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After some bad experiences with a previous website where the hosting company messed up administering my domain name, I decided to try and register a new domain myself and get a separate hosting company to host the actual site.
Unfortunately it seems like every hosting company I look at wants me to transfer the domain into their control, with all the billing and technical administration for it done through them.
Am I correct in thinking that technically all a web hosting company needs to provide is an IP address which I can point the domain name at?
I don't want to rent a server all to myself, the site doesn't need anything like that much bandwidth, but I also don't want to let the hosting company run my domain for me.
What do I do? Where do I look?
My hosting provider has a facility to "transfer" my domain to my hosting, but it isn't really a transfer. They simply assign their servers as SOA for the domain, and give me back a couple of NameServers to enter into my domain registrar's account.
Everybody wants to wring every penny they can from you. There are definite advantages to having an atomic registrar and hosting provider, but I have generally found that I'd rather have a domain registrar specialist for my domains, and a hosting specialist for my hosting. Lots of people use a single provider, and do fine. Nowadays, it's basically a matter of preference. When my hosting provider first started doing domains, they screwed things up pretty badly, but I think they have all that worked out now.
Basically, your hosting provider should provide the nameservers for your domains. They may (or may not) charge for the service, but giving them control of the NS SOA is a good idea, because they can do things like CNAME hosts and add subdomains. They will usually have a mail service, so you want them to have control of your MX records.
How does this work in practice? Do I just update the records to be whatever the hosting company suggests, or do I have to give them some kind of access to my registrar account?
If you ever stop using the hosting company, you tell the registrar to change their SOA to the next hosting company.
I've never seen anything to suggest any strong benefit to changing things up and putting everything into one tent. So, as things sit today, I've had the same registrar the whole time and I'm now on my 4th, and quite possibly last, host (as I'm quite happy with the folks I use now.)
Never had anyone give me a hassle over it, wouldn't have listened very much, or remained a customer, if they had tried.
It isn't as big a deal now, but domain names used to be the Internet equivalent of gold nuggets, and there have been some elaborate scams to try to get you to part with your domain name.
To this day, the Domain Registry of America still sends those fraudulent "bills" to just about every domain owner in the US. I believe that they are the ones that were banned from operating in Europe. I am constantly explaining to people that no, they SHOULD SHRED THAT BILL, and wait for their real domain registrar to contact them about their domains.
I remember falling for a scam in which a registrar contracted "threshers" find people willing to purchase open domain names. They would contact us as if they owned the domain, and, if we expressed interest, would immediately buy the domain and charge us several times its worth. To add insult to injury, they had to be threatened with legal mayhem to get them to release the "true owner" to you (there are a couple of "ownership" levels of domains, and if you don't have both of them, then you are really "leasing" your domain, and could lose it).
Basically, it just meant I paid about $75 more for my domain than it was worth, and I spent a lot of time exchanging increasingly nasty emails with the registrar until they let go of the Owner of Record to me.
I suspect that there are fewer scams these days, but I could be wrong.