Introduction - Domains and Hosting
Web Site Technology and Expiry Issues
Domain Name Registration
Inside a domain registration is contact information, and a pointer to the server where one actually finds the hosted website for the specified domain (via what's called the Name Server).
Contact information is used to confirm any requested changes to domain registration info, including change of registrar, and renewals.
If you're thinking of transferring your domain to a new Registrar, you need to:
- unlock the domain to allow Domain Transfer
- authorize the transfer by confirming the email sent to your domain's Administrative Contact
- pay the one-year-renewal fee (which buys you one more year after your current expiry date) to complete the transfer, based on the fee set by the registrar you're transferring to.
The Name Server
The Name Server is like a telephone directory. If I'm looking up someone's name, then I can find their phone number. The Name Server lets you look up the domain name, and it comes back with the address of the actual computer on the internet where your site is hosted...the IP address of the hosting server.
There is no cost associated with Name Servers, and the Name Server is usually managed by your hosting company.
Using this IP address, customers' browsers will actually end up talking to the hosting server while accessing your site.
The Hosting Server
The Hosting Server is the computer that actually holds your website's files/databases/images etc. You pay your Hosting Company for the use of their server and its resources, whether paid monthly or annually. Included in this fee is the charge for an allotted amount of bandwidth (quantity of data sent to customers while surfing your site) and storage space among other things.
When your hosting account expires, your hosting company will typically update your site's Name Server setting to point to a "Site Has Expired" page instead of your real account. They don't touch your hosting files. They just deny access to the real data.
When an SSL Certificate is purchased, it is issued to a particular domain name. Certificates are purchased in 1-year blocks. The certificate is installed on your Hosting Server and linked to your site so that your customers can shop with encryption protection when needed.
When SSL Certificates expire, your site is no longer able to offer encryption services without giving a warning to your customers that the certificate is expired. No real harm is done, but their shopping experience isn't protected.
SSL Certificates are an add-on to a hosting account, and are not directly tied to a hosting plan's expiry dates, etc. However, since hosting plans are usually purchased first, and SSL certificates are issued a few days later, it is quite common for a hosting plan to expire a couple days before an SSL certificate expires.
Certificates cannot be directly transferred to another host due to the public/private key generation systems. This is primarily to protect you against theft of identity or the certificate. To move an existing certificate to another server requires that the Issuer (whoever you bought the certificate from originally) re-issue the certificate tied to the new private/public key of your new hosting server, sometimes for a nominal re-issuance fee. Thus, it's simplest to issue certificates around the same time as switching hosting from one place to another.