There are several popular providers that offer both domains and hosting for WordPress. For over a decade, the standard advice has suggested you should forgo convenience and keep your domains and hosting separate.
It makes sense to house your site in the same place where you got your domain, especially since many providers offer seamless user interfaces for managing them both and some also offer free domains when you purchase hosting.
On the other hand, there are many caveats that could make this seemingly natural pairing turn sour including security risks and lack of stability. That’s why it has been a standard practice to purchase hosting and domains from different companies.
But is this practice still relevant?
Below, I’ll go through 10 reasons why you should consider keeping your hosting and domains separate, and also give you a definitive answer on whether it’s still considered good practice for WordPress.
Reason #1: Organization
Many WordPress developers host test sites across multiples servers and providers in order to test their plugins, themes and scripts for compatibility.
It can make sense to get a domain for your site and all from the same provider, but having your domains and hosting spread out across multiple providers can quickly get unwieldy.
Keeping all or most of your domains with one registrar makes the development process more organized. That way, you don’t need to navigate through hosting providers, each with a unique setup, to switch back and forth from viewing domains to hosting.
You can keep a browser tab open for all your domains and another for hosting. You can switch between them in one click for maximum efficiency.
Reason #2: Cost
Typically, lower costs are associated with coupling your domains and hosting since many dual providers offer great deals if you buy them both at one time. For example, many offer a free domain for your first year of registration.
While it may seem like a deal that’s too good to pass up, there’s often a catch. Often times, you need to purchase hosting for at least one full year in advance before you get your free domain.
If you wish to switch hosts within that prepaid year, it can be extremely difficult to do because you likely won’t be able to receive a refund for the unused time left on your contract.
Some hosts also offer the first year free because they raise the price for your domain to an unreasonably high rate for every year after that or they generally have prices that are way above the rest of the industry to make up for their initial loss.
Instead of the standard $10-$15 cost for a .com domain, you could be looking at paying $20+ for that same domain if you register with your host.
Reason #3: Trust
It’s important to do your research when choosing hosting providers and domain registrars. You should look well beyond reviews and consider their overall reputation and how established the company may be in the industry.
If they’re brand new or have a less than favorable standing within the industry or WordPress community, it’s worth it to be cautious. After all, it wouldn’t be worth it if they’re not around within the next year or two and you lose your site along with your domain.
Keep in mind that there are exceptions to the rule. Some new hosting companies are exceptional, while older ones may be pitter-pattering out.
That’s why it’s important to consider all angles to come to a solid decision, though, keeping your site separate helps if your host goes out of business. Your domains wouldn’t get lost with them.
Reason #4: Reliable Support
Another factor to consider is that domains are regulated by an organization called ICANN whereas hosting isn’t supervised.
If something goes wrong with your site and you also got your domain from the same company, the only place you can turn to is your host. If the issue escalates and you want to switch providers, your only chance is to hope your host doesn’t hold your domain for ransom.
On the other hand, if you purchase your domains from an ICANN accredited registrar and keep your hosting separate, you have ICANN to back you up and don’t need to worry about losing your domains during a hosting dispute.
Reason #5: Control
It’s important to be clear on who controls your domain and hosting since issues can arise that places your internet property in jeopardy, especially if you get your domain and hosting from the same provider.
It’s possible to do your research and choose a hosting company you think is reputable, only to be downright disappointed later on with their policies, hosting or customer service.
If you insist you’re seeing a problem with your hosting and the customer service department disagrees, you may end up in a heated dispute where they choose to suspend your domain or hosting until the issue is resolved.
Suddenly, the convenience of keeping your domains and site together becomes a burden.
Sometimes, the issue cannot be resolved due to many reasons including poor customer service and you may not be able to negotiate the release of your domain.
If your domains and hosting are separate, it gives you a lot more control, especially in these kinds of situations or if you outgrow your host.
You won’t be bound by your hosting provider and you can change your domain’s nameservers and DNS settings at any time to point to a different server where you can migrate your site post haste.
Reason #6: More Options
Domain registrars often offer a ton more options than hosting providers who only offer a few top-level domains (TLDs). In this domain-competitive world, it’s important to have as many options as possible when choosing your URL.
Reason #7: Security
According to a report by Sucuri, there were 50 million sites in 2016 that were reported as phishing scams or distributing malware, which are both hallmarks of a hacked site.
Unfortunately, spam and hacking are a real problem and a reality. In fact, the Akismet plugin stops 7.5 million pieces of spam per hour.
Keeping your domain hosted with your site means a hacker needs to go through fewer steps to gain control of your WordPress site, your hosting account and your domain.
Instead of having to hack multiple accounts, they would only need to hack one. While spreading out your resources won’t guarantee you won’t get hacked, the more difficult you can make it for hackers, the less likely it will be that you lose everything.
It may be important to note this is true if you use different, strong passwords for each of your accounts. Otherwise, a hacker would only need to figure out one password in order to gain access to all your accounts.
Reason #8: Avoiding Human Error
While it may seem more convenient to combine hosting and domains under one roof, it has its pitfalls because, well, “pobody’s nerfect.”
For example, if your credit card expires and you’re not alerted or your domain has been bundled with your hosting and you forget to renew it, you could lose both.
Your domain would expire and in many cases, it’s sent to be auctioned off. Many people purchase auctioned domains with the intention of reselling them later at a profit.
Unless you own a trademark attached to the domain, you could lose it and have to pay a lot more if you want it back.
Also, you could end up in an unfortunate mix up just as web designer Amy Masson experienced. Her host upgraded her account and they made a mistake when typing in her domain credentials.
They were only one letter off and set up her account with a totally different domain that was also registered. This means her site was replaced by that of the mistyped domain. As if that’s not bad enough, the other domain was attached to a spam site and took several days to correct.
While this example isn’t a typical occurrence, human error does happen and it suffices to say that it would be an undesirable experience that can be avoided altogether if you register your domain separately.
Reason #9: Stability
It’s possible that your site or host could experience outages. If your domain is registered separately, you could temporarily redirect your domain to a backup site or maintenance mode page hosted elsewhere to minimize the downtime your visitors’ experience.
While you could redirect your domain even if it’s registered with your hosting company, it doesn’t help if your entire hosting company experiences an outage and you can’t access your account at all.
Reason #10: Ownership
As mentioned earlier, many hosting companies offer free domains when you purchase hosting.
Depending on their terms of service, this free domain may rest under their control since the company is registered as the owner of the domain, while you’re registered as an administrator who can only manage the domain.
This means you could end up in a long battle for ownership over your domain if you decide you want to switch and it’s a possibility that you could lose your domain in the end. This isn’t also isolated for free domain packages.
Many domain or hosting providers offer domain privacy so your identifiable information isn’t publicly published in the WHOIS database.
This can be a good solution to keep your name, address and phone number private. However, similar to the aforementioned, your registrar’s terms of service could outline their control over your domain since they would be listed as the owner of it.
Some hosting providers may even automatically keep your domain if you cancel your hosting plan, making it difficult to switch hosts.
If you register your domains separately from your hosting, you can choose a registrar that doesn’t retain ownership of your domain so there’s less risk of losing it.
The Definitive Answer…
For all the reasons listed above, it’s still considered best practice to keep your domains and hosting separate, though, this isn’t really a be all, end all answer since situations vary between users.
If you’re starting up or you’re on a shoestring budget and need that free domain or a similar deal with your hosting, then it may not be possible or ideal to purchase them separately.
Whether you purchase your domain separately or bundled with your hosting account, you should be treated with equal importance by your host. Just be sure to do some research and choose a reputable company.
At the end of the day, it depends on your needs and personal preference so you should choose the option the works best for you.