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Avoid A Website Hosting Nightmare

If you are new to owning and managing a website, this advice can save you a ton of trouble. If you are an experienced blogger or site owner, the idea may come as a surprise. Sometimes, we don’t see the obvious until it whacks us over the head.

First, a story.

Is saving money always a good idea?

My friend, Jan, is a tightwad. She still has the first dollar she earned online, drinks water at restaurants, and her wardrobe would fit into a suitcase. I admire Jan’s scrupulous nature – and often wish I had a touch of it – but the cheapest price is not always the best deal.

Jan found out about a hosting company that was offering a free domain FOR LIFE with their hosting package. Normally, site owners must pay an annual fee (averaging maybe $14 at the present) to maintain rights to the URL (uniform resource locator). Domain registrars often offer a reduced rate to get your business, then jack up the price for renewals – but a host that will give you a free domain AND keep it in your name, year after year, without any fees at all is making an offer hard to resist.

Jan was ecstatic. I was suspicious. And it turned out that my skepticism was well-deserved. Here’s what happened.

How a hijacker can take control of your website

Jan not only received a free domain name and lifetime registration with her new hosting package – the company also offered a one-time charge for lifetime hosting. She paid a ridiculously low lump sum amount for what seemed to be the domain registration/hosting deal of the century. She was set for life and would never need to worry about paying registration fees or hosting charges ever again.

And it worked great for two years. At the first renewal she received a bill from the company, with the total marked “Paid in Full.” I began to wonder whether I should have jumped in on the deal myself. It seemed to be a case of where “too good to be true” had finally arrived.

When the second year rolled around, though, Jan received an email from a company that had purchased all the hosted accounts and registered domains from the original host. They sent her an exorbitant bill, demanding payment immediately.

Jan flipped.

She began firing off emails and phone calls to the ones who had promised her lifetime hosting bliss. All were unanswered. She spoke with an attorney and discovered the company was not USA-based. She would need to enlist the help of a lawyer in the company’s country. In short, she wasted a ton of time, worried herself grey, and ended up losing both the domain name and the website. The last time she checked, the site she had poured her nights and days into was advertising pharmaceutical scams.

The one thing you never want to do when registering a domain

Great deals are fun to find. Everyone loves a bargain. There is one time-tested maxim you never want to forget, though: Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.

Take a company up on that tremendous hosting or domain registration deal, if you wish – but never, ever allow one company to both host and register your site. If the hosting turns out to be squirrelly, you may discover the hosting company doesn’t want to let go of your domain. It is their means of holding you captive. When you register the domain elsewhere, though, you can simply point it elsewhere anytime you choose.

The giants, like GoDaddy, aren’t the only ones who can register your domain. Don’t be afraid to try smaller sites and take advantage of those great deals – just don’t give anyone the complete set of keys to your castle.

Again, to be clear: Always pick one company to register your domain and a different company to host it. Those who have been with one provider for years may scoff at this advice. Some of us are with a reputable host/registrar (Godaddy is the largest) and feel entirely comfortable where we are. That scenario is akin to visiting a historical site and putting your neck in the guillotine. It may not fall right now, but leave yourself open long enough, and something unthinkable could happen.

Why risk catastrophe?

Abel Cane is a freelance writer who loves to help people get online. He works from a cabin in the Cascade Mountains and wouldn’t have it any other way. Hook up with Abel via @getgonegut on Twitter. 

About Michael Boguslavskiy

Michael Boguslavskiy is a full-stack developer & online presence consultant based out of New York City. He's been offering freelance marketing & development services for over a decade. He currently manages Rapid Purple - and online webmaster resources center; and Media Explode - a full service marketing agency.

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