There is no doubt that having your own domain name will make you look more professional and can be of benefit for your business. You are more likely to be taken seriously if your applications for work come from a email@example.com email address rather than firstname.lastname@example.org. Having a website at your chosen domain will also help project an air of professionalism that can help clinch contracts.
Unfortunately there are many pitfalls in registering a domain and setting up web and email hosting and the first article in this series covers registering your domain, by reading this guide we hope you will understand more about the domain registering and hosting process and will avoid some of the pitfalls that we have discovered.
There are many hosts who will be willing to act as your domain host, the price competition is fierce and there are many companies to choose from. Imagine you have found the perfect package, free domain registration and only $5 (£2.50) per month for unlimited email and website hosting. Bargain! Having set up your email and site you find that outages in the service are frequent and due to the host being abroad (the fee being in dollars should have been a give away) customer service are hold to get hold of. Or, it may be that due to their profit margins they only offer email support. After a couple of months you have had enough and decide to move your domain elsewhere. Having not read the small print you are a little surprised when the transfer fee is stated as being £50 and can take up to 28 days to be approved, and that is after numerous faxes and obstacles to make sure you are the real owner of the domain. Having spent many hours unravelling the mess your bargain has turned into an expensive nightmare.
Even worse, you have had your domain name for several years and rely on the email addresses you have set up to liaise with your clients. Due to difficulties with your host emails are being returned to sender and customers are calling you to ask if you have either gone out of business or are just having problems paying bills as your site is offline and emails are bouncing. Even worse you missed out on the Gucci shoes you were winning on Ebay because the outbid email did not come through, what a disaster!
Email and website woes can eat up hours of time plus reflect badly on your business, making sure these are stable and secure from the outset will save you hours of frustration and make sure your company retains its professional image at all times.
When looking around for a host do consider the location of the host, check their contact page and see where they are located. If they are on the other side of the world then their support people may well be sleeping while you are pulling your hair out. We cannot recommend enough keeping your domains with a UK or at least a European host.
There is a difference between a domain host and a website / email host. Just because you register a domain with a company it does not mean that you have to use their email and web hosting services too, in fact in our experience it is often better to keep the two separate or at least use a domain registrar that allows you to keep these things apart if you so choose.
High costs for domain transfers and complicated transfer processes are often found in the lower cost domain registration companies (they have to make their money somehow) so read the small print very carefully as there is rarely such a thing as a 'bargain.'
We can heartily recommend two domain registrars, both of whom also provide web and email hosting should you need them. We are not affiliates of these services and get no money for recommending them, that is how highly we rate them! Before we introduce them to you let us explain a little more about the constituent parts of a domain and how these hosts help you retain control of your domain.
A domain is made up of several parts, this is how the rest of the internet knows where to look when requesting a page from your website or sending you an email.
Simply speaking the A-Records dictate where to look for pages from your website. When you sign up for website hosting space for your site will be added to a server and that server will have an IP address. If you have control over where your A-Record is pointing then if you are not happy with the service you are receiving or need to change hosts due to server requirements then you are in control of this with the right domain registrar. You simply go to your domain control panel and edit the IP that the A-Records point to and hey presto (well, with 24 hours usually) all requests for pages from your site are directed to the IP address you specify.
MX-Records are the equivalent for your email server. If you take out an email service with a provider then they will more than likely give you several MX records to add to your domain. No one likes their email service to be down so usually multiple servers are added in the MX record so that there is no single point of failure and your service will continue uninterrupted should the main mail server go down.
The two main companies we can recommend for registering your domains are Easily and 123 Reg. Both allow the registration of a wide range of domain types (.co.uk, .com, .net etc), both have online control panels that allow you to edit the A and MX records of your domain and both are UK based.
123-Reg are slightly cheaper than Easily but their support line is a 50 pence per minute premium rate number although they do gave free email and fax support! Easily have a good customer support team and their support line is a national rate (0870) telephone number.
Both have been acting as registrars long enough for us to know they are reliable and we are happy to recommend them to you.
1 and 1 cam close to being recommended too but their domain transfer procedure is a little complex plus their customer support has been lacking in our experience but may be worth checking out if the two above do not hit the right buttons for you.
Once you have your domain registered you can either choose web and mail hosting packages through the same company or look elsewhere. We will help unravel the mysteries of hosting in the next instalment.