Be The Master of Your Own Domain

I want this to serve as a cautionary tale – that even us so-called ‘professionals’ sometimes get it wrong.

You see, when I started out, I did what most people do and looked for the cheapest hosting. You’ve no real idea as to how busy you’ll get and it’ll be a nice problem to have further down the line if you’re getting hits from Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all.

And another thing that seems quite nice with your unlimited-host-whatever-you-can-throw-at-us-platinum-deluxe-premium package is that you normally receive a free domain.

How can you turn down $4.95 a month for all-you-can-host plus a free domain? Yes, I found it quite alluring too.

Now I’m not going to bore you with the perils of cheap hosting, but I am going to badger you about your domain.

I went down the cheap hosting + free domain route when I started on my DIY road to Webmastering many moons ago. And I set up quite a few sites that way – all with the same host. Currently, I have one domain with them that no longer has a site hosted on it, but I still use an email address for certain PayPal transactions. Last night I purchased something, but found it rather odd that I didn’t receive an email confirmation from PayPal nor the folks I bought something from. I couldn’t find anything in various folders, so I did a simple bit of sleuthing to see if the email was working. No joy. On checking the Whois information I noticed that said domain was now registered to somebody in Korea. I checked my invoice to make sure I’d paid for a renewal, and I had – last August.

In a nutshell, the domain had been transferred even though I have a receipt dated 08/15/08 from both the host and PayPal confirming a renewal payment.

Looking through my emails, I’d received notifications that the domain was due to expire on 08/27/08 after the 08/15/08 renewal invoice date. Knowing this lot as the hapless harbingers of hosting doom they were I should’ve taken those emails more seriously rather than merely thinking they were being a bit stupid.

-1 to me.

I anticipate more pain than it’s worth to see this one through to its natural conclusion.

So, what should you do?

1. Let domain registrars handle your domains and let your hosts handle the hosting. I use Namecheap, others are happy using Godaddy (feel free to share others in the comments). A domain registrar allows you much more control over your domains and besides, that’s one of their core competencies. It isn’t something bolted on as an afterthought. They’re also cheaper in the long run. You’ll be surprised how many free domains suddenly get charged out at $15 a year once they’re no longer free.

2. Set up the domains yourself or at least make sure you have them registered in your name with your credit card and all the login information at hand. You don’t need to tattoo it to your thigh, but just make sure you’re the go-to guy and don’t need to rely on a third party to control the administration of your domain. This means you don’t let your Web designer set it up in their name. What happens if you have a falling out and they decide to turn their phone off and play naughty?

3. Buy your domain for the maximum amount of time possible, usually ten years. Then you really can forget about it for a while. This also has a nice SEO benefit in that search engines think you’re serious and in it for the long haul. It’s exactly the opposite of what spammers do.

4. If you don’t fancy the ten year thing set your domain to auto-renew. It’s much easier to dispense of domains you own than it is to get back one you’ve lost. How many hours would you be prepared to waste over $8.95?

I may have missed a startling piece of insight, so please feel free to share any tips or thoughts in the comments.

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