For years, many web hosting companies have offered customers the option to get a free domain name along with their purchase of a web hosting plan. Some web hosts offer a free domain name for the first year, while others offer it for free for as long as they’re a web hosting customer.
Yes, it may seem cost-effective for you to get a free domain name, but there’s more to think about before choosing this option. More often than not, it’s beneficial to register your domain name through a third-party domain registrar (e.g. NameCheap) than to have your web hosting company do it for you.
If a web host does not offer a free domain name it certainly should not be a deal breaker because the cost of offering a free domain registration would be reflected or calculated into the pricing of their hosting plans. You’re better off keeping your domain registration and your web hosting separate so you are in full control of your domain name, at all times, no matter what.
When your domain is registered with your web host, you have to think about who retains ownership of the domain. Do they register it under your name or do they do it under their own? How easy will it be to move your domain from your web hosting company to another domain registrar and would they allow for this? Web hosts have terms and conditions that many people avoid reading – which can prove to be a costly mistake.
The biggest benefit of keeping your domain name separate from your web host is the freedom of easily being able to switch web hosting companies. In reality, you are more likely to switch web hosts than domain registrars. If you do decide to switch hosting companies, all you have to do once everything (files, databases, etc.) is transferred over to your new hosting account and working correctly is change the nameservers for your domain name at your registrar and you’re good to go.
However, if your domain name is registered with your hosting company – you may be locked into staying with them until your contract is up. In some cases, you may have to pay a fee to have your domain name moved out of your web host. With domain registrars, they’ve made it quite seamless to switch between registrars. There is a process you need to follow (Namecheap’s domain transfer knowledgebase post), but it’s generally not as strenuous as moving a domain name away from a web hosting company.
At the end of the day, it is better to register your domain names through a domain registrar and not through your web hosting company. It really is the safest option, but if for whatever reason you decide to go against this advice make sure you read the fine print (terms of service) and don’t simply take the web host’s domain offer without understanding what’s involved. While it might be rare for any reputable hosting provider to hold a domain hostage, you still want to make sure that if you decide to cancel your web hosting account you will still have complete control over your domain. Be certain that the web host will be registering your domain in your name and that you will own it. While we’re on the subject of being in control…always keep your own off-site backups, no matter who your web host is, or the level of trust you may have in them.
Looking for more guidance on what to look out for or what to avoid? Read Review Hell’s Web Hosting Guide For Newbies!