Purchasing or Registering Domain Names – Basics

Though it looks bit complex at the beginning, getting a domain name and link it to your web site is a simple process.  Just get your hands dirty.

What is a Domain Name?

As we noted already on the home page, “Domain Name” is the global identifier (you may say a unique web address to your web site that is hosted in one computer which is connected to the internet) to your web site.

Technically, it a user friendly representation of a computer address pointer which is made up of 4 numbers parts (or 6 number parts) separated by a period (“.”)  You don’t need to be worried about these internals any way.

Now we know, every web site will have a unique, user friendly address. So, it should be managed/regulated by one “body” that oversee the domains. Who that body?

Who manages/regulates the domain names?

We agree that there should be one regulating body that oversee and manage the domains globally. The regulating body for the domains is “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” (ICANN)

ICANN is a non-profit organisation that coordinates and regulates the domain registration and maintenance through organisations or businesses which has one (or the main) role of them as “Domain Registrars”.

Note:

As a web site owner who wants a domain name, you do not deal with the governing body ICANN.

Where do we purchase/register the domain names?

Fine, then where do I (a web website owner) purchase my domain names?  We buy our domain names from a “Domain Registrar”.  There are many organisations function as “domain registrar” with presence in internet. Many of those organisations provide some other services related to web hosting in addition to providing the services related to managing “Domain” registered with them.

“Domain Name Registrars” and what services they provide

From a “Domain Registrar” we can

  • Purchase a new domain name (use their domain search tool to verify the new desired name is NOT registered already anywhere in the world and available for us to register/purchase)
  • Renew a domain name subscription
  • Transfer a domain from one “Domain Registrar” to another

There are some additional domain related services they provide which you may leave for now.

Purchase a new domain name

To purchase a domain name for your web site, you should by now, have an idea of what domain name you want to have for your web site (or email service). Say, you want to have a domain name like www.mydomain-freesoftware2020.com .  Here, the top level domain is “com”. The second level domain is “mydomain-freesoftware2020”.

 OK, now you want to purchase a domain name and you have selected the domain name. So, now you need to decide with whom (“Domain Registrar”) you are going to register your domain.

When you go to the domain registrar’s web site, usually you will find a “Domain search” tool where you can search for your desired domain mydomain-freesoftware2020.com (note, the part “www” is omitted in the search).

When you do the search, if you are lucky, you may get the desired domain name at the first attempt.  Most probably, the domain name would not be available for you to purchase (someone would have already own it).

*Tip: Before going to purchase the domain, expect the name you wanted may not be there and have some alternatives at hand. So, if one is not available, you may search for other alternative names (here mydomain-freesoftwares2020.com/ mydomain-freesoftware-2020.com and so on)

When you get a desired name available, continue the steps to purchase that domain. Now you have your domain name purchased and this can be linked to the web site when you are ready with the web hosting and the new web site.

Do I need to host my web site with the same organisation?

Most of the web hosting companies sell “Domain Names” as well.  However, when you buy the domains, you may be tricked to buy the web hosting with them as well.

Remember, you DO NOT need to have the domain name and the web hosting with one company. Do the research individually and shop around. One “Domain Registrar” may have good qualities for “Domain Registration” and the same company may not be having good web hosting plan that satisfy your requirements.

My recommendation is to have the domain name with one company and the web hosting with another company.  Yes, you can have both in one place, but DO NOT LINK them in the purchase even if they give you good discounts for buying them both.

I am buying a domain, what is the duration of the subscription?

When you register a domain (purchase a domain subscription), you will need to get the subscription for at least 1 year.  There are many domain registrars who offer discounts when you buy domains for 2 years/3 years/4 years. There are few domain registrars who give discounts for buying 5-year subscription or even, 10-year subscription.

It really depends on individual circumstances if you just buy 1 year subscription or buying subscription for multiple years. I would recommend NOT to go for more than 2-year subscription initially.  In reality, many people abandon the websites within 2 years. So, first buy for 2 years and then, renew every years after that.

Do I need to stick to the same “Domain Registrar”

Many people, for various reasons, transfer their domain names to a different “Domain Registrar” which you can do definitely.

DO REMEMBER, you do not need to transfer the domains because you transfer the “web Hosting” of your web site to a different web hosting company. You can move your web site to a different web hosting company while keeping your “Domain Name” with one “Domain Registrar”.  In this case, you will point the new Name Servers (from the new web hosting company) from your domain name configuration section in the control panel of your “Domain Registrar”.

If you have no issue in your domain name subscription with the original “Domain Registrar”, you do not need to move the domain at all.

No, I want to Transfer my domain to another “Domain Registrar”, How do I do it?

Ok, you want to move your domain name to a new “Domain Registrar”. Then, you can do it from the new “Domain Registrar”.  Remember that transferring the “domain” to a new Registrar will take few days since the transferring process need to be authorised by you so that the old “Domain Registrar” can release the domain to the new “Domain Registrar. The following facts applies during the transfer process;

  • You will need to validate and update your contact details in the old “Domain Registrar” so that the transferring process will have your updated contact details
  • Mostly,  we cannot transfer a domain within 60 days from the day it is registered/transferred with the old “Domain Registrar”
  • If the domain is locked in the old “Domain Registrar”, unlock it before you raise the transfer request in the new “Domain Registrar”
  • After you raise the transfer request, you will be request to submit an online authorisation form where you will have to submit the authorisation key/code from the old “Domain Registrar”. You can request this “Authorisation Key” from the old registrar or you may have it in a secure place
  • Once you receive the confirmation from the new “Domain Registrar” that your domain name is transferred, you will have to update the DNS names on your domain name configuration in the new “Domain Registrar” pointing DNS servers of your web site web hosting company.  Please note that if the DNS names changed, it might take few hours for your web site to become live after the “Domain Registrar” change

My personal preference is not to change the domain registrar often.  Get a good company (“Domain Registrar”) at the beginning and you can stick to it. You may be changing your web hosting company.

Points to look when choosing a “Domain Registrar

The following points would be helpful when we search for a “Domain Registrar” to purchase our domain name.

  • The subscription fee
  • Any hidden fees
  • Any additional features they provide
  • If the company is trust worthy and how long in the business
  • Ease of use (registration process and control panel)
  • Technical Support/Customer service
  • Privacy protection
  • They have a “Grace Period” after the domain name expired

The subscription fee

Obviously many (all) of us want quality products for cheaper price. Many “Domain Registrars” give a discounted or free domain for the first year and from second year onwards starting to charge a “normal” subscription fee. Ideally, a “normal”, ongoing subscription fee should be in the range of US$11 – USD15 for any “.com” domain. “.net” domains may be slightly expensive.  Then, there are other top level domains that are slightly cheaper and some other top level domain names are slightly expensive.

However, in general, look for the price they charge for the “.com” domains and assess if the “domain Registrar” is ripping the customer off or not.

Note:

Sometimes, the charges may be high but they might have some added values like “privacy protection”. So, when assessing, do consider these.

Any hidden fees

When you search for domain names and select one domain name in the web site of the “Domain Registrar”, initially, they will show the subscription price only. However, when you check out and proceed to purchase, they might add some other products (added value items) to it and the final payment may be much higher.

So, REMEMBER to check the final amount and take time to review the added products. For example, they would have added “Privacy Protection” for another US$8.00/year. Although I am for getting the “privacy Protection”, there might be some “Domain Registrars” whose domain name subscription may be slightly higher, but combined with “Privacy Protection” it would be much cheaper. So be vigilant and don’t hesitate to stop proceeding to pay and you could look at another place.

Any additional features they provide

When purchasing a domain name, there would be some additional features you might need to purchase or get in order to have a safe web site hosting.  They may include “Privacy Protection” of the domain as we noted earlier.

“Domain Registrars” may offer you a free hosting space for a one page web site. They may also offer free email address space.

I would recommend you purchase the “Web Hosting” separately (from another web hosting company unless they have a very good web hosting plan.  If you get web hosting and email hosting (should be part of the web hosting) there is a high change you lose your bargaining power and get hooked to the “Domain Registrar” forever (It might work out well if they are good company though)

If the company is trust worthy and how long in the business

The reliability and trust worthiness of the “Domain Registrar” is the most important criteria when we look for a good “Domain Registrar”.  How do we identify a “Trust Worthy Domain Registrar”? Look for the following factors:

  • How long they are in the business. The longer they are in the business, the better
  • The number domain names entrusted with them. Ideally,  look for a domain that manage more than 1 million domain name if they handle domain registering globally or more than 200,000 if you are looking for “Domain Registrar” within your country
  • No hidden costs in their pricing structure
  • Look for reviews and feedback on the web
  • DO NOT TRUST “TOP 10 …” web sites recommendations.  I would not say, there will no good ones , but encourage you to do your own judgement

Ease of use (registration process and control panel)

Any service providers on the web, should facilitate a smooth and pleasant user experience. From the start (searching the domain name tool), registration, payment and the control panel for managing the registered domain should give the users a flawless experience.  Do remember, once you have purchased the domain, you cannot cancel the current subscription (that is at least for the current year). However, you can transfer the domain to another “Domain Registrar” after 60 days of the original purchase.

Technical Support/Customer service

As with any other online service provider or online business, you should expect an excellent customer service from the “Domain Registrar”. Again, look for what they have to tell about the “Customer Service/Technical Support” and also, look at any reviews/feedback in any forums in the web. They should have good knowledge base, a quick CHAT services and a “issue logging system and probably a phone help line (I am not a fervent supporter of phone support, I am happy with a “LIVE CHAT” and a ticket logging system to solve the issues.

Privacy protection

The “Domain Registrar” should provide (either free or for a fee) “Privacy Protection” (or “WHOIS GUARD”) to any domains.  I would not recommend a “Domain Registrar” charge more than US$ 16.00 for a “.com” domain with Privacy Protection”.

Also, I strongly recommend that you get the “Privacy Protection for your domain name and that would keep any spammers at a distance.

They have a “Grace Period” after the domain name expired

 Usually many “Domain Registrars” offer a non-guaranteed “Grace Period” in case you forgot to renew the subscription before the subscription has expired. If the domain name is not purchased by any other party (Once the domain subscription expired any other party is eligible to purchase it. That’s why I used the phrase “non-guaranteed”), you can still renew the expired domain without paying any penalty with that grace period.

Note:

Never forget to renew your domain name before the domain subscription expires. Ideally setup a “auto Renewal” in your domains configuration using a credit card or Pay Pal or any payment gateway of your choice.

Domain Registrar Selection Check List

Do check the following list and your preferred “Domain Registrar” should satisfy most of the items in the list

ItemMeet the requirement (Yes/No)
Ease of user tools 
Domain name subscriptions are reasonable 
In the business for at least 5 years 
No hidden fees 
Good customer feedback/reviews in the web 
Good customer support/Tech support 
Has Privacy Protection 
There is no Transfer Fees ( Moving away from this domain) 
Automatic Email reminder well before the domain expires 
Number of domains registered with them is remarkable 

Conclusion

Do not go and purchase your domain name in a hurry.  Domain name is equivalent to your home address. When you buy your house, you would definitely do some research about it. Same way, take some time to choose a suitable domain name and spend some time in researching about the “Domain Registrar” with who you would be registering your domain and you will not regret this decision in the future.

GOOD LUCK!

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