A lot of people ask me what the difference is between a domain and a hosting server.
Think of a domain as a mailing address. It is a unique name used to identify a particular website so that people know where to find you on the world wide web. For example, my domain is GIGIgraphics.com. Your domain exists independently of your site. You can use your domain with another site, or you can cancel it, or you can let it expire, and through all of that, your site with all of its content remains unchanged.
A domain provider, or registrar, is the company that sells you your URL and manages the domain name registrations.
If the domain name is your address then the hosting is like your PO Box, or even your house: it’s the place where everything is stored.
A web hosting service is a company that stores and displays all the information, like files and databases, for your website. If you’ve hired me to build you a site then I will be working with many files. These files need a place to live so they can interact with each other and the person on the other end is able to see something.
Getting a web hosting service is like renting the actual PO box where your mail is stored. An address is no good if you don’t have a box to store your mail in and vice versa.
Why your registrar and hosting should be separate
I recommend separating out your registrar and hosting as a form of insurance. If something happens to one, then it is a lot easier to trouble shoot and fix the problem if the two are separated. It also gives you more autonomy on where you do business. As many of my clients know, it can be a nightmare to separate hosting from a registrar that wants to lock you in and keep you from leaving. Once we separate the two, life is easier down the road.