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Understanding the Web- Part I: Domain Registration

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Panic!  You just received an official-looking letter in the mail, informing you that your website domain is about to expire.  You are instructed to act soon or forfeit your beloved domain forever.

Sound familiar?  Too often our clients have received these bogus letters.  Rest assured; these letters may look like they hail from some important national organization, but they are nothing more than junk mail advertisements.

To avoid unnecessary stress, let's define domain registration.  While your actual website and all of its files, databases, and documents are stored on a web server*, your domain is housed separately by a registrar.  When users enter your domain name, the registrar points to the domain name server (DNS), which in turn finds the web server where your domain is housed.  The registrar registers the domain with your ownership information for a designated period of time.  A few things to keep in mind:

Know the Availability-  No, abc.com is not available, but you can search name availability by visiting whois.net.   While most businesses, organizations, and individuals are able to claim a suitable domain name, your first (or second or third) choice may already be taken, and some companies register multiple domains just for the sake of reselling them.  They are called 'domain farmers', as they harvest as many domains as they can, in the hope of making a profit.  A purchased domain might not even have a corresponding website attached to it.  The cost of buying such domains can run in the thousands, so unless you really want a certain name, it is best to avoid the farmers.

Know the Owner-  It is critical that you know who owns your domain.  As the sole purchaser, it should be registered to you and you alone.  The web developer should only be listed as the technical and/or administrative contact.  (Beware of less reputable developers who register client domains in their own names, rather than in those of their clients.)  Upon registration, you also have the option of paying extra to keep your information private.  Otherwise, it is public record.  Anyone can easily look it up by visiting whois.net.

Know the Expiration-  Be aware of when your registration expires.  Ownership is usually purchased on an annual basis, and most companies, including Anttix, have their clients on an automatic renewal system.  This means you will never lose your domain, as long as the registration is paid in full.  On the other hand, if a domain expires, it is often held by the registrar for a certain period of time before it is reopened to the public.  During this holding period, the registrar will generally charge larger amounts of money for the original owner to regain the domain, or auction it off to the highest bidder in cases of multiple interest.  Avoid this mess and expense by utilizing an auto-renew system.

Don't be fooled by shady domain registration tactics, especially if you are an Anttix client.  Whether managing domains or any other aspect of website development, we operate from a standpoint of professional preparation and communication- never panic.  If you are concerned about your domain's status, give us a call for some straight answers and effective solutions.

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