There are many things to consider when creating a website. And, apart from the creation of the website itself, the domain name and the web hosting package are probably the two most important of them.
The big companies like GoDaddy and Namecheap and the website building platforms like Squarespace, WordPress, and Wix advertise that they are a one-stop-shop, meaning you can buy your domain name and host your website in one place.
And they generally are, especially if you’re looking to keep your website and billing simple.
While this is considered by many to be a great way to streamline your website’s setup, there are good reasons to keep your domain and hosting services separate.
In this article, we’ll discuss whether or not you can use a hosting service other than your domain registrar, and the advantages and disadvantages that doing so brings.
Can You Register a Domain and Host Your Site Elsewhere?
Why, yes, you can!
The domain name is just a unique address that you can point to a hosting package where the software that powers your site is installed and running.
You can learn exactly how this works in an article we wrote titled, Pointing vs. Transferring a Domain Name.
Keeping your domain name’s registration and your website’s hosting package with one company can be very convenient for you because you don’t have to do any additional configuration. Your accountant will also be happy because the billion will be done in one place.
On the other hand, there are a number of reasons why you would register and renew your domain with one company but buy your hosting package from another, and we will go through them in a moment to help you determine if they apply to you.
Domains and Hosting 101
Let’s talk about the difference between domain registration and web hosting—and why it matters.
A domain name is an address through which visitors access your website. Web hosting is the service where the software that runs your website is installed and running.
When you register a domain name, you acquire a unique address, like mywebsite.com, that anyone can visit from their phone, tablet, or computer by typing it into their browser’s address bar.
When you purchase web hosting, you rent space on a server, or in the cloud, so that you can install and configure the software that powers your website, your email inboxes, and everything else on them.
The companies that provide domain registration services are called domain registrars. Those that provide web hosting services are called web hosts. Some companies, especially the bigger players on the market, will offer both domain registration and web hosting.
Why Register A Domain But Host Elsewhere?
Well, it comes down to convenience, security, and… preferences. Let’s deep dive into each of these to understand why.
This might seem like a contradiction since we already discussed how keeping them in the same place is convenient, but hear us out.
If you are ever in a position where you want to move your site—maybe you become disappointed with your hosting provider because their service starts to have downtime, for example—you’ll probably also want to move your domain.
If your domain is registered with the hosting provider you’re unhappy with, this is going to cause some effort on your part. Transferring a domain name from one registrar to another costs money and takes time.
Do you want to know exactly how much time to plan and money to set aside for transferring out your domain name? See below:
The point is that if the domain registrar and hosting service are with different companies, all you’d need to do is update the DNS settings to point to a new host.
As with anything on the Internet, getting your passwords leaked or identity stolen is a big concern.
There are some horror stories out there of people’s phones, tablets, or computers being hacked—and them losing their livelihood because their sites get stolen and transferred to somebody else.
The logic here is simple:
If you keep your domain name and your hosting account separate, this adds another layer of security to your site.
For example, were a hacker to get a hold of your email address and password for your domain name, you would at least keep the contents of the site (and vice versa).
Obviously, this only applies if you use different passwords as you should.
Because That’s What You Want To
Suppose you’re building your website on Squarespace, WordPress, or Wix.
You’re probably going to keep it there for a long time. Say, at least a few years, maybe even a decade. But if your business is the type of business that can grow quickly, it can also outgrow your website—and the platform that it was built on.
In such a case, keeping your domain name separate gives you the ability to move swiftly and not need to go through the hassle of transferring your domain name out.
Can You Buy a Domain Name And Not Host It?
Sure. You can buy a domain name and park it.
If you have an idea for a website that would work well in the future, but you don’t have the time and money to build it right now, all you have to do is register it with your favorite domain name registrar.
Going back to a point we made earlier, the domain name registration and the hosting package are two separate services, and the domain name and website are two different assets.
If you register a domain name, you become the rightful owner of that domain name for as long as you keep it renewed, and you can point it to any web hosting account that you want.
To put it another way, if you wanted to set up a physical brick and mortar store, the domain name is the equivalent of the business name you would register with a government organization, and the hosting package is the physical space and/or building its located in.
Virtually all domain name registrars will, by default, put a dummy placeholder website with your domain when it’s registered. You know, that “This domain name is registered with Provider” page that typically has some ads on it.
This is also known as domain name parking.
What Are Some Good Domain Registration Services?
There are many domain name registrars out there. So many, in fact, that it can be hard to choose!
We’ve come up with a list of some top domain registrars below. It’s worth emphasizing that this list is by no means exhaustive or in any particular order:
It’s worth mentioning that some companies on this list offer hosting and domain registration as one package. (Always remember to read the fine print.)
The best advice anyone could give someone who is looking for domain registration, hosting services, or both is to shop around.
Deals on domain registration and hosting are constantly changing, so timing is also important.
Understanding the difference between registering a domain and hosting it is critical if you’re starting a website project.
These two entities work together in some respects but are also different products.
It’s a buyer’s market for website hosting and domain registration, and as such it’s important to reiterate that you can register a domain and host it elsewhere.
If not just for the potential savings when doing this, but also because it is generally considered safer and more convenient if you become unhappy with your hosting provider.