Before we jump into the meat of this article, let’s first make sure we all understand the difference between DNS hosting and registration.
(skip if you understand how DNS and web hosting work)
When you buy a domain name, you will purchase it from a DNS registrar. At this point, you’ll notice that when you enter your domain into your browser it doesn’t go anywhere. That’s where hosting comes in. There are two kinds of hosting you need to run a website: DNS hosting and web hosting.
DNS hosting is a service that keeps copies of your DNS information on name servers around the world. This service uses the Domain Name System (you can learn more about how that works here) to point a domain name to an IP address. Whenever anyone enters your website into their browser, they are actually asking a question, “what is the IP address for this domain?” In DNS terms, we call this a query. Queries will work their way up the different servers in the DNS hierarchy until the name server authoritative for that domain answers with the appropriate IP address.
Once you set up your DNS hosting, you can run a dig in command line to see the IP address your domain is delegated to and under what record type.
The second kind of hosting, web hosting, is a service that gives you a part of a server to host your website files. Some registrars will also offer web hosting services and vice versa. When you are setting up your site, you will create a record through your DNS host that points your IP to your domain. You will then tell your registrar to add your DNS host’s name servers to their records. After that, you will need to create another record that points your IP address to your web hosting provider’s hostname.
Back to our original question, why should you not be using your registrar’s DNS hosting services?
Websites get compromised all the time. As of 3 in the afternoon, over 50 thousand websites have already been hacked today. When you bundle web services, you are making it easier for hackers to gain access to more of your services. Think of it this way, say a hacker just got access to your web hosting account. They would have complete control over your website’s content. Let’s assume you have different passwords for your other services… you would still have control over your DNS services and be able to point to another web host and save your site.
Let’s assume you have different passwords for your other services… you would still have control over your DNS services and be able to point to another web host and save your site.
Let’s apply this same scenario to a bundled account. Every part of your website is compromised, down to ownership of your domain name.
You’ll have to remember three passwords instead of one. If you’re really concerned about this, just use a password manager like LastPass.
Many providers will offer discounted pricing when you bundle. While this may seem great when you’re just starting out, it’s worth the extra couple bucks to use more than one service.
#2 Easier Transfers
We’ve seen clients bundle from the start, but have problems with hosting or support and want to leave that provider. Changing your DNS or web hosting provider is as simple as pointing. Not literally, but it’s a quick copy and paste of a name server or hostname into your DNS records. However, moving from one registrar to another is a long and difficult process that can risk the availability of your site.
We recommend using different providers from the very start, for all of your services. This will make things a lot easier if you want to transfer later. It’s also important to look for providers that allow you to modify the TTL (Time to Live) for your records. This is the length of time your record information is able to stored. You can lower this to as low as 30 seconds so when you change hosting providers there is no perceivable downtime.
#3 More Functionality
Registrars usually only offer the bare minimum when it comes to DNS hosting. As we mentioned earlier, you likely won’t be able to modify TTL’s so changing providers could risk downtime.
If you have traffic coming from areas outside of your region, we recommend outsourcing your hosting needs to a provider that uses an Anycast network. Anycast networks host your DNS information across hundreds of name servers located at critical points of presence around the world. This drastically reduces resolution times, which has been shown to increase conversions and boost SEO.
If you’re ready to move to a specialized DNS provider, start here.
Also published on Medium.