To set up a website, you will need both a domain name and a web host. These are closely connected, but entirely different things - you will need both if you want to make your website accessible to public.
What is a domain name?
Your domain name is the name of your website or your URL. For example, www(dot)mynewbusiness(dot)com.
You can buy a domain name by going to a domain name registrar. Buying a domain name secures only that specific internet address. It doesn't give you the space on which to host your website. A domain name on its own won't make your website 'live' and available on the internet.
Difference between a domain name and web hosting
For customers to access your website, the files that make it up (eg text and images) have to be stored on a web host - a computer server with a high-speed 24/7 internet access.
The server assigns a unique internet protocol (IP) address to the hosted site. This is typically a string of numbers, not decipherable to humans. A domain name is a human-friendly way to identify an IP address of a particular website over the internet.
What is an IP address used for?
When your customers type your domain name into their web browser, it translates the domain name into the relevant IP address and sends a request to the web host server to bring up your website's files on their screen. This is essentially how your customers are able to view your website. So, for your website to be available online, you have to have both a domain name, as well as a hosted website.
If you have yet to choose your business domain name, there is a lot to think through - from the different types of domain names to trade marking considerations. Find out how to choose and register a domain name.
If you have a domain name but are looking for hosting, see factors to consider when choosing a web hosting provider.