Domain registration vs. Web hosting

To have a website you must own a registered domain and have a web host. Many people confuse and use these terms interchangeably.

Domain Registration

Every website has its own, unique domain name. In order to own a domain, you must register a new, unused domain name with any of a number of domain registrars. When choosing a domain registar, here are few things to ask about:

  • cost of domain registration (per year, or for multiple years)
  • ease of access to modify domain settings – any registrar should grant you access to update your own contact info, change name servers, etc.
  • how easy it is to contact the domain registrar – some only allow contact through email or the web whereas others offer a telephone number.
  • if you want whois security, does that cost extra?

Web Hosting

The web host is the place where the actual web content (pages, pictures, etc.) is saved and served up to the World Wide Web. Often (but not always) the web host may also be the place that owns any email addresses associated with your domain.

Although many domain registrars offer web hosting (and may encourage you to host with them), you may actually host your website anywhere. All you need to do is to point your Domain Name Servers (aka DNS) to the web hosting company you want to use. Many Hostbaby customers register their domains through Hostbaby, and many do not.

Potential Pitfalls

Your website can go down if:

  • your domain registration expires
  • your web hosting is shut down (e.g. if your account is frozen or past due)

As you can see, if your domain registration is managed by a different company than your web hosting, it is important to keep on top of your domain registration. Make sure your contact information is up to date so your domain registrar can reach you, and make sure you renew your domain before it expires to prevent an interruption in service or a costly re-activation fee.