is a Domain Name

When you’re browsing the Internet, domain names are a convenient way for humans to remember sites and email addresses eg. www.companyname.com. Your domain name is the name of your site or your url (www.companyname.com) and can be purchased by going to a domain name registrar.When you register a domain, it gives you sole ownership, rights and use of the name for your site. No one else in the market has the access to the actual name of that particular domain (including the extension - .co.uk, .com etc) besides you. Domain names usually range from about £15 to £50/year depending on the extension. (eg. .co.uk, .com, .co etc)
The first step in the process of setting up a domain is registration.  This is done through ICANN-accredited registrars, who collectively maintain the shared registration system (SRS). Quite simply, the registrars will let us know whether “companyname.com” is available and, if so, register it in the business/your name.  If it turns out it is available, at this point all we’ve done is reserve the right to use the domain name as a public address. However, just because you have a domain does not mean that you are ready to serve your website to the world. To put up and operate a website, you will need a domain name, and a properly-configured web server (web hosting). A domain name is like your postal address; and, a domain name can be registered only with a domain registrar.

What is Web Hosting

So far, all we’ve done is secured the domain name (www.companyname.com), now we need somewhere for our website to reside, this is web hosting. The web hosting or server is much like the space that you rent out to have your business in. Web hosting normally refers to the web server (a big computer) that stores lots of data files which make up your website. Without the hosting services, you won't have a place for your files to reside, so your domain would then become like a disconnected phone number in the phone directory, and your site files would have nowhere to stay.

Email Hosting

Email hosting enables a user to manage electronic messages via an email server. Put simply, if you own a domain name and want email service on that domain name, you would need to sign up for an email hosting service. Email hosting provides you with addresses and mailboxes connected to your domain name to receive and store/host emails on.  The typical hosted business email address is in the format of person@companyname.com.

Website Platform/Software

This is the software that helps you to build, edit and run a website. Your website is a collection of pages (web-pages) and data files that are located under your domain name. Your website platform or software helps serve your pages and data such as products, makes them attractive and available to browsers and includes certain functionality for your users for example ecommerce functionalities such as being able to purchase from your website and browse your products, product images etc.
Web software or platforms are usually licensed like most software such as anti-virus or microsoft & apple products for example.  
There are however platforms which are known as Open Source meaning you can download for free and use and modify yourself etc, however this requires technical and programming ability as you have to update and maintain this software yourself.