BestWeb Nashville

Web Hosting vs. Domain Registration

What's the Difference?

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This section describes the types of access needed to 1) modify websites and 2) move websites from one web (hosting) server to another. This is basically for educational purposes. Going forward, we strongly recommend there be someone at your organization trusted with and responsible for maintaining these kinds of digital assets and access to them; otherwise, you will be at the mercy of your web hosting company and/or web designer. You want to be in control of these things.

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All too often, a new client joins the BestWeb Nashville family who has absolutely no idea what this information is or how they can get it, all because they were not properly educated by the so-called web professionals they had been dealing with previously. Then the client has to go about the task of digging up this information using a bit of detective work or more commonly by contacting their web host and convincing them to hand over the credentials, which is not always an easy task.

The Basics

FYI, FTP is just a fancy acronym for moving, copying, and deleting files to and from the web server, in the same manner as you move files around from folder to folder on your own computer.

It is very easy for the layman to confuse domain registration with web hosting; we see it all the time. We will make our best effort to clear this up.

Domain Registration

A domain registrar is a company which sells domain names; e.g., GoDaddy.com, Register.com, Network Solutions, and so on. You purchased your domain name from a domain registrar, and you have been renewing your domain name each year in order to keep it from expiring.

The typical annual cost for a domain name can be anywhere from $5 to $50. You might pay extra for add-on services, such as keeping your domain information private. Most domain information is public.

Domain registration comes first; it must occur before web hosting. Your domain record includes variables for what are commonly called Name Servers; these name server settings tell computers all over the world where to go when someone types in your URL (e.g., www.your-company.com). In other words, they point to your web host.

Access or login credentials for a domain registrar account consist of a username and password entered on the website of the domain registrar. If GoDaddy.com is your domain registrar, you’d point your browser to GoDaddy.com and enter in your username and password to make any changes to your domain registration account.

Virtually the only change that ever needs to be made to a domain registration account is updating the Name Servers when you decide to change your web hosting company. This change is then effectively communicated throughout the web to let “everyone” know that your domain name should now point to Hosting Company B instead of the old Hosting Company A.

Web Hosting

A web hosting company rents space on their computers, or servers, to organizations such as yours; this is where all the files comprising your website are maintained. The only people that should have access to your web server, aside from representatives of the web hosting company itself, are the persons at your organization responsible for your website and your web designers, developers, SEO professionals, and others who must make changes and updates to the files that make up your website.

The average monthly cost for web hosting is around $20, give or take; however, for the simplest of services, it can be as low as $7 per month.

Access or login credentials for a web hosting account consist of three things: a hostname, a username, and a password. The hostname varies from host to host; sometimes it is something like ftp://www.your-company.com, or it could be similar to http://www.megaftpcompany.com. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is just a fancy acronym for moving, copying, and deleting files to and from the web server, in the same manner as you move files around from folder to folder on your own computer.

Unlike the domain registrar credentials, which log you in to a secure area of the domain registrar’s website, the web hosting login, or FTP credentials, are entered into an FTP client application/software. Web professionals use FTP software to transfer files to and from your web server in order to make changes to the files visitors to your website see – the files that make up your website.

It’s Critical Information - Treat It As Such

Both your Domain Registrar and your web hosting login info are critical pieces of information that all domain name owners and web site owners should have on file, so you should already have it documented somewhere; it could be in an email you have saved from when you first purchased your domain name(s) or from when you first paid for your present web hosting account. You definitely possessed this information at some point; you could not have a functioning website under your own domain name without it.

In the event my description did not do it for you, here are a couple of my peers who have also taken a stab at explaining the difference between web hosting and domain registration on their respective websites.