If you’re trying to make a website, you’ve probably seen web hosting services offering to throw in a free domain name for signing up with them. However, you can also choose to register your domain through a dedicated domain provider instead.
To many folks starting their first website, it seems simpler to keep their domain name and website in one place. So why not just do that instead of dealing with a separate domain provider?
The way web hosts like to bundle in domains, you might believe that domain names are the “free egg roll with $15 order” of the Internet. Your domain name may not make as tasty a side dish, it is crucial to your website’s operation. Registering your domain with a separate domain provider can save you time, money, and loads of stress later.
First: What’s the difference between a web host and a domain name?
There are two things you need to run a website: a web host and a domain name. Don’t worry if that sounds intimidating. They’re actually pretty easy to explain.
A web host hosts your website and its content. Basically, you give a web host files to put on your website — photos, text, whatever— and the web host stores those files for you. When someone visits your website, your web host is the one calling it up to show to that visitor. That, in a nutshell, is what you’re paying for when you sign up for web hosting.
A domain name is just a name, like “uniteddomains.com”. A domain name is not the same thing as a website; instead think of it as your website’s nametag. You can register a domain name, and direct that name to your website, from a domain name registrar. By pointing your domain at your web host, your visitors can reach your website by typing your domain name into their web browsers.
Registering a domain name is a lot like registering a business name for a company. Just like how registering a business name won’t automatically get you any real-world office space to go with it, registering a domain name won’t get you a website. It’s just a name and nothing more.
You register a domain name on annual terms; if you don’t renew the registration yearly, the name eventually expires and is released back to the market. This system helps to ensure a healthy supply of domain names for people who have a legitimate use for them.
So why should you manage your domain name and your website through different services?
No restrictions or delays
Say you register your domain with your web host. After a while you decide you aren’t happy with your web hosting service and would like to transfer your domain name to another host.
But not so fast. Most domain names have a mandatory 60-day lock period before they can be transferred to a new provider. Unless your web host allows you to modify your domain’s DNS settings in the meantime (and not all do), you’re stuck with your host at least until that mandatory transfer lock expires. Goodie.
And once your domain is eligible for transfer, you then have to go through the process of transferring it out. Granted, the difficulty of transferring a domain name between providers often hinges on how easy your providers make it, so you may not find this process to be too much of a hassle. But even when transferring a domain isn’t a long, confusing process, it usually costs money, and can take days to complete — depending on your domain’s extension, potentially a week or more.
However, if you register your domain with a separate provider from the start, you never have to transfer your domain at all. You can just hop over to your registrar, point your domain to your new host, and be on your merry way.
United Domains offers free DNS management, which lets you point your domain to any host whenever you’d like. No need to bother with transfer locks, transfer fees, or any of the other wrinkles that make transferring a pain.
Make sure your provider understands your domain
Even if you register your domain name with your web host, your domain name will require a unique routine to maintain. Domain names are not just website appendages. They are complex and multifunctional assets, and subject to their own unique regulations. Your domain may also have a different payment or renewal schedule than your website plan, or it may have unique regulations related to its specific TLD.
Domain operations can be so complex that many web hosts don’t even handle your domain registration themselves. Instead, they contract with third-party domain registrars to handle domain-related operations, whose terms and conditions you agree to in the fine print of your web hosting contract. In these cases the web host acts only as a reseller or intermediary, not as the registrar responsible for the domain.
There’s nothing underhanded about being a domain reseller in itself, but your domain is a crucial part of your website’s operations. It pays to seek out a dedicated domain registrar who deeply understands and can assist you with your domain’s unique requirements — website-related or otherwise. And besides, if your web host would just register your domain through a third-party registrar anyway, wouldn’t it be better if you got to pick the one you actually want?
Protect your data
As slim as the chances may be, and whether you think it can happen to you or not, the reality is that hacking happens. If someone illicitly gained access to web hosting account where you’d also registered your domain name, you’d be putting both your website and your domain at risk.
A third party making off with your domain name could be disastrous. The culprit could disconnect the domain, redirect it to a different website, or even delete the domain registration completely. Your situation isn’t necessarily hopeless if this happens. However, it will likely lead to a domain ownership dispute. Even the most open-and-shut ownership disputes can be drawn out affairs — it takes time for a registrant to prove ownership to their registrar, transfer the domain back, and restore its intended functionality. All that time, you wouldn’t have control over your domain name.
In addition to a few quick precautions you should always take to safeguard against domain disputes, keeping your domain and your web host separate provides an extra layer of security, and minimizes your potential loss in the event of a data breach with either service.
Keep All Your Domains Together Easily
You may only need one domain name now, but that can change — especially if you represent a brand or trademark holder. You may need to defensively register another domain domain, promote a particular campaign or service on a separate domain. Or you may want to experiment with domains by making a dedicated email address or slick-looking branded link shortener.
The point is, it’s good to be prepared for the future. And you’re better prepared if you keep your domain names organized in a single, domain-focused service. United Domains offers bulk domain management tools that make managing multiple domains easier, without burying them under a submenu. Need to update all your domains’ DNS settings at once? A few clicks and you’re done.
Greater Choice of Names
Most web hosting companies offering domains only offer a few options — usually .com, .net, and .org. But you have a much wider and more descriptive range of name extensions (known officially as “TLDs”) to choose from at a dedicated domain registrar.
These new extensions give you much more flexibility to find a name that emphasizes what you do. If you run a brewery, you could register yourwebsite.beer. Or .DANCE if your website is about dance, or .GREEN if you want to underscore your sustainability efforts.
You also won’t likely find much choice for short, easy-t0-remember .COMs, whereas there are countless ways to stand out with a new domain extension. United Domains offers over 400 unique domain extensions, so you’re bound to find the short, attractive name that best describes what you do.