Always keep hosting, domains and email separate

A quick technical tip for my loyal and esteemed readership: when setting up a modest website, don’t buy your domains from your web host. And ideally, get your email from somewhere else too.
One of the second-order selling points for an open-source solution like WordPress is disaster recovery. In a worst-case scenario, you can simply export your content from one installation, import it into another, and change the DNS. I’ve had to help people do this twice in the last couple of months, when relations with hosting companies have soured – once due to repeated security problems, once because of a billing disagreement. The sites were live from their new homes within a couple of hours.
When things go wrong, you’ll probably want to turn tail and leave in a huff; and to be honest, for the amount you’re paying, most hosts won’t consider it worthwhile persuading you to stay. Transferring your DNS records to a different registrar is going to be a lengthy process, probably a few days at best. But if you’re already using a third party registrar, separate from your hosting supplier, they don’t ultimately care where your ‘www’ record is pointing. The change can be made in mere seconds.
The same goes for email. To be honest, with Google offering its standard-level Apps For Your Domain free of charge, there’s really no reason (excuse?) to tie yourself to your hosting provider’s bundled email service… which is probably inferior anyway.
Many hosting companies include a free domain as part of their package. Whether or not they do this deliberately, it’s a form of lock-in… and you’re probably only saving the price of a pint of beer (London prices) per year. The freedom to take your business elsewhere, at the drop of a hat, is worth a lot more.

3 thoughts on “Always keep hosting, domains and email separate”

  1. Hi Simon,
    I also add a third party DNS provider in the mix. Though I must admit I haven’t used the free Google apps yet. Must give it a try.

  2. Sound advice here, in all but one respect: you really shouldn’t host anything important with a hosting company that charges so little that they don’t care if you leave.
    Hosting feels like it should be a commodity, but it really isn’t. EC2 is a commodity. Hosting is a valuable service upon which your website critically depends, and you get what you pay for!

  3. Fine… if you’re fine with Google! Plenty of people – especially in NGOs and in some other European countries – are not. Same for Google Analytics (although Piwik does the job as a replacement there).

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