Whenever we’re working with a new client, we find they often don’t know the difference between their domain name (e.g. example.com) and their website. Understanding that your domain name is a different “thing” from your website is a core concept when it comes to understanding how the Internet works.
Here’s a typical scenario: A new client comes to us having built their first website using one of the popular “all-in-one” website builders like SquareSpace, Wix, or WordPress.com. During the setup of their website, these services gave them the option to register a domain for their website as a part of a bundle. Now the renewal of their domain name is tied to their website. But as we move forward with building them a new website, they’re going to want to cancel their old website while still keeping their domain name.
How to “de-couple” your domain name from your website hosting
When you move from one web hosting service to another, it’s important to make sure that you keep your website domain name. When your domain’s registration is maintained inside your old web host account, it’s doubly important that you understand what you’re doing when it comes time to cancel your old web hosting. Otherwise you can end up canceling your old web host and knocking out your new one too whenever your domain expires inside that old account.
In general, once you’ve moved your web hosting, you’ll want to go back to your old web host and 1) obtain your domain’s “Transfer Authorization Code”, 2) transfer your domain to a new registrar, and 3) once you’ve transferred your domain, cancel your old web hosting.
Regarding Step 1: You can find your “Transfer Authorization Code” wherever your domain is registered. In the case of the above scenario, you’ll need to login to your old web host, go to the domain registration section of the control panel, and you should be able to find a button or link to click which will have them either show you the code or email it to you.
Once you have your Transfer Authorization Code, you need to transfer your domain name to a new registrar. This new registrar should be one that is not attached to your web hosting. During the transfer process, you’ll enter that Transfer Authorization Code in the order form. They’ll use it to verify you have permission to transfer the domain.
Examples of registrars are Hover, Google Domains, AWS Route 53, Namecheap, and Register.com. Moving to one of these registrars keeps your domain registration separate from your hosting so that you don’t have to “de-couple” it the next time you decide to switch web hosts.
Good Internet Hygiene
What have you learned? Hopefully you come away from this article understanding the difference between your domain name and your website. Your domain’s registration is best kept separate from your web host for maximum flexibility with your online presence. Having your domain registration separate from your web host will make it easy the next time you are redesigning your website. Should that redesign involve switching service providers, updating your domain to point to a new website is an easy process only taking a couple minutes. Additionally, having your registration separate from your web hosting will make it easy to keep track of your domain’s renewal whenever it comes up again.