Domain name and web hosting are 2 totally different services but they are heavily dependant on each other.
Domain name is nothing but a label. You cannot use it to store anything. Web hosting is actually the storage space itself where you can store the content of your website in it.
Let's look at a bottle of apple juice. The label is "ABC Apple Juice" but the label cannot be used to store the juice, it is the bottle itself that can be used to store the juice. The label is the domain name, the bottle is the web host. The same label can be stuck to any bottle the manufacturer wants.
Because domain name and web hosting are separated, the benefit is that once you become the rightful owner of the "label", you can choose whatever "bottle" you want. Coca cola can choose whatever bottle they want. If you are the rightful owner of a domain name, you can choose whatever web host you want and you can change your web host anytime you want.
Becoming a rightful owner of a domain name is as simple as paying a registration fee, say $15 for the right to use the domain name for 1 year. You can always renew it after it expires.
How is a domain name linked to a web host?
There are many different web hosting providers out there such as iPage and JustHost. So how do the internet knows where exactly is your domain hosted? The linkage is done using just 1 simple setting known as DNS. DNS stands for Domain Name System.
Everytime you sign up with a web host, they will give you their DNS setting that look something like this:-
[ns stands for nameservers]
All you need to do is to update your domain name with the given setting in the control panel of your domain registrar and hualaaa, your domain name is now linked to your web host. Let's say you are not happy with iPage or you found a cheaper host later, you can simply sign up with the new host and update the DNS setting and you domain name is now linked to your new web host.
Do you need to register your domain name with your web host?
Again, domain name and web hosting are 2 different services but they are heavily related to each other. Almost all domain name registrars provide hosting services and almost all web hosts provide domain name registration. They will usually major in one service but they will almost certainly provide both. So a domain registrar is also a web host and a web host is also a domain registrar.
Just like you can have your sandwich in Starbucks although they major in coffee or you can have your coffee in McDonald's although they major in hamburgers. You can get them at the same place, but that doesn't mean you have to. You can grab you burger at McDonald's but your coffee at Starbucks or the other way round.
Should you register your domain name with your web host?
There is no harm registering your domain name with your web host as long as you are using a reputable web hosts such as HostGator.
Most web hosts are providing free domain name with their hosting package which means you don't need to pay for it. I think this is a very good reason to register your domain name with them. [Unfortunately some web host such as HostGator doesn't offer free domain name. HostGator charges $15 per domain name.]
There are a few reasons why you don't want to register your domain name with your web host. Pricing is the biggest reason. If they are selling you a domain name for $15 and you can get it for $10 elsewhere, you can save $5 by registering at the other registrar.
By not registering your domain name with your web host, you can also prevent your web host from keeping you hostage.
Even you are the rightful owner of the domain name, you still need to control everything through them. Just like you make a bank deposit with a bank and you are the rightful owner of your money, you still need to collect your money through the bank. The bank can go bankrupt, freeze your money or have lousy service. A nasty web host can also go bankrupt, freeze your domain name or have a broken control panel. They can freeze your domain name claiming that you have not pay your hosting bill although you know you have canceled your hosting service long ago (such as in WebHostingPad scam).
The key point here again is reputation, just like how you choose your bank. Registering a domain name in another place doesn't mean you can avoid all the risks. For example, a budget domain registrar RegisterFly went belly up a few years ago. The control panel was broken and no one could change the DNS setting, transfer their domain name away or even renew their domain name. Some people lose their domain name due to expiration. It took quite sometime before the domain owners were adopted by another domain registrar.
Trying to save $5 in exchange for lose of businesses (or even lose of domain name) is certainly not worth it.
What does "transfer your domain name" mean?
You already know that a domain name is a label and you can choose whatever web host that you want as simple as changing the DNS setting.
The place where you change your setting is the place where you register your domain name. In order to comptete for your business, domain name registrars compete in prices. Some registrar charge $15 per domain, some charge $12. You can always move your domain name from a registrar to another registrar while maintaining the same web host.
"Transfer your domain name" means changing your domain registrar. There are a few reasons why you want to do that and pricing is one of them. Your web host might offer you free domain name with your hosting package but since you already got a domain name, they might offer to renew it for another year for free if you transfer your domain name to them.
Most registrar will offer cheaper fee to lure you to transfer your domain name to them. If you want to squeeze a few bucks out of your domain names every year, you can actually transfer your domains from registrar A to registrar B this year and transfer it back to registrar A next year. If you click on this link, you will notice that MyDomain.com charge only only $7.61 if your transfer your domain name to them while they charge $10.29 for new registration or renewal.
If you own 20 domain names, it may also be more convenient to have all of them registered in one place so you can control everything easily.
Please remember that changing a web host doesn't mean you need to change your domain registrar. You can keep your domain name at GreenGeeks while you change your hosting to FatCow. You will keep paying your domain fee to GreenGeeks and pay your hosting fee to iPage since both are different services.
And also changing your domain registrar doesn't mean you need to change your web host. You can move your domain name from GreenGeeks to GoDaddy while still hosting at GreenGeeks. You now pay your domain fee to GoDaddy instead of GreenGeeks.
Should you register your domain name with GoDaddy?
GoDaddy is the biggest domain registrar in the world and their price is competitive. (If you use this link, you can register a new .com for $7.49 compare to a normal price of $11.99). However, I do not recommend any other services from them including web hosting.
Whenever you register a domain name with them, they will try to sell you a lot of non related services. You will need to click a few "next" buttons before you can pay for your domain name. Non of these services are recommended other than private registration (domain privacy). This is only needed if you do not want people to know who is the real owner of the domain name (name, address, telephone number and email address).
At the checkout page, they have selected 2 years as the default terms. Usually we want to pay yearly and not biannually and I think that's not a good business practice.
Any other domain registrars?
- GoDaddy is the biggest domain registrar in the world.
DotSter.com (which are all the same company) offer very cheap
- Network Solutions pricing is bullshit ($35/year!) and is not recommended.
- Domain name registration and web hosting are 2 different services but they are highly dependant on each other.
- You will have to pay for both services to have your website. Some web hosts absorb your domain name fee if you use their hosting services, i.e. free domain name.
- Nowadays, all domain registrars provide hosting services and all web hosts provide domain registration. So technically a domain registrar is also a web host and a web host is also a domain registrar.
- You don't need to register your domain name at the same place you purchase your web hosting and vice versa.
- You can change your web host without changing your domain registrar. You can change your domain registrar without changing your web host. You can also change both at once.
This website focuses on reviewing the best web hosting services out there that are below $10 a month. You can see the recommended and not recommended web hosts on the left navigation bar. Choosing a good web hosting company is more difficult than choosing a good domain name registrar. A good web host is almost certainly a good domain registrar but a good domain registrar might not be a good host.
Make sure you read our domain hosting reviews to learn more about all the hosting companies.