Wait, don't stop reading yet! We promise…we're breaking it down!
We get it. Domain names and hosting plans are some of the most boring (and intimidating) parts of running a website, especially if you're new to WordPress and haven't had to deal with them before. Today, we're going to break down the difference between domains and hosting, so whether you've been on WordPress for years or are thinking about making the move, these words will never again strike fear in your entrepreneurial heart!
First, a quick primer: if you blog on WordPress.org, you may come across the term “self-hosted.” All this means is that you're providing a place for your web files to live. From your theme, to your blog post images, to the words you write, all of that has to be stored somewhere on the Internet. Many other blog platforms provide this storage for you, but the tradeoff is that you may not have complete ownership of your site (for example, while it's unlikely, Google could do away with the Blogger platform tomorrow). When you're self-hosted, you also need a domain name, which leads us to…
Our favorite analogy to explain domains vs. hosting.
Think of hosting as your house, and your domain as your street address. The first is housing (or hosting!) all your web stuff. Meanwhile, your domain is like a physical address that tells people where you live online. Just as you type in an address to determine a location in Google Maps, your domain is serving a similar function when people type it in to their web browsers.
That's it. Seriously! It's not so hard, right? Another way we sometimes explain it is to think of hosting as your Internet office space. You have to pay rent for that office space, and that's all a hosting plan is.
Many hosting companies will bundle domain names and hosting packages together, but this isn't always guaranteed. One of the most common things we run across is people who bought a domain name (i.e., yourblogname.com) and mistakenly think owning the domain means they purchased hosting with it as well. One big tell is to see if the package you purchased offers a 1-click WordPress install. If it does, you bought BOTH hosting and a domain. If it doesn't, you likely need to buy hosting separately.
While a lot of bloggers like to purchase their domain and hosting from the same vendor, know that this isn't required nor does it really impact how your site runs. If you bought a domain from somewhere like GoDaddy a long time ago, you're under no obligation to buy hosting from them too!
Here are some of our fave vendors for both hosting and domains:
Flywheel (pricier, but their customer service is the best around)
MediaTemple (especially for sites with traffic between 150-250k pageviews/month)
So, what do you think? Are domains and hosting a lot easier than you realized? We hope this helped you feel less intimidated about getting started on WordPress! If you have any questions about domains or hosting, just comment below! And stay tuned…later this week, our co-founder Lisa will be stopping by to share the 7 things you need to get started on WordPress. Spoiler alert: since you already know about domains and hosting plans, you're 2/7 of the way there!
Images: Averie Woodard, Jared Rice (with graphics by <em>press), both via Unsplash