Updated October 10, 2020
Common website domain questions can seem silly to ask out loud. But you know the old saying: “no such thing as a silly question”. Buying and managing domains can be tricky your first time around. Heck, even your 4th or 5th or 6th time! I thought it might be nice for you to have on file some of the most common domain questions I get from clients. Some of these may not pertain to you… maybe a friend or colleague is about to start buying their own domains? Pass the knowledge along!
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.
What is the difference between a domain and my hosting? Aren’t they the same thing?
Not at all! Let me explain via this cute metaphor:
Think about your website as a highschool locker (minus the bullies and awkward teen years). Your domain is just a piece of tape with your name on it.
Your hosting company is the locker, and your site is all the stuff inside it. By default, your locker has an IP address like “12.345.678.890”. Doesn’t really roll of the tongue, eh? A domain is more user-friendly naming convention to access your site.
Note: you can buy (register) a domain with one company, and have it hosted with another.
In other words, you can have your piece of tape in one hallway, and your locker over in another. People will still be directed to your locker’s content, no matter where your domain is located. Your hosting company can help you set this up if this is the case. If you’re a bit flustered by this, I can help you sort domain and hosting issues out.
Should I let my designer or developer register and manage my domains for me?
No. No no no no. (No). I strongly recommend that you take care of your own hosting and domain purchasing/renewals. Many designers and developers will offer the convenience of managing these things for you. Or, your hosting is a small fly-by-night operation by someone you know who said they’d “take care” of the domain for you. Beware: this is anything but convenient. If you don’t have access to your domain renewals, the following can happen:
- Because you’re not the name/email on the account, you don’t receive notifications of upcoming domain renewals. You risk your domain expiring and becoming available for others to purchase.
- The person who registered it “gets out of the business” or takes a full time job and forgets to manage your account.
- You decide to switch hosting. Problem is, you can’t access your domain account to tell the internet to point your domain to the new hosting. This situation is for those who’s domain is registered by a company different than the hosting company. I see this most often with website relaunches where years have gone by since the original site was built.
- The person decides to keep the domain for themselves and “holds it hostage”. Yes, this happens more often than you think.
Effectively, you want to have as much control over your assets as possible!
What is the “.ca” domain for? Should I choose it over “.com”, “.org”, etc?
The .ca domain is a very special domain for us Canadians! Here are some interesting facts about it:
- Only Canadians and Canadian registered companies can purchase the “.ca”. There are extra steps in the purchasing process that help verify you as Canadian.
- It costs a little more than other domains, but that’s because the CIRA (governing body of the .ca domain) includes WHOIS privacy in the costs for individuals. If you go to Whois.net and search for a domain, you may see the address and other contact information of the owners of the domain. Owners of the .ca domain have their info kept private by default.
Choosing to go with “.com” or “.ca” comes down to the purpose of your site. If you are a company that wants to be seen as international, “.com” may be a good fit. If you’re a Canadian network of artist residencies, then “.ca” would be appropriate.
Even if your Canadian identity isn’t terribly important to you, if the .ca is available for purchase, snatch that thing up! You don’t want to risk confusing people who mistakenly type in “.ca” and get a completely different website.
Note: you can have multiple domains “point” to the same site. You just need to choose which one resolves (loads as) for your website.
Do I have to have hosting in order to own a domain?
Nope! You can own hundreds of domains and no hosting at all – they are not mutually exclusive. You can buy as many as your bank account allows! You can also have multiple hosting accounts and no domains associated with them (this does depend on the features your hosting offers, of course).
So if you have a great idea, and the domain is available – I say buy it!
Full disclosure: I’ve been known to buy up immature and amusing domains. Most of which would embarrass my mom.
Does buying a domain mean I have an email address as that domain?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense that having the domain means you have the availability to use if for email. But buying a domain does not mean you have email service. That would still be handled by your hosting company, or a 3rd party email service like Zoho or GMail. Note that some hosting companies bundle domain email into the cost, while others will charge extra.