Domain Names and Web Hosting
For many people, grasping the connection between domain names and web hosting is difficult.
Starting a new website or transferring a website to a new host is simple if you understand the concepts. Often clients find me after spending days of frustration with their site offline. Trying to communicate with web hosting support can be aggravating. When transferring a website, you should never have any downtime.
I am going to address the following questions:
- What is a domain name?
- What is web hosting?
- Where do you buy a domain name?
- How is a domain name connected to web hosting?
- Transfer a website to new host
- Transferring domain names
What is a domain name?
A domain name is an easy way to remember address on the Internet. Computers connected to the Internet have an IP address to identify them. They look something like this: 111.222.333.44 Because it would be to complicated for people to type in numbers to access websites, domain names are used instead as an alias to point to an IP address.
To connect a domain name to your website, it needs to be registered. Since they have to be unique, once it is is registered, it can not be used by anyone else.
What is web hosting?
For your website to show on the Internet, your website code and files must be on a computer connected to the Internet. This computer is called a web server. Web hosting companies provide services for you to be able to put your website code on their web servers so your website can be available on the Internet. When you purchase web hosting services from a web hosting company, you purchase space on their web server to host your website code.
Where do you buy a domain name?
A domain name needs to be registered through a company called a domain registrar. When you buy a domain name, you are registering it in your name for 1 year (or multiple years). If your domain expires and you do not re-register it, someone else can buy it. This can be a nightmare to try to retrieve, and can be very expensive.
Don’t let this happen. How? Make sure the email you enter when purchasing is one that you keep long term and check regularly. Set up auto renewal if you can not keep on top of managing renewals. You can also renew for multiple years.
How is a domain name connected to web hosting?
Once you register a domain name and purchase web hosting you are ready to connect the two.
To connect a domain name to a web host you assign the name servers to point to your web host. This is done through your domain registrar. If you purchase your domain name through the same company that will host your website, name servers are already set. You can skip this step.
Moving a Website to New Host
There are various reasons why you would want to transfer your web to a new host.
- Unhappy with service
- Price increases
- You’ve outgrown what the company can offer.
Keep in mind when you want to transfer your website to a new host, you do not want necessarily to transfer your domain name from one host to another. The majority of the time this step is not needed.
As mentioned above, your domain, website and web host are separate and independent entities. Moving your website to a new host does not require you to move your domain name to a new host too. (Remember: a web hosting company provides web hosting services. They may or not be a domain registrar.)
I stress this because often, complications with website transfers are due to moving a domain name at the same time as transferring web hosting. The easiest approach is to keep your domain name at the current registrar during a website transfer to a new host. All you need to do is update the name servers when you have your website set up, and tested to be functioning properly on the new web host.
Why would you want to transfer a domain to a new domain registrar? Similar to leaving your web host, reasons to leave your registrar are often due to price increases or customer service.
One of the hardest things for people to grasp is: you do not have to transfer your domain name name away from your registrar when you move your website to a new host.
Inexperienced web designers and DIY website owners often think this has to happen. It absolutely does not. It complicates the process and often ends up with website down time.
Transferring a domain name is a multi-step process that can seem convoluted. Some registrars make the process unnecessarily drawn out and complicated to make it harder to leave.
My main reasons for recommending a client transfer their domain name to a different registrar.
- Fees are too high.
- They push add on services that you don’t need. (The only add on service I ever recommend is private domain registration. I think it’s worth the small expense. Some registrars add this as a free promotion too.)
- They take advantage of you by complicating the processes more than it needs to be and use fear tactics where there don’t need to be.
I hope this helps clarify the separation from transferring your domain name and transferring your website to a new web host. Still confused? Hire me for help with moving your website.