I bet you think you already know the answer to this. You would think the answer is very simple. But it’s not.
I run into this situation regularly: I’m talking about a website, while the client is talking about their domain or server or some other aspect of a website, other than the site itself.
This confusion especially pops up when clients want to transfer their hosting and domains to us.
You may think “I don’t need to know this”.
Trust me. You do.
It will save you a lot of headache when it’s time for you to renew web services, or transfer them, or sign up for new ones.
So how about we break this down so you can better understand what’s what?
Your website consists of several parts. These are all separate things, but they are connected.
- a domain
- a web host/server
Your domain is your own dot com. For us, it is geekartist.com.
Your domain is purchased through your domain registrar. You may have bought it through your web host. Or, you may not have. Most web hosts, if they do sell domains or manage them, do so through another service. What you pay for your domain, is separate from what you pay for hosting.
Your domain, is just the address of your website. It is not the site itself, any more than your home address is your house. The address is assigned to the home you live in. It is how people find your house. But it is not your house.
Your web host is a company that provides a computer, called a server, that your site will live on. Unless you are buying your own virtual private server, or some other situation where you get your own computer, you are likely getting what we call shared hosting. This means your website lives on a computer with hundreds of other websites. In terms of file size, websites are very small. Generally speaking, they don’t take up many computer resources. So we can stick a lot of sites on one computer.
When you sign up with your web host, they will tell you to go to your domain registrar (where you bought your dot com) and change the DNS (or nameservers). Your host will give you the nameservers you need. These are basically streetsigns to the house. They are unique to each web host. So when you change web hosts, you have to change this information. By changing nameservers for your domain, you are telling the world “hey my site lives over here now, not over there”. If you don’t change them or they are incorrect, your site will not pull up, and any email you send through your domain won’t route.
The actual website is a collection of files. It is HTML files and jpg (a type of image) files and any other files you may have (pdfs, videos, and so on). When your web designer, and most other people in this business are talking about your website, this is what we’re referring to. We’re talking about all the files that make up the site.
Just remember that there’s a difference between domain, web host, and website. And your website is not your domain. Your domain registrar may not even be your web host.
Think of your website as a car. And your host as a garage the car is parked in. Your domain is the address the car lives at. And the nameservers are the signposts pointing to the garage.
Wasn’t that easy?