Domain Name Buyer's Guide
Things You Need To Know and Do
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
At Directory One 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
What Happens When You Register a Domain Name
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:
- Type in the domain name you want to buy. The registrar will cross-reference your choice with a worldwide database of domain names to verify that nobody else currently owns it. If someone owns it already, you will be asked to try another name or be given a computer-generated list
of similar alternatives to the name you wanted. This goes on until you have found an available name.
- Next you will be prompted to create a new account with a username and password. Some registrars will automatically create an account name and password for you and email it to you when your registration is complete, while others allow you to create your own username and password.
- After you create an account, you have to fill in all of the required contact information for the domain. The four contacts, which will be explained in more detail below, are the Registrant, Administrative Contact, Billing Contact, and Technical Contact.
- Now it's time to pay for the domain. You select the number of years you want to register the domain for, which ranges from 1-10 years, enter your payment information and submit it, and you are done. At this point you are now the proud owner of a new domain name.
What You Need to Do When You Purchase Your Domain Name
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.
Terms You Need to Be Familiar With and Why
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. Directory One 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
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
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 Directory One 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
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, 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. Directory One 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 Directory One's web site (www.directoryone.com), the DNS translates the domain name into its corresponding IP address 22.214.171.124, allowing the computer to locate Directory One'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.