When you launch a new website you must register a unique domain name with an authorized registrar. When the internet was first starting, all domain names and IP addresses were registered through one organization, Internic. Eventually Network Solutions took over the role as "keeper" of the internet domain names. Today, there are hundreds of websites where you can register your domain name but Network Solutions still maintains the main database of domain names. Some websites charge as little as $2.95 per year for your domain name while others charge as much as $35 per year for the exact same service. Some even offer one year free if you register your domain name with them and host your website on their servers. Why pay $35 when you can register your domain name for much less at another website?
So why does Network Solutions charge $35 a year if they are the keeper of the database and their resellers charge a fraction or even nothing? Who knows and who cares! Register your domain with one of the cheaper providers and you'll be fine. A word caution - be care who you choose to host your website. Getting a free year of your domain name isn't worth it if your webhost is unreliable and your website is down more than it's up.
You pay for your domain name on a yearly basis. It's a separate charge from your webhosting bill. When you register your domain name choose the autorenewal option if it's available. This way your domain name will not expire if you forget to renew it. If your domain name expires, it's free for anyone else to register so you need to stay on top of when it's expiring. Also registering your domain name for a 3 to 5 year term will often save you money. For example, godaddy.com charges $8.95 a year for your domain name but only $7.25 a year if you register for a 5 year term.
When you register your domain you can create different contact names. The three contacts are Administrator, Technical and Billing. Most of the time the same person is all 3 contacts. If you web designer registers your domain name for you, make sure you are designated as the Administrative contact. This gives you control over the domain name and you must be notified if someone is trying to make changes to your record. If you aren't one of the contacts then someone can transfer ownership of the domain name without your permission.
To see a record of your domain name, go to www.networksolutions.com and use their WHOIS utility which is located in the bottom left corner of their home page. Simply enter your domain name and click Search. You'll see the complete record of your domain name, where it's registered and where your website is hosted. For a complete video of how to use WHOIS, visit www.valiss.com/video/whois/whois.html.
When you register your domain name you'll have to the option of making it a private registration. I highly recommend paying the additional fee to make your information private. If you leave your registration public anyone can look up your domain information which includes your home or business address and your email address. Many spammers scan public domain registration records to find valid email addresses to spam.
I always use a yahoo or hotmail email account when registering my domains. This way if spammers to find my email address, I can just get a new "throwaway" email address and I won't receive spam at my primary email address.
Always make sure your domain record remains locked. Locking your domain name is a feature implemented a few years ago. When you want to transfer your domain name to a different registrar you must unlock it. Once it's unlocked the new registrar can "pull" your domain name from your current registrar. Once the transfer is complete, the domain name will be locked to prevent anyone else from "pulling" your domain away from you.
About The Author Ted Prodromou spent over 25 years in the computer industry working for IBM, Digital, and Cellular One. Today he's the owner of Valiss IT, a consulting firm that provides personalized web design and small business marketing solutions. Visit http://www.valiss.com for lots of free "how to" articles about marketing your business online. Copyright 2005 Valiss IT, Inc. All Rights Reserved This article may be reprinted only if it remains unchanged.