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It seems like domain names are available everywhere these days, and buying one or two or twenty is as easy as a few clicks for even the most uninitiated web user. Almost anyone can now buy a domain name in minutes and have a website up and running somewhere in just a couple of days. Many people, however, buy domain names with no intention of immediately setting up a website, but simply to reserve a name or several names that they might want to use at a later date when they are ready to start building. What most people don't realize in their rush to purchase, unfortunately, is that their domain name can be rendered useless later if proper care and attention isn't taken during the registration process.
At IllDev.com Search Engine Optimization SEO Company we often get clients who already have a domain name or an operating website when they come to us and ask us to relocate it to our hosting and registration services. It has been our experience that many clients have very poor records or no records at all from the original purchase of the domain. Often they just filled out the forms online, submitted their credit card, and presto! Brand new domain name ready to go, no paperwork or anything. Really convenient, right? It may seem that way at first, but we will explain how this can cause problems later on down the road.
In other cases, the domain was registered by a former employee whose records disappeared with him, or it was registered in his name and he is now unable or unwilling to be contacted to authorize changes. This also frequently happens in cases where the domain was bought for the client by a web designer or the original company to host the website. Such problems can be avoided if you know what you're getting beforehand and what is required of you as a domain owner.
So you've got a great idea for a domain name and you've found a site that sells domains for a good price. You're all ready to whip out your credit card and reserve it right now. Here is a basic description of the process you or your representative (website designer, hosting company, etc.) will go through on most registrars to do this:
The most important thing you can do when purchasing a domain name is to keep good records of your purchase. Write down your username and password for your domain account, print out the contact information that you entered, and print out any receipts and emails you receive from the registrar upon completion of your purchase. Keep all of this information in a file where you can find it later if you need it. You should also keep the name and contact information of the registrar you purchased the domain from just in case you ever need it.
If someone else is purchasing a domain name on your behalf, such as your website designer or web host, you should make sure that they are keeping track of this same information and are willing to provide you with copies of it upon request. This gives you an extra measure of safety in the event that a dispute arises over control of your domain name. Most of the time this occurs when an owner decides to change designers or hosting companies because of dissatisfaction or increasing requirements. Directory One will provide its customers with copies of all domain registration information immediately upon request.
This section explains the major features of a domain name account and the things you need to be aware of with regard to their function and use. It is not necessary for you to understand in great technical detail everything there is to know about domain names, but the features described below are the ones you will encounter during the registration process, and the ones most likely to cause you trouble if they are not handled appropriately.
A complete glossary of domain registration terminology can be found on ICANN's website.
Registrar - This is the company that the domain was purchased from. Top level registrars include Network Solutions, Register.com, OpenSRS (a division of Tucows), and GoDaddy among others. Many smaller companies also function as registrars by reselling domains from the top level domain providers. IllDev.com Search Engine Optimization SEO Company resells domains from OpenSRS. The registrar is also the company you pay to renew your domain name when the registration period is up. Domain names can be transferred from one registrar to another following specific rules (this article is primarily meant to make that process easy in case you ever need it). There are a number of domain registration scams out there which appear to be renewal notices when in fact they are registrar transfer forms. The easiest way to recognize them is to know who your registrar is and only accept renewal notices from the company you bought your domain from.
Domain Account Manager - As mentioned above, whenever you buy a domain you are creating an account with your registrar. This account allows you to manage all of your domain contact information and the DNS servers for your domain. Whenever you go to the website for your registrar, you should see a link that says something along the lines of "My Account", "Account Manager", "Manage Domain", or something else similar. When you click on that link, it should take you to a login screen where you enter the username and password you created (or received) when you bought your domain. Once you have successfully logged in, you will be able to change all of the information about your domain name, renew it, and possibly use other services the registrar may decide to add to the interface for the user's convenience.
Whois Information - This is the basic information returned by a Whois query on a domain name. It contains the ownership and contact information, the registration and expiration dates, and the DNS servers for the domain. This is the information you are creating when you register your domain. You can find a Whois query form on most domain registrar sites, and there are also many independent Whois servers where you can check domain information.
Registrant or Owner Contact - This is the first contact you have to fill out, and arguably the most important, at least from a legal standpoint. The person or organization listed in this contact is considered to be the legal owner of the domain name. This can be a serious problem if a client asks their designer to purchase a domain on their behalf and the designer registers the domain with himself as the owner. It does happen, unfortunately far too often, and if a legal dispute arises over the ownership of the domain this can be very problematic. You should always make sure whenever someone else buys a domain for you that you are listed as the owner. If we at IllDev.com Search Engine Optimization SEO Company purchase a domain name for you, you have our guarantee that you will be the designated owner of the domain.
Administrative Contact - For operational purposes, this is THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR DOMAIN. Almost all of a registrar's business is done with the Administrative Contact. As you might guess, this is the person or company that has administrative rights to act on behalf of the Registrant and make changes to all aspects of the domain name, including all contacts, name servers, and subdomains. If you lose your domain manager password, this is the person that the registrar will ask to deal with in order for you to get it back or change it. The contact information for the administrator should be kept as accurate as possible at all times, particularly the email address. The administrator's email receives all renewal notices, password reminders, and other business email from the registrar. The number one mistake people make when registering a domain name is not keeping the administrative email address current. Many people change their email address before the registration period is up and drop the one they were using when the bought the domain. This results in failure to receive renewal notices and the inability to receive password reminders from the registrar if your password becomes lost. When that is the case, you usually have to go through a painful process involving a fax request form with a copy of a photo ID and several days of waiting to get the registrar to update your information for you. This is not fun, and if you are not patient it is not something you want to have to do. Keeping the Administrative Contact up to date is the best way to guarantee that your domain name will be quick and easy to manage whenever changes are needed.
You should always register a domain with an email address you plan to keep for a long time if at all possible. One mistake that companies often make is when an employee purchases the domain and uses his own contact information, then that employee later leaves the company, has his email address deleted, etc., and generally makes life difficult for everybody who has to manage the domain after he is gone. If you are using a company email address, it is best to use a general company address such as the one we use, email@example.com, or if that is unavailable, the address of a senior employee or manager who isn't planning on changing jobs anytime soon.
Billing Contact - Fortunately this one is nice and obvious. This is the person to be contacted by the registrar regarding any billing matters for your domain name, including registrations and renewals. If the billing contact is different from the registrant or the administrator, those two contacts may also receive billing notices from the registrar if the billing contact can no longer be reached.
Technical or Zone Contact - This contact is usually the person or organization responsible for maintaining the DNS servers that resolve the domain to a website, as well as handling other technical problems related to the domain. In most cases this will be your web host, ISP, or the registrar you bought the domain from. You always have the option to change this contact to yourself or someone else of your choice, such as the website designer. IllDev.com Search Engine Optimization SEO Company is the default technical contact for any domains purchased from us.
DNS or Name Servers - DNS stands for Domain Name Server (also referred to as Domain Name Service or Domain Name System). A DNS translates domain names into IP addresses. If someone wants to access IllDev.com Search Engine Optimization SEO Company's web site (www.illdev.com), the DNS translates the domain name into its corresponding IP address 220.127.116.11, allowing the computer to locate IllDev.com Search Engine Optimization SEO Company's web server. The DNS for your domain will normally be provided by the company hosting your website, and you have to make sure that you have the correct DNS settings specified in your domain account in order for it to display your website properly. When you change hosts, you also change DNS servers, which is why you need to keep your domain manager login. If you can't change your domain's DNS settings, then you can't change hosts. The domain registrar can still change this information for you if you have no way to do it yourself, but as with changing contact information it involves a tedious fax verification process that you don't want to go through if it can be avoided.
Now that you understand how the domain process works and what some of its pitfalls are, you're ready to go out and get yourself a domain name! Just remember to treat it as you would any other business purchase, keep good records, and be careful who you allow access to, and you will ensure yourself a much better experience as a domain owner for years to come.