Domain Registration vs Hosting: What’s the Difference?
Domain Registration vs Hosting: What’s the Difference? avatar

What is domain registration, exactly?
In our previous blog post we discussed Web hosting. If your Web host is the physical location where your website files are stored, your domain name is the address needed to find those files. A Web address (also known as a URL) looks like

If you are in the process of setting up a website, you will need both Web hosting and a domain name. If you don’t have Web hosting set up already, consider reading our previous Web hosting article. We recommend that you set up Web hosting before registering your new domain! Why? Because hosting plans increasingly offer 1 free domain registration per account (“free” for one year after which you pay the normal annual renewal fee). If domain registration is included in your hosting plan, make sure you can take the name with you if you choose to leave. If you can’t take it with you, consider registering your domain name separately. 

Ok. So you have hosting set up. How do you register a domain name? There are thousands of online companies acting as domain name registrars. Their job is to register a domain name for you – at your request – and allow you to point the new address toward your hosting account.

How do you pick a domain name? It can be quite a chore to come up with a unique URL. Like phone numbers, each domain name has to be unique so that people can find your site online. If the Web contained duplicate domain names, think of how much confusion there would be!

Most domain registrars provide a utility that allows you to search for an available address. When it’s time to start running names through a domain name utility, remember to keep them short, memorable and easy to spell.

Another thing you’ll need to consider is the extension of your domain name. The extension is the .com, .ca or .org tacked on the end of each Web address. In the early days of the Web, there were just a handful of extensions: .com for commercial, .org for non-profit organizations, .net for network services as well as national identifiers such as .ca for Canada, and .uk for the United Kingdom. The growth of the Web – and the need for unique domain names – has created a demand for more extensions resulting in the likes of .biz, .tv and .pro. The .com extension is by far the most popular – but that also means available names can be hard to come by. If isn’t available, maybe is. Most domain name search utilities allow you to search several extensions at a time. 

Note: If you find more than one extension available you may want to consider purchasing more than one e.g.  .com and .ca can be connected to the same site.

When you register your new domain, you will have to provide the registrar with contact information including a physical address and e-mail address. The contact information you provide is in the public record – and is easy to find online. Some companies offer an add-on ‘Private WHOIS’ service which protects your contact information, keeping you safe from things like identity theft and spam. If that service isn’t available or is prohibitively expensive, consider opening a hotmail or g-mail account just for your domain name contact information. At the very least, that’s one less source of spam in your regular e-mail in-box.  For more information about security, visit our blog post Web Security: 5 Tips for Protecting Your Site.

Once you have your new domain name registered, follow your Web host’s instructions for pointing your new domain name to their nameservers (the technical term for the physical location of your Web host’s computers). Remember, if you get stuck, you can always call customer support.

Note: The domain name needs to be registered to you or someone within your organization (not your web host or web developer).  Anyone responsible for the account also needs to know the password.  Finally, someone needs to be responsible for managing renewals; you don’t want your website to go down and you definitely don’t want to lose your domain name by letting it expire.

Ok, enough technical stuff. What should you look for when choosing a domain name registrar? Go with one that:

  • Is easy to use
  • Lists the price up front and is priced competitively
  • Has a good reputation
  • Offers comprehensive features
  • Comes with e-mail and telephone support

The best way to tell whether or not a domain registrar is right for you is to browse their site. Are the prices listed up front? How do the costs compare with other registrars? Test the domain search utility to see if a given URL is available. If the site is easy to use and informative, great! If it’s hard to find what you’re looking for, move on!

When choosing a domain registrar, make sure the company is reputable and has a proven track record. Like hosting companies, domain registrars come and go, so make sure yours is stable and legitimate. Check online user reviews such as

Make a list of the features offered at each registrar you are considering – and note whether the site explains what those features mean. Quality sites will go out of their way to explain what each feature means and how and why it can be beneficial to you. Reputable registrars will clearly post their prices and include all (or most) features in that price. Beware registrars who charge extra fees for basic services such as domain forwarding.

To find out if a domain registrar provides adequate support, your best bet is to call and/or e-mail to find out what the customer service experience is like. It’s unlikely you’ll need much in the way of support – but if you do need it, it’s great to know it’s available.

For information about domain registration support through Black Cap Design,  visit our Hosting and Maintenance page or contact us at