This is part two of our three-part tutorial on keeping your business's website services separated—domain registration, web hosting, and email. In part one, you got an overview of why it's important to keep your online business's essential services independent of one another, and I gave you a handful of analogies to help explain what goes on in what I'll call the web services market.
In this second part, we'll talk about why we should keep our business website's domain name and web hosting separate, even if our web host is offering us a free domain. You'll learn why registering a domain name with your web host might actually cost you more money, and how this could also lead to frustration and headaches down the road—and even cause major headaches for your business. In part three, we'll talk about isolating your business email from your web hosting, and why that's so important, so be sure to check that out.
If you take the time to work your way through this three part series and learn all about keeping your business's crucial, key web assets isolated from one another, you'll have a ton of knowledge—more than some professional web designers and developers!
If you want to know what specific domain registrars and web hosts I recommend you use for your business, I'll share some top picks below. But be sure to head over Ten Ton's resource page, where you'll find loads of resources and links for business web services—reputable web hosting companies, domain registrars, top dedicated email services, and much more. It's a wealth of information, so I hope you'll check it out.
So with all that said, let's dig into it here—this is part two in our series, domains and web hosting for your business!
Okay so, domain names and web hosting. I think one of the reasons why this stuff gets confusing is because web hosting companies allow you to set up your domain name and web hosting all at once. So, domain names and web hosting kinda get tangled up with one another.
To me, this is like an auto mechanic doing a brake job, and then offering to detail your car's interior. Yeah, the two services are kinda related. But really, they're completely different, specialized services. Web hosting companies offer to register your domain name as a convenience, but they also do it as an add-on, as a way for them to make more money. Just like our auto mechanic example, there's nothing wrong with providing additional services, but it's important for you and I to know exactly what we're getting.
So let's separate domain names and web hosting, and define each of them. The difference between these two is actually pretty simple.
Your domain name is your website address, or URL, that people use to navigate to your business's website. Your web hosting is simply the space where you store your website. If you want to learn much more, I go into detail about domain names here and web hosting over here.
But for now, if it helps, think of your domain name as the street address to your brick-and-mortar store, and your web hosting as the actual physical space you rent out for your store (even if you don't plan on having a physical, brick-and-mortar store, just follow along with the analogy!). Now, imagine being able to actually own your store's street address, and you were able to "point" your address to any physical storefront in the world. That's how domain names and web hosting works. So while the space that your store occupies can change locations, the address to get there is fixed.
If you're having trouble wrapping your head around this concept, here's another analogy: If I phoned you on your cell phone right now, does it matter where you are? If you're at work, or at the park, or in your car, I can still reach you, right? So long as I know your number (the address to reach you at), it doesn't matter where you're physically located. This is exactly the same idea as domain names and web hosting—it doesn't matter where your store's located...people just need the right address to find it.
Now as mentioned, many web hosts also allow you to register a domain name for your business during the sign-up process. So as you're signing up for your web hosting, you can simultaneously sign up for a domain name. In fact, many web hosts advertise a free domain when you register.
And it makes sense that these two services are bundled together. Call it the, "would you like fries with that?" marketing tactic. Many web hosting companies are also domain registrars, and can register your domain name for you on your behalf. They advertise this as an add-on service.
This makes setting up your website dead easy. Everything's going to happen simultaneously, and all the technical stuff will be handled for you. And as I mentioned earlier on, there's definitely a convenience factor as well. Both your domain name, and your web hosting will all be handled under a single account, so everything's in one spot. This makes things less complicated for you to manage. And should anything ever come up, your web hosting company's support staff will have access to all your data and settings.
However...(and you knew there was gonna be a "however!") while all of that sounds great, know that registering your business's domain name with your web hosting company is just like we said earlier—it's like buying life insurance through your mortgage broker. It isn't what they specialize in. And even though the fees might be hidden, they often overcharge you for an otherwise basic service.
Here's how it works: We have two completely separate services, domain name registration and web hosting, right? You can purchase both services together (which is often what web hosting companies want you to do) or you can purchase them separately. For instance, you can register your domain name with NameCheap, and set up your web hosting with Web Hosting Hub, and both will work together. Whether you purchase a domain and web hosting from the same company or separate companies, the process is the same: Your domain points to your business's web space, and you pay a (usually annual) fee for both services.
All web hosting companies support domain names registered with other domain name registrars. This is all handled via something called your domain's nameservers. This goes beyond the scope of this tutorial, but you can learn more about this stuff right here.
But you might be thinking that since a particular web hosting company is offering a free domain when you sign up, why not save a few bucks? Well, I have a handful of reasons why spending, instead of saving, those extra few bucks is well worth your while.
First off, while a web hosting company might offer a free domain, it's usually only for the first year. After that, you'll have to pay an annual fee. And this annual fee is often higher than if you'd gone with a dedicated domain name registrar. Ouch!
But this is just the tip of the "bad news" iceberg. Let's go through some of the biggies...
We're beginning to see why registering domain names with our web hosting company can lead to problems and cost us extra money down the road. Here, I'll delve into some of the biggest headaches you'll run into if you use your web hosting company to register your domain names.
If you read my tutorial on domain names you know that your business's domain name is a part of your business's overall brand. At a minimum, your domain really is the name or the identifier of your site. This means that your domain name is your business's number one asset. In fact, I'd argue that your domain name is even more important than your website. Your website can be replaced (either via a data backup or in a worst-case scenario, rebuilt from scratch). But once your business's domain name is gone, it's gone for good...unless you're willing to shell out some big bucks to get it back.
I've lost a few domain names over the years, and I'm still having a hard time getting over it! I just shake my head in disbelief that I was dumb enough to ever let them go. And it's gonna cost me over $5k to buy them all again. Gakk! I just got an accidental bit of sick in my mouth...
Here's an even worse scenario: What if, when you register your business domain name through a web hosting company, they actually wind up owning your domain? I've never had this happen to me (thankfully), but I've heard of it happening. Basically what happens is, the hosting company registers the domain name themselves, and then grants you the right to use it—but only with their hosting services. So, they actually retain ownership of your business's number one asset. And of course, if you cancel your service with them, they keep the domain. Yikes! Again, it's never happened to me, and established, reputable hosting companies (like the ones I'm recommending) would never do something like this. But still, I wouldn't ever want to risk my online business's number one web asset.
By using a dedicated domain name registrar, you retain ownership and control over your domain names, so long as you keep renewing them. If you fail to renew your domain names, then for years afterwards, you get to kick yourself in the shins and repeatedly slam your forehead off your desk. Don't be like me, keep up with your renewals!
When you register your domain with a web hosting company, they have control over your domain, not you. This means they control both your website (and the files that make up your site) and your domain name.
Imagine you, as a brick-and-mortar business, rents a storefront space...but also registers your business name through the landlord. That doesn't sound like such a good idea does it? And what if you wanted to move your brick-and-mortar store to a better or more cost-effective location? Untangling a brick-and-mortar business' name from it's physical location is going to be a headache, because the landlord knows he has leverage. He can make it very hard for you to leave, and very easy for you to stay.
And the same is true online, with your business's domain name and web hosting. We already know that our business's domain name becomes a part of our business's brand online, and how important it is to protect our business's number one asset. So, when a web hosting company offers you a free domain name, it might sound like an attractive bonus and an added convenience, it's often used as a way to keep you from ever leaving. I'm not saying all web hosting companies use shady practices like this. What I am saying is that we should try to avoid this potentially catastrophic problem completely.
By keeping your domain name(s) and your web hosting separate, you can point your domain wherever you like. This is, again, done through your domain's nameservers, which I mentioned earlier. So, if you want to cancel your current hosting service—maybe you outgrow your hosting, or their service begins to decline—you simply move your site to a better host and point your domain there instead. It's that easy. And this brings us to...
I like freedom and autonomy. If my business has outgrown my web host, or if their service begins to decline, or I want to move my business website somewhere else for some other reason, I want the ability to easily pack up camp and head for greener pastures. But as mentioned above, if I've registered my domain with my web host, getting my domain untangled from my hosting is going to be a drawn out, messy process.
In an effort to keep my business, the old host is gonna make it inconvenient for me to get my hands on my domain—my business's number one most valuable asset. While it's often possible to transfer your domain name to another company, like a proper domain name registrar, the process is often a time-consuming headache. Even worse, some hosts won't even let you transfer your domain name. This means you'd be stuck with the old host with no way to cancel the service without losing your number one web asset, your domain name. That isn't autonomous or free at all.
Alternatively, going with a dedicated domain name registrar gives us complete control over our domain(s). We can point our domain to any web host that we want. This makes it very easy to move our business away from hosts we've outgrown, and begin using a better service that's more suited to our business needs.
So remember, keep yourself in complete control over your business's number one web asset, your domain name!
It doesn't happen often, but sometimes websites get hacked. Or sometimes they get hit with a DoS attack. Good web hosts have redundant security measures in place to prevent this sort of thing from happening, but the possibility still exists. This is one reason why running regular data backups for your site is so important. If hackers do manage to get into your site, and your business's domain name and website are both being managed by the same account, then not only can they wreak havoc on your site files, but they can also tamper with your domain, and essentially point it wherever they like. As I'm sure you can imagine, this would bring your business to a screeching, destructive halt! You may suddenly find that your business website has a whole new layout! And suddenly, maybe your site's now promoting various pharmaceutical products or who knows what else!
By keeping your business's domain name management and web hosting services separate, if something really bad happens (something that's going to take considerable time to sort out) you can simply point your domain name elsewhere and be back in business in a matter of hours. I have to stress, this sort of thing is not normal, but knowing your business's assets are isolated from one another gives you an extra layer security...and peace of mind.
I think you'll find out soon enough that running a business online is highly addictive! The more you learn, the more projects you start dreaming up, the more websites you start building. I can almost guarantee that you'll have more than one domain name registered within the next twelve months! That's okay, it happens to all of us. I don't even know how many domains I have registered...probably about twenty or so!
But, registering and managing all these business domains with web hosting companies can become a logistical nightmare. Which domains did I register with this hosting company? Which ones do I have over there with that other hosting company? It can get confusing. It's far easier to manage all your domains from a single domain registrar account than to keep track of various web hosting accounts that are peppered with different domains for all your different businesses and web projects.
NameCheap, for example, gives us an easy to use control dashboard where we can manage all of our domains in a single place. We can easily see which ones are coming up for renewal, set where domains point to, and so on.
Keeping all your domains in one spot makes managing them, keeping on top of renewals, and keeping an eye on your various business web projects much easier.
So where do I recommend you go to register your business's domain name and sign up for web hosting? I cover domains in much more detail in this tutorial, and web hosting for business right here. But for specific recommendations for essential web services for business, I'll make some quick mentions here. Be sure to check out Ten Ton's resource page for a full listing of business-related web services and resources.
For domain name registration, I recommend NameCheap. Over the years, I've used three or four different domain registrars, a few you may have even heard of, but NameCheap is by far the best. I use them for all my web projects now. Their site is easy to use, their search always provides a variety of alternatives, which I like, and they've got great customer service. I find other domain registrars have a cluttered interface, and they're always trying to up-sell me (in a spammy way, I might add) on services that are unnecessary and not needed.
And this brings me to another quick point: We've been talking about reasons why it's a bad idea to register your domain name with your web hosting company, even if it's free. The same holds true for domain name registrars. Registrars are now getting in on the web hosting action! So if you head over to NameCheap or another domain name registrar, and they try to sell you some web hosting or other related services for your business, I'm sure you can guess what my response would be! I wouldn't buy an investment from a used car salesman, furniture from a fish market, or lunch off the back of a plumber's truck...but thanks anyway!
So that's domain name registration. As for web hosting, and other essential web services, I highly recommend Web Hosting Hub and SiteGround. Or if you'd like to take a hands-off approach and have the hosting service handle most of the technical stuff, WP Engine is a solid choice for managed WordPress hosting. That said, there's a ton I'd love to share with you about web hosting for your business—what you should look for, terminology, and so on. So check out this tutorial for loads of information on web hosting.
So...there's a huge amount of info for you regarding domain name registration, and why it's so important to keep domain registration separate from your web hosting service when setting up your business website. In the end, whoever you wind up registering your domain names with, just make sure to keep your domains separate from your web hosting, and you'll be putting yourself and your business in the best possible position. Protect and keep control of those web assets!
Now if, after all of this, you still want to register your domain name with your web hosting company, that's fine. But at least now you know of some of the potential downside risks involved. Before proceeding through, do yourself one final favour by checking your web host's Terms Of Service (TOS) so that you know exactly what you're getting into. In particular, find out who owns the domain, and how hard it might be to transfer the domain should you need to make a move.
Alright, with business domain name registration and web hosting out of the way, we're down to just one final essential service for your business, email. That's what the third part of this tutorial series is all about.
So, let's keep moving and learning more about our essential web services. I look forward to seeing you in part three!