Domain Renewal vs Website Hosting, What's the Difference?

Domain Renewal vs Website Hosting, What's the Difference? blog image

Posted: August 10th, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Relevance of this Topic
  • What is a Domain Name?
  • How do I get a Domain Name
  • Domain Names and Renewal
  • What is Web Hosting
  • Why do I need both Web Hosting and a Domain
  • How do Domains work with Web Hosting
  • Do I need a Domain if I already have Hosting
  • Can I move my Domain somewhere else
  • Is it important to keep hosting and domains together
  • Will moving my domain break my website
  • Final Comments

Relevance of this Topic

As a web developer I have found that there is a lot of confusion related to web hosting and domains and how they differ. This guide follows a lot of common questions and misunderstandings that many users have with how the internet works and with domains and hosting in general. I will cover some of the basics of DNS, but will defer those wishing to understand it better to my other guide: The Ultimate Beginners Guide To DNS.

What is a Domain Name?

A Domain name is the name of your website as it appears in the address bar. For example, our domain is This domain name is used to identify your website on the internet and allow users to find your business more easily. For a breakdown on the anatomy of a domain and how it works, please check out our more in-depth guide: The Ultimate Beginners Guide To DNS.

How do I get a Domain Name?

Domain names are able to be purchased from companies known as 'Domain Registrars'. A domain registrar functions similarly to a bookkeeper for internet addresses. The registrar assists you in selecting and registering a unique name for your website. Once registered, the registrar saves your chosen name as well as the special code, or 'nameserver', that tells computers where to search for information about where your website is located. The domain is then yours to utilize so long as you keep up with domain renewals.

Domain renewals will vary in price often quite substantially, with many websites looking to charge a premium for domain 'services' that others offer for free, or charge for services that do very little. For comparison's sake, a leading domain seller at the time of writing this charges $21.99 for renewing a domain with a .com at the end, whereas Cloudflare charges $9.15 for the same renewal. The difference here is that Cloudflare, like a very select few domain registrars, does not earn anything for the domain registration. 

Another thing to note is that not all domain registrars support all top level domains (.com, .net etc.) so it might be a good idea to shop around to see who does and who has the best rates.

Domain Names and Renewal

A Domain name is like renting a home, it's yours so long as you pay the renewal fee. Unlike a rental, however, you can do whatever you want with it during that time. Your domain is a gateway to a wide world of uses, but it can't do any of this by itself. Domain Name System (DNS) records can be utilized to provide a wide range of functions to your domain, but they require a location to point to for these functions. This location can be a Web Host, or a locally stored one (unadvised). For a more in-depth look at DNS, refer to our handy guide: The Ultimate Beginners Guide To DNS.

What is Web Hosting?

A Web Host at its core is essentially an external computer (server) that runs software, which allows website information to be stored and read. When you pay for web hosting, you are essentially renting an online space to store your web data so that it can be retrieved by someone visiting your website.

Why do I need both Web Hosting and a Domain?

When you buy a Domain, you buy a vanity name that can be used to access information. That information is unlocked using DNS, which we won't go into, but which you can read more about here: The Ultimate Beginners Guide To DNS. Your Web Host on the other hand is the location where all of your website files are stored.

How do Domains work with Web Hosting?

Your Web Host provides an IP address as its digital location on the internet, which can be tied to your domain name for easier searching.

In the early days of the internet, IP addresses were used instead of domains, meaning you would type the IP address into the address bar for the website you wanted to visit. This was obviously not practical and opened the door for domain names to take the place of IP addresses in the address bar. 

Do I need a Domain if I already have Hosting?

Hosting only provides a server IP address, which by itself is not very useful. While you can add SSL to an IP address, it's not recommended, and without a domain, visitors would have to enter your server IP address in order to access your website.  

Can I move my Domain somewhere else?

Yes. The process is relatively painless. You can move registrars at any point you wish without repercussions. If you need help with this process, let us know!

Is it important to keep domains and hosting together?

It is recommended to keep your domain and hosting separate as you are able to be more flexible with your domain. You are also able to change hosts more easily in the future.

Will moving my domain break my website?

No. When moving to a new domain registrar, the receiving registrar will have a copy of your DNS records when you transfer. Simply put, this means that the same IP addresses and records that you used before will be immediately available once the transfer is complete. Domain transfer simply means that DNS servers retrieve your information in a new place. Once registrars are changed, which can take about a week, the DNS cache for external sources can take anywhere from 24-48 hours to recognize the new location of the DNS file. This may seem alarming, but it just means they are looking at the same DNS records as before, just from the prior source.

Final Comments

This article provides a handy resource, but is far from comprehensive. We will periodically update this article with more questions and responses as time goes on, but if you have a question that is not covered above, let us know!