Just after my domains auto-renewed last year – at DOUBLE their original rate – I started coming across information about all the reasons it’s a good idea to have your domain registration with a different company than your website host. I’ve wanted to move my domain registration ever since.
Wait a minute, you might be thinking. I got my domain (for free) when I started my website. What do you mean there’s two of these things? Isn’t my host my domain registrar the same thing? How could I have two of them? And just what is the difference between domain registration and website hosting?
Website Tutorials for the Rest of Us
What’s the difference between a domain registrar and a website host?
What is a domain registrar?
I’ll try to put this as simply as possible. Your domain registrar is where you search for and buy your new domain name, like for this website the domain name is www.mombehindthecurtain.com. (Computer safety tip! do not go to a website like www. your website . com. I put the spaces in there on purpose! Because if you go there, it brings up a webpage to tell you your computer has a virus, trick you into downloading a file if you accidentally click on something, and then your really are compromised unless you call them and pay them to “clean” your computer. Sheesh. And to think I went there just to make sure it wasn’t an obscene site. Moment of panic to make sure I didn’t click on the wrong thing when I tried to close it – I had to shut down my browser as they made the tab un-closable. Moving on.)
The domain name is what anyone can type in a browser bar and bring up your website.
If you need some help deciding on a domain name – which is usually your website name – see my post Picking a domain name for a lifestyle blog or mommy blog.
When anyone types your url into their browser, like www.mombehindthecurtain.com, the domain registrar is who holds the key to translate that English into computer speak for the address of the computer where your website lives for all the other computers on the web; it’s a string of numbers like 123.456.78.9. The domain registrar can make this translation for an address that points to one of their own computers, or for an address that points to someone else’s computer.
Your domain registrar also keeps track of the fact that you own the website at this address and you own the name, for example, my domain registrar knows that I’m the owner of www.mombehindthecurtain.com.
So your domain registrar translates the url into the address of the computer where the web page lives, and keeps track of who owns that website.
Already own a domain but not sure who your registrar is? Find your domain registrar.
What is a website host?
Your host is where you buy computer space to install/store/save all the files to run your website. Instead of you putting the program that runs your website on your own personal computer hard drive, you put it on a different computer. If you put the files on your own computer, every time you disconnected from the internet your website would be down. Not to mention that if you had a busy site your computer would be so busy with your web page that you couldn’t do anything! So you pay to be on a computer somewhere else, with a company that keeps the computer on and connected to the internet all the time.
Already have a website host but you’re not sure who it is? You can look up your website host at HostingDetector.com.
Why is it a good idea to keep your domain registrar different than your website host?
There’s a range of reasons, from internet security to ease of moving hosts. See resources at the bottom of this post for a good explanations on this.
What do you mean you can buy your domain somewhere else than your website host? I got a free domain when I signed up with my host. Why would I turn something down that’s free?
Most of the articles about starting a website and buying a domain will tell you to use the free domain that you get from your host. That’s for a lot of reasons.
One of reason they do that is they are often directing you to a website host that they get generous affiliate payments from. But it’s not that they’re trying to just make money off of you; it’s probably a host that they are currently using themselves. (I was an affiliate with a host I was using for awhile, and at the time I thought they were great. I never made any money off that affiliate relationship, by the way. In fact, as of this writing I have basically no income off of any of my blogs. Just in case you’re starting a blog to make money, know that very few do in fact turn a profit. But I digress.)
The other reason they tell you to use the free domain is that many tutorials are written by people who learned a lot setting up their first blog. Like I said, if I had actually managed to get up my tutorials the first time around, I would have told you the same thing. But perfectionist that I am, I’m just now getting around to writing tutorials with about my third time putting up pretty much the same blogs.
But, one reason not to use your free domain is so you have your host and your domain registration with different companies. This helps if you get hacked (it makes it more difficult for the hacker to get full control with just one compromise) or if you accidentally end up with a difficult hosting company.
For example, what if you decide you need to change hosts but your host wants to keep you? Or what if they just drag their feet with releasing your domain and website? If you have your domain name registered with different domain registrar, and a complete backup of your website, you just put your backup files at another host and point your independent domain registrar to the new computer. Done.
Why should you not use the free domain your website host gives you when it saves you money?
Does using the free domain really save you money?
Sure, you might save $15-$20 dollars for your first year, but in addition to the security and control reasons, my last host doubled my domain registration costs my second year. So in reality – I didn’t save anything! In fact, since I bought additional domains from them before I saw renewal costs, I lost more money than if I had ignored my free domain.
One option, is to use a free domain for testing purposes.
If you are new to websites, know that once you pick a domain name, you can register a domain before you have purchased a plan on a host or have even decided which host you want to use – meaning you don’t have a contract with a company to store your website on a computer, or you don’t have a place to put your website files before you buy a domain. If you purchase a domain from a domain registrar, your domain just won’t go to a website until you find a host and set up your website. Your domain registrar will likely put up a page that says “website under construction,” or something like that.
So now that we’ve established why your domain registrar should be different from your host, the next post I’ll look at how you choose a domain registrar and compare some top domain registrars.
Resources for information about domains and domain registrars
Tips and Tools to Pick the Best Domain for Your Blog- Another good article on picking a domain name
What is: Domain Name – Domain name definition
What is: DNS – More explanation on what a domain name and DNS mean
Why You Shouldn’t Register Domains With Your Web Host – A good article that fully explains why you want your site host and domain registrar to be at different places