Domain names are relatively straightforward! Or at least that's the theory!!
The domain name is also, but technically not quiet correct, known as the website address.
Using an ISP's domain name can look amateurish in an e-mail addresses, it is much more so with websites, giving the impression of hanging on another's coat tails. The only exception being when a firm wants to re-inforce a local or professional affiliation by appearing as part of an existing site dedicated to a region or association. Even in such cases autonomy and continuity are better assured by having one's own domain and merely using a page on the third party's site to point users toward it.
Domains are classified according to their endings or "suffixes". As a commercial organisation a company will almost certainly want a domain ending in .com or .co.uk. Other endings such as .biz and .ltd.uk are at least to date, insufficiently familiar to users, meaning the name can be too readily misremembered. Of the two desirable suffixes, .com is preferable for business with international activities, and arguably gives the impression of a bigger organisation, whilst .co.uk helps reassure users on the largely American-dominated web that they are indeed dealing with a UK firm.
The part of the domain name before the suffix will usually by the firms trading name, provided of course that the domain name has not already been registered, (which is increasingly likely these days). If the name is very long an abbreviation may be considered. Domain names are not case sensitive.
The actual registration of a domain name is a straightforward process that can be done online, either through your ISP or better still through a dedicated registration service company such as Discount Domains Ltd (http://www.discountdomainsuk.com). Renewal fees must be paid, typically every two years.
Checking if a domain name is freely available is very straightforward as most domain registration services provide a WHOIS service, as the name suggest, this checks the ownership details of a domain, note however that such services normally run 48 hours behind actual registrations.
Moving ISP's can save money, however it may take time and incur extra charges. Pricing in the domain name registration industry have fallen considerably over recent years and a domain name typically now costs from $15 for two years registration.
Once your domain name is registered, you can either leave the domain name "parked" awaiting future use, or point it at a website, this is usually achieved by changing the Domain Name Server, or DNS settings on the domain to point at hosting company where your website is located. Almost all registration services offer a free user control panel to change these settings.
Web hosting is the provision of space on a web server to publish a web site. There are numerous hosting companies in the market, and most domain registration services also offer a hosting solution. Prices vary but $100 per annum should be sufficient for most business needs.
(C) Clare Lawrence 11th May 2004
About The Author
Clare Lawrence is CEO of Discount Domains Ltd ? A leading UK provider of Domain name registration and Web Hosting services. Please feel free to re-publish this article provided this reference box remains together with a hyperlink to http://www.discountdomainsuk.com Clare can also be contacted on email@example.com.