The Ins and Outs of Domain Name Registration

I hear the same questions from my clients again and again. What should my domain name be? How do I get a domain name? How do I transfer my domain to your server? I thought I would take some time here to give some information about the world of domain names.

Of course, the first step is to think of a domain name that best applies to you. It should be easy to remember, as simple as possible, and (if you really want to get advanced) contain a keyword about your company. Most commonly, it is “yourcompanyname.com.” If your company name is taken, some companies add a hyphen between words. The hyphen is the only punctuation allowed in the middle of a domain name. Don’t rule out using a clever keyword phrase about your company, especially if it is easy to remember. You can also try variations with the domain ending such as .org or .net, but since so many people are used to .com, using a different ending might give users a harder time finding your site.

The most difficult part of domain name choice is that the name must be unique. Many names are already taken. The easiest way to find out if your choice is unique is to type it into the web browser. If the browser comes back with a “cannot find” error, then mostly likely that is a unique name. There are tools on the web to help as well, such as www.whois.com. I always use www.networksolutions.com/whois. These sites will not only tell you if your name is taken, but who has taken it.

Once you have chosen the name, you have to go to a domain registration site to purchase it. Domains can be purchased for as little as a year and as many as 100 years. Registration companies (or Registrars) usually have a sliding scale making it cheaper per year to pay for more years. This is where things could get confusing. Any server company will register the site for you when you sign up for their serving services, but you might end up paying more for the registration. I have found the cheapest solution is to use www.godaddy.com to register your domain. It will cost you less than $10 per year regardless of how many years you sign up for. You will need the DNS (domain name service) for the server company that you are going to use, so you will need to register the domain, sign up for server service, find out the DNS, then go back to the Registrar and let them know the DNS.

Go Daddy ,as well as any other registrar, will set up an account with a user name and password. The user name and password are very important to know and the main reason people run into trouble when they wish to change their server situation. With the user name and password you can go to Go Daddy at any time and change the server that your domain points to. This is another reason not to let your server company register the name for you unless, like myself, they provide you with the registrar’s name, the login and password. Of course this login and password are usually retrievable if your email address is the administration address for the account. Where I see clients run into trouble is when they let smaller server companies register the domain in the servers’ name with the servers’ own email address as the administrator. If a falling out between the companies, the domain name is held hostage. This usually results in the client having to get a new domain name, which renders print materials obsolete, not to mention search engine rankings.

After the domain name is pointed to the server and you place an index.html in the public folder on your server, you have a website. Now if you only knew of someone who could put that site together for you . . . .

Kirk Peters is a Pittsburgh based multimedia programmer. He has had more than ten years experience developing multimedia applications for hundreds of local companies. He can be reached at 412-716-6585 or at kirk@kirkpeters.com.