It never fails to amaze me, the number of people I speak to about working on their website, be it in a design or SEO capacity and somehow the original designer has tied them in. The most common scenario is when a web developer registers the domain name and hosts the site for the client, this can cause real problems. (just for the record, I now always advise companies to buy their own domain and set their own hosting account up, simply to avoid this situation arising), as it can be virtually impossible to make them release it, which prevents you from finding alternative (possibly better) providers.
A Common Problem
It’s probably a weekly conversation when I ask someone for hosting logins, or even a Google Analytics login to be told that “the guy who built the website has it and won’t give it to me”. There is simply no reason or excuse for this, they are most likely either trying to tie you in so you can’t change, or are charging you some ridiculous mark-up on a service you could have set up yourself. I did once find a client who was paying £99 per month for hosting, which it turned out was on a Godaddy shared server costing the web designer about £7 per month!
This get’s even more complicated when we are talking about domain ownership. If your web designer has registered the domain name in their own account, it is registered to them, either personally or to their company name, they own it. They could release it and transfer it to you if you ask, but then again they might not, so it’s always best to register one yourself, then you can point the DNS to any hosting server you chose. Remember that your domain may be your brand name, so you really don’t want someone else having control of it.
How to Register your Own Domain
It’s surprisingly simple to buy a domain name. If you want a domain but don’t know where the site is going to be hosted yet, or perhaps are working with a web developer who is also providing hosting, I would suggest setting up an account with 123 Reg, I have several domains with them myself. Once the name is registered with them, you can then point it at any servers (hosting) and the address will resolve to the website you have there.
The alternative, which is even easier, is to set up hosting and your domain with the same registrar, I always recommend using one of the bigger companies, such as Supergreen Hosting, Godaddy, Dreamhost, 1and1 etc. then you can set it up all in one place and the DNS will resolve back to your hosting and website. You can of course change this again in the future if you want to, because you own the domain.