PDQ Library:  Domain Names

If you want to get a Domain Name (Internet address) such as x.com, x.org, x.net, or x.ca (Canadian domain) for your Website address, you will need to register it with a "registrar" and then buy web hosting for the domain, usually for a one year period. (Registering for 10 years will prevent forgetting - getting back an "expired" domain is a lot of work.) Domain names usually cost very little per year, but Website hosting features/costs vary widely, so shop around.

What is a domain name?

A domain name, such as yahoo.com or microsoft.com, is the name of an electronic network. Most domains are "virtual domains", hosted by a service company on their system (you don't have to buy your own Web server to have a domain name). One domain might include hundreds of machines or just one. (Details about domain name procedures)

Should you get your own domain?

With a domain name for your website or email, your address is permanent, as long as you renew the registration before it expires. Your Web address never changes and you have complete control over it. Once you own a domain, you can purchase services for a website, e-commerce, emails, etc. from any web hosting company. There are lots of bad companies, so read the small print. Only read the bad reviews from "customers". A money-back guarranty is always a good sign. You will get the best prices for a longer committment.

Free Web space you get with a personal email account should never be used for a business. If you don't want a Website, at least get a basic Web page in an online business directory. There are many business directories that list your business name and phone for free, which is useless for most web searches (Manotick car repairs), but at least people can find your business by searching for its name!

How to get a domain

  1. Make a list of preferred domain names starting with your business name (no spaces or capital letters). A quick check typing "YOURCHOICE.com" into your web browser will likely indicate they are already "taken", even if not used. If your browser says it "can't find the server at www.YOURCHOICE.COM" then it's likely available!
  2. Decide what level of Web service you require for your website and email. (You may also "park" a domain or redirect it to another Website you own.) Buy website hosting first, as services and cost vary widely - then buy the domain from them.
  3. It's good business practice to get at least one email account for business mail. Most web hosts allow you to create as many email accounts as you need.
  4. Some registrars allow you to register a domain without actually using it. Some registrars give "free" Web hosting but make money on domain fees (and vice versa). Read the fine print. Check a "parked" domain regularly to make sure it's still empty (see below).
1and1 Web Hosting
One of our favorite website hosting services, 1&1.com has a "starter" package that includes almost everything the average business needs: a domain (registered), multiple email accounts, PHP, FTP, etc. - all for about $60 per year. They also provide great phone support - most cheap packages offer only email support.

Choosing A Domain Name

Businesses usually want a .COM name, followed by .ORG or .NET. These domain names are open to anyone, but you will find that many names are already taken. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN.ORG) authorizes new Internet domain suffixes. .CA domain names are administered by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA.CA). For .CA you must use a CIRA-authorized registrars or resellers and purchase is restricted to Canadian citizens or companies. This is the usual next choice when Canadian cannot get their .COM domain. If you need some ideas, DomainScope.com will list relevant domains automatically generated from a few keywords about your business or website.

You must pay a registration fee to buy a domain name. Many ISPs offer low-cost or even free domain registration to get you to buy their Web hosting or design services at much higher profit margins. Be wise and choose a good hosting service first.

There are dozens of country domains available, such as MD (Moldova), the British Virgin Islands (VG), and Kazakstan (KZ) and even TV!

Domain Ownership

When you register a name for a non-registered business, set ownership to your legal name - that's the one on your passport and bank account. Use your business name only if it's a legal entity. Domain ownership and transfers are legal operations. Register using a personal email address that is not linked to your domain so you can still send email if your domain has problems. Remember to update your account with the domain registrar if you ever change the email you registered with! The owner of the business should be the "administrative contact" for the domain so that all email about your domain comes to you. You can always forward the emails to an employee for action. Never give your domain account password to anyone - it's the equivalent of giving someone the deed to your home.

Technically you don't own a domain name if it was included free with a web-hosting package - the web company does. Although this is done for convenience, transferring the domain might be more difficult and cost a fee. Keeping the domain purchase separate might be better in the long run.

Protect Your Domain

Scam criminals have attempted to obtain Account Numbers and Passwords from domain registrants by sending misleading email notices or even postal mail. Legitimate companies do not send postal mail for renewal - they send an email notice to the email address you registered with. Most will send you a renewal a month or two before the expiry date asking you to renew. NEVER click on a "link" in an email. Login to your online account to renew. Some ISP's renew automatically to your credit card unless you cancel in advance. When in doubt, dig out the original email they sent explaining your account. Read about "Phishing" for more information.

If you fell for one of these emails, or typed your Account Number and Password, contact your registrar immediately. You may obtain the name of your registrar at whois.cira.ca/public for .CA domains and networksolutions.com/whois for others (.COM, .NET, .ORG ..)

Check Unused Domains!

You bought your domain name for your business, but haven't gotten around to getting a website. You are secure in the knowledge that the domain is like a property deed in cyberspace - or is it? Check those domains regularly to see what's there!

According to an article in Canadian Technology & Business by George Butters, a small New Brunswick gallery registered www.beaverbrookartgallery.org through Expiry Corporation of Vancouver, a reseller for U.S. registrar Enom. Since the gallery wasn't using the site, their home page was rented out to an "adult" site. When queried by the gallery, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN.ORG) said a registrar is NOT in violation of the ICANN accreditation agreement by using a domain name without the registered owwner's knowledge or permission, to host porn for the registrar's profit. The photos and porn links are gone now, but it makes you wonder if ICANN has lost control.

A related and quite legal process is for porn sites or domain speculators to buy up expired domains. If you ignore those annual "renewal emails", this could happen to you. It's happened twice to my clients. Some years ago the federal government decided all department would have bilingual domains. They abandoned many existing domains, which were snapped up by porn sites.

Domain Disputes

Domain name registration is now done by private businesses called registrars, resulting in a new problem - domain name disputes.

The Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP), was mandated for all registrars dealing in the .com,.net and .org domain names. Information is available at ICANN.ORG. In the U.S., registrar Network Solutions Inc. enable clients to resolve domain duplication disputes online.

Website Hosting

Once you have a Website designed, you need a place to put it - a Web hosting company provides this service. You should probably choose your hosting company first for services and price, then buy both domain and hosting from them. This simplifies everything - one account and one invoice for all your website services.

Commercial services charge from $6 to $200 per month for hosting depending on Website size (megabytes), throughput (megabyes per month), reliability, backup servers and additional services such as email, webmail, spam filters, mail forms, site statistics, counters, etc. Total for domain registration and web hosting with several email accounts for a small business should start at $100 CAD per year.

You may prefer a service that provide online tools to create website using one of their templates - no technical knowledge, file uploads, or web designer required! You create web pages right from your browser using your choice of style. The annual cost of hosting this type of site may vary widely. Beware of free hosting, which might involve sketchy privacy or advertising policies.

I have a domain and Web host - now what?

Once your domain is registered and your Web hosting is set up, you're ready to publish your Website. If you hire a web design service, you should register the domain yourself (it's a legal entity). The service you hire can design the Website and publish it for you.

Search Engine Applications

Once you have your Website published under your domain name, it is extremely important that you tell the world that your Website exists! You should register your new Website address with all major search engines and directories so people can find you. This should be redone every several months. Most web design services include this service, but be sure to include it in your contract.

What Does It Cost?

You may hire a web service that will take care of registering the domain, buying web hosting, creating your website and maintaining it. If you register a domain name yourself with an online registrar (company authorized to register domain names), they generally charge $20-$75 CDN annually just for registering the name! In addition, Website hosting might cost anywhere from $5 to $300 per month depending on what is included in your package, and additional services like Internet access, email accounts, CGI access, online services, high volume charges, backup servers. Credit transactions require additional levels of security. Web design costs vary widely but are usually based on hourly rates or estimates, much like any design service.

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