There are a ton of options when it comes to domain registrars, resellers, and brokers. Trying to decide which one to use can be overwhelming, and it may seem natural to use your web host to keep everything in one place. However, registering domain with your host can be a horrible idea, for reasons I’ll outline below.
Domains and Hosting – A Few Basics
Owning a blog or website involves two separate pieces, your domain and your host. It’s important to understand these elements for the most effective management of your site(s).
The domain is the address people use to get to your site. For example, Nuts and Bolts Media’s domain is nutsandboltsmedia.com. You can register a domain with any number of registrars or providers – basically you pay an annual fee to use that particular web address. If you stop paying, someone else can use the domain instead.
Website hosting is the service that actually stores your website’s files. If you have a free blog through Blogger or WordPress.com, then your host is Google or WordPress, respectively. Self-hosted websites rent server space from a company that agrees to store your files.
Basically, you put your website’s files on your host’s servers, then tell your domain to point to those files when someone puts in your URL. It’s kind of like putting a SIM card in a cell phone – the SIM card tells that phone, “Hey, you work with this particular phone number now.” Just like you can switch out a phone’s SIM card and make the phone work with a different phone number, your domain can be set to work with a different web hosting service.
The Domain Registration Dilemma
When you set up hosting for a website, you can also register your domain through your host (most of the time). For a lot of people, keeping all your website stuff in the same place sounds like a good idea. You only have to keep up with one set of login information, and you know that your host’s technical support staff will make sure everything is configured correctly.
However, you also have the option to register your domain elsewhere and simply point it to your host. This is what I strongly recommend for a number of reasons.
Keep your domain in one place. If you ever get mad at your web host and decide to move your site, you’ll also probably want to transfer your domain if it’s registered with the old host. Domain transfers can be annoying, time-consuming, and confusing. But if you’ve registered the domain elsewhere, you don’t have to do anything except update your DNS settings to point to the new host.
Register all your domains together. You might be thinking, But I only have one website! That may be true, but for many of us, websites are addicting. For example, I own 45 domains right now. If I need to manage them, like when I transferred all my files to my new servers, I can just go to my registrar and mass update the DNS settings.
Added security. A few years ago, my dad’s website got hacked. Not only did the hackers destroy his site, but they also transferred his domain away from his web host and took it over. It took ages for him to prove ownership and get everything back. When your domains are separate, even if someone gets access to your files, your domains are safe (assuming you aren’t using the same login and password).
Recommendations for Domains and Hosting
As always, I recommend Namecheap for domain registration. They are awesome and have excellent customer service. They have a great search feature that will suggest alternate domain names if the one you want is taken.
As for hosting, I personally use Cloudways, but I’ll warn you – it requires a bit of technical know-how to get your cloud server configured correctly. If you’d like to try it out, use code NUTSANDBOLTS at checkout for $10 in free credit.
If you’re not comfortable dealing with all the tech pieces, I highly recommend SiteGround. If you’re a designer, developer, or agency who hosts client sites, take a look at Flywheel. Or, if you’d prefer a managed WordPress host who takes care of ALL the technical pieces for you, try WPEngine.
No matter what domain registrar or hosting service you choose, be sure you understand what they provide, what it will cost, and how your site will be affected in the event of a move. You may think you’ll always stick with your current provider, but you never know what could happen in the future. Better to be prepared – assume the worst and hope for the best.
By registering your domains separately from your hosting, you’re ensuring a much easier transition if you ever want to take your money elsewhere.