When shopping for web hosting packages, you will sometimes see providers boasting that their plans support multiple (or even unlimited) domains.
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This is a feature that is typically offered to upgraded plans; entry-level shared hosting plans usually limit you to one domain per account.
For those with multiple websites, this sounds like a good idea; after all, paying $9.99 per month for three websites is better, financially speaking, than paying $9.99 for each website (monthly total: $29.97).
But, is this a good idea in practice? The short answer is no, we don’t think so.
How Multiple Domains on One Account Works
Before we go further, let’s take a look at how multiple domain names work when you only have a single hosting account. This explanation assumes that you have three different websites, each with their own domain (not one website that can be reached with three different domain names like website.com, website.org, and website.net).
If you were to use multiple domain names on a single account, you would need to own each of the domain names you want to use. This means that you will need to purchase and register each URL individually. Depending on your domain name registrar, this might not be cheap, increasing the temptation that you cut costs when it comes to web hosting.
Once you have your domain names, you’ll need to configure your web hosting environment to support multiple domain names and websites. When you get started with a chosen web hosting company, your web hosting provider will give you a single, overarching directory that is referred to as your root folder.
For each domain that you want to use with the website, you’ll need to create a subfolder (so, if you want to use three different domain names with your hosting account, you’ll need to create three different subfolders).
Why You Shouldn’t Have Multiple Domains on One Hosting Account
Now that we’ve covered why you might consider using multiple domain names with one account and how this process works, we’ll discuss why having multiple domains on one hosting account is a bad idea.
Reason 1: No Isolation Against Technical Failures
When all of your websites are hosted in a single environment, where there isn’t really any separation between the various sites, any technical failure that impacts the availability and uptime of one site will also impact your other sites. If you push a bug to production that slows it down or one of your websites is a target of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, all of your sites will be affected.
In addition to mistakes and attacks, you’ll need to keep an eye on your overall resource usage. Even accounts that offer unlimited resources tend to restrict your usage after a certain point. If one of your websites is a resource hog, this might affect your other websites, since they will not have the resources they need to stay online. Furthermore, your web host might find your high resource usage levels unacceptable and throttle the amount available to all your sites.
Reason 2: No Variability in Technology
Many hosting accounts force you to apply the technologies you install (eg, programming languages and frameworks) across all of your websites. After all, your websites are all sharing your account’s resources, both in terms of hardware and software. That means that if site A requires X and Y and site B requires Z and W, you’ll need all W, X, Y, and Z to be installed.
In many cases, having all of these installed and available to your websites isn’t a problem. However, as your websites grow, this might contribute to declining performance on the part of your websites (including slower page load times). It’s most efficient to have only what you need installed and running.
Finally, having one account means that you can’t have any variability in your technology stack. For example, you might need one version of Python for one site and a different version for another. You might want to have different caching and logging settings for each site. All of these require website separation that’s not available to you when you use a single account for everything. (There are exceptions to this, however.)
Reason 3: All of Your Websites Can Be Compromised at Once
By hosting all of your websites on a single account, you’re doing the digital equivalent of placing all of your eggs in one basket.
If your web hosting account becomes compromised (eg, someone gets a hold of your username and password combination), the unauthorized party has access to all of your websites, not just one. These parties may seek to take down your website or change your pages to content that you do not intend to show.
Hackers also seek access to legitimate websites so that they can be used to “spawn” additional pages (all under the guise of the once-legitimate website) to redirect users to other websites or “trick” search engines.
There are many ways for you to protect your website from unauthorized access, including using a firewall on all of these websites, strong passwords, enabling two-factor authentication. A dedicated security solution like Astra shall most definitely protect your websites from these compromisations.
However, diversifying your web hosting environment and getting each site its own account can only add to your website’s security.
Reason 4: It Can Hurt Your SEO
This only applies if you have a single site that you want to be accessible using multiple domain names.
On the one hand, using multiple domain names might seem like a good idea, since you will capture users trying to access your site with various domain names. This might be the case if you offer products or services that appeal to different groups of customers.
However, multiple domain names can hurt your search engine optimization (SEO). Multiple domains hurt your page’s ranking since your site is indexed and identified by its URL; rather than having a single domain name that is tied to your website’s popularity, metadata, and more, you are diluting your SEO with multiple domain names.
Furthermore, it’s likely that you’ve set up your secondary domain names with duplicate content, which is frowned upon and penalized by the search engines. This is also an inefficient use of your web hosting resources.
Finally, all of your websites likely share an IP address. Search engines might (erroneously) conclude that you’re backlinking to yourself, a practice that is used for gaming your rankings — often resulting in penalties by search engines.
Reason 5: Difficulty in Siloing Access to Your Websites
Using one account for all websites means that you don’t have the ability to set administrative credentials that offer access to just one of your sites that you can share. If you manage your website yourself or are working with a trusted team, then having just one set of credentials that grants access to all of your sites is fine.
If, however, you have multiple people administering your websites, granting them access to one website means granting them access to all of your websites if you host them using a single hosting account. There’s no real way to protect your subfolders, each of which is used for one website, individually.
It can be tempting to host multiple domains on one hosting account, due to the cost savings involved. However, there are a lot of reasons, ranging from security concerns to SEO impact, that make this a bad idea. Instead, we recommend that you opt for multiple hosting accounts, each of which is used for a single website.
Toni Allen is a webmaster, writer, and web hosting expert and cybersecurity enthusiast. She has been reviewing hosting companies for over a decade.
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