All is one: hosting with your domain registrar

A website is really just disc space

When you first register a domain name, it doesn’t really do anything: you still need to sign up to a hosting plan. Most domain registrars offer Web hosting too, and you could decide to subscribe to a hosting plan with the same service provider. Once you’ve done that, you have some disk space on a webserver: that’s really what a website is, a folder on a hard drive; not all that different from what’s on your own computer. However, a whole new set of tools become available within your control panel that focus on what goes on in that folder. We’ll talk about what those are in another article.

If you’re working with a Web developer, then they will need access to this second level of control panel to setup your website. To understand why, imagine that you’ve rented a unit in a shopping mall. You’re in the floor guide, so people know how to get to your shop front, and the unit comes with fundamental structural features (electrical sockets, water, and possibly gas). Your developer is going to need configure that space to display your content, just as you would need to connect to the fixtures and fittings in a shop. To do this, s/he will want to have access to the tool set I mention above.

There’s a lot of admin sense in keeping registration and hosting with one service provider if you only have one domain and website, especially if you’re doing all the work yourself. An element of risk emerges however, if you hand logins to this combined account to a Web developer: they now have access to your complete asset set. A (really!) bad actor could reassign IP addresses (to point to a totally different website), change logins, and even update billing, thus effectively stealing your domain. So for security reasons, we need to have the option to securely boundary these services. When you sign up to a hosting plan, you will likely need to create another set of logins that leads to a second control panel. This can seem unnecessary and confusing, but it’s really about structuring and limiting access.

As a security issue this becomes important if, over time, you register multiple domain names and have multiple websites, especially if you’re hiring different developers to work on separate sites. This is the main reason for multiple logins, so that you can ring-fence access to a particular tool set. You should only give a developer access to the controls to do their job, not give them the run of your whole asset set.

We saw that a domain name is actually an address book, or map, to other servers. Assuming you host your website with the same ISP, there’s practically no reason you’d want to make changes to its settings, because your ISP will have set it all up for you. For the most part, you’ll only need to login to the domain control panel keep your billing details up-to-date.

In the next article, we’ll look at why you would want to make changes to domain name settings: to host your website with another ISP.