Registering a domain is easy to do, it`s cheap, and it gives you direct control over your Internet presence. Some consultants and web hosting/design firms will offer to register your domain for you, for the sake of convenience. We recommend that you decline their offer, unless they intend to make your company the owner, registrant, and administrative contact for the domain. We are not trying to cast aspersions, or suggesting that your consultant or hosting provider would hold your domain hostage (though we`ve heard of such cases). They might simply go out of business, leaving you with the hassle of getting control and switching your domain to be hosted by another provider. Another consideration, though remote, is that a third party might decide to challenge you for control of the domain at some point in the future (via an ICANN dispute); if this were to occur, you would rather defend yourself directly, rather than by the proxy of a hosting provider.
Internet domains are a fundamental company asset, like a trademark or a patent. The low price of domain registration belies the importance of this asset; but if there is ever a dispute, the costs can be overwhelming: consulting, legal, and bureaucratic fees, not to mention the potential for loss of brand recognition and market confusion. Make no mistake: you need to own your domains.
The good news is that it is simple to buy a domain, and fairly transparent to manage one. But even if you are not interested in the vagaries of MX records and TTL`s, you can provide your consultant with command over the technical details, without compromising your ownership or ultimate control of your domain and Internet presence.
How do you know who currently owns your domain?
The simplest way to find out this information is to do a "whois lookup" at any of the major domain registrars. Simply type your domain name into the search box, and then follow the instructions. For example, you could try any of the following links:
It is possible that the whois information will be private or "˜cloaked`, which is a legitimate technique to avoid spam; but this should not prevent you from seeing the owner of the domain. If you cannot retrieve your whois records from one of the providers above, then try the others, or use the website for the domain registrar that your hosting provider uses.
Don`t panic! But you need to get proactive and take control. Before you call your consultant and run up labor charges, take a bit of time to review the process that will be necessary. Different registrars have different procedures, but regardless of registrar you should expect to encounter some bureaucracy; if they made it too easy, unscrupulous vandals would have a field day usurping corporate websites. Some registrars even require notarized signatures from the party signing over the domain. If this seems much ado about nothing, just ask yourself: what`s in a name?
Once you, or a trusted employee, have understood the procedures necessary, you should direct your consultant or hosting provider (the current owner) to complete the steps necessary to make the transfer of ownership. If you simply tell your consultant to "make it happen", then you should expect a significant bill for support labor.
What registrar does Allora recommend?
Over the years, we have used Network Solutions, Register.com, GoDaddy, BulkRegister.com, AllDomains.com, and a host of budget providers. Be wary of the budget providers; it is foolish to quibble over $20 per year for something as critical as a domain name.
An important feature to consider when choosing a registrar is to review the tools that they have for manipulating the DNS records for your domain. It is not enough that they let you designate any DNS servers you wish to be authoritative for the domain (this is the essence of the registrar`s job); they should also provide native DNS servers that you can directly control independently of your hosting provider (or in-house bandwidth). Once again, we aren`t knocking hosting providers (Allora is an Internet host, after all). But if your hosting provider (or bandwidth provider) is somehow compromised, then your registrar`s DNS servers will still available for quick action to switch you to another host. Once again, it`s all about you having control over your domain and Internet presence.
For many years we recommended Register.com, due to their excellent and thorough user interface for DNS settings, and their cheerful Canadian customer service. However, in recent months their interface has become frustratingly buggy. It is evident that they are working to fix this problem, but it is worth noting that it has persisted for quite some time.
Meanwhile, Network Solutions has vastly improved their user interface and customer service, and began offering DNS management as a standard feature. We regret that they do not let you control the "time to live" (TTL) for DNS records (which can prolong the time necessary to move servers from one IP address to another). But we are pleased to see that the oldest registrar, with 80% market share, has adopted the essential features offered by their many smaller competitors.
If you are new to domain registration, we`d recommend that you go with Network Solutions as an excellent long-term provider. But if you are already registered with one of the other providers we`ve mentioned, and you are comfortable with their interface, then do not feel compelled to switch. If you are registered with a "bargain" provider, then we`d recommend that you transfer registrar to Network Solutions. Their website makes it quite clear what you will need to do.