This article is building on ideas in last week’s article titled “Where’s my email.” If you haven’t already read through that one, take a moment to go glance over it and get familiar with some of the terms and ideas.
Though many people have an email address like @gmail.com or @yahoo.com, some people have unique addresses. They might be representative of a business like @chapmanrepair.com or just be unique to your name as in @davesmith.com. These unique addresses are created by buying a domain name and creating your own email. It means that you can keep it forever – as long as you keep paying for the domain of course.
A domain or domain name is the address you type into the bar on your web browser; something like ChapmanRepair.com (or costaconnected.com!) First, think of a domain name you like. Next, think of about three more, because many times your first choice for a domain name isn’t available! You may have no intention of ever creating a website and just want your domain for email, that’s fine – but it still has to be available to buy. And you may want to create more than one mailbox on the domain, now or in the future – so you could think in terms of jenkinsfamilySpain.com for example.
Also do bear in mind that there are now many many TLDs, ‘top level domains’ available to choose from (although not all hosting services can offer the lot, there will always be a choice). For example, if jenkinsfamilyspain.com is already in use, investigate jenkinsfamilyspain.es, or .info or .net… If you want email for a business then .com is traditional, and it’s also what a lot of people will guess if they don’t know! But, you are far from limited to it. Some domains are less attractive for various reasons if you intend to build a commercial website on it, but for email you can take your pick
One way to check things out is to type your chosen names into your web browser and see what pops up. If a full-fledged website emerges, you probably won’t be able to get that domain name. If a “Under construction” page or a “Buy it now” page pop up, you might be able to get that domain name, but only after negotiating with the current owners. Not so much these days but buying and selling of domains can be big business, as can securing something you know will be popular in future (such as the rush to register domains associated with the new baby name of anybody famous who reproduces).
Ideally though you won’t find anything – a 404 error, “this page doesn’t exist” page pops up meaning nobody has expressed an interest in securing that domain and you can probably get hold of it – a good start.
Once you know what you want for a domain name, it is time to choose a hosting service. Different services offer different packages, so shop around a bit. At the moment, some good ones are JustHost, 1&1, and GoDaddy. These services will “host” your new domain in the same way that an email provider “hosts” your email – i.e. it will store the files on a server or group of servers for you. Many of these will offer email mailbox hosting too as part of a competitive package, so when comparing costs think about your needs in total.
Some hosting companies offer a free domain registration when you purchase their hosting services. You can use their free registration or you can go to the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and register with them directly. Generally speaking, it is easiest to go through your hosting agency. A note on this: in the early-mid 2000s, there were several predatory hosting companies that registered the requested domain name in their name and after a year, increased the registration fees to exorbitant prices which the client who had originally registered with them was forced to pay to retain their domain name. There were even hosts who would immediately pre-register any domain searched for on their system and then hold you to ransom for it!
This has mostly stopped, but if you are registering a domain name, do your research first and make sure you are going through a reputable organization, rather than choosing on cost alone. Of course you might get a special offer to start with but take a look at their regular renewal prices as well before committing.
The same with domain squatting and reselling, incidentally. Back in the early days of the utterly unregulated internet, there was nothing to stop anybody registering the exact name of a business which hadn’t yet got itself online, even creating a website to mock or insult the business which had annoyed them in some way. Nowadays there are legal protections of brands online, and if someone has already registered your business name as their own domain then they might be forced to prove they’ve a legitimate claim to use it. Which they may well have of course – there could be many different companies called Campbells Building Services around the world – but only the one who gets there first can grab CampbellsBuildingServices.com.
Next week we will have a look at the process actually buying your preferred domain, and setting up email hosting using Justhost as an example.