Registering a domain name

by Crucible Multimedia

Your domain name is your on-line identity – the electronic equivalent of the signage above a shop. Having the right identity is essential, and should be top of your action list even if you are only just starting to get connected – every business should be reserving for itself the name or names that make it as easy as possible for potential customers to find you, whether you are likely to be opening shop on-line in the next month, next year or not at all.

Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer webspace and unlimited e-mail addresses along with Internet access, but this may be limited to the form ‘yourcompany@yourisp.co.uk’. However, there are significant image benefits for a business with a personalised domain name, and there is the added benefit that if and when you change ISP for your e-mail or website hosting services your e-mail and/or website addresses will be unaffected.

What is a domain name?

You should register a suitable domain name, used for all your e-mail and website addresses, as soon as possible as part of your e-business strategy. Your domain name is unique, and, subject to trademark infringement law, as long as you continue to pay the fee for registration it cannot be taken away. Once you have registered the name it belongs to you, not to the company you registered it with.

Many businesses would prefer a dot-net or dot-com online address, but these are becoming increasingly hard to come by. New generic domains are becoming available, as countries lift the restrictions on domain names allowing foreign companies access to previously unavailable names, such as dot-co (Columbia), and new suffixes are created such as dot-shop. However, some countries, including France and Germany, restrict use of their domain name to entities that have a physical presence in that country, or are registered to do business there.

As domain registers open up, the possibilities of using an address that has direct relevance to your business will increase the opportunities to extend the power of your on-line brand. Internet domain names are granted on a first come, first served basis, so you may find that someone has already registered your preferred on-line identity. This can be frustrating – especially if the registered party is not actively using the name. Fraud is becoming a problem, but in practice courts are applying traditional trademarking principles in cases where domain names are being contested. Case law is building up, but prevention, a simple case of registering domain names now, is a lot less expensive than fighting as a victim of domain name fraud.

Your e-mail address

In the early days of the Internet e-mail addresses were commonly anonymous strings of numbers or letters followed by the identifier of the ISP. A more professional image is given with an e-mail address using your unique company domain, and makes it easier for people to work out an individual's e-mail address from their name.

Your e-mail address would therefore be in the form: ‘any.body@companyname.co.uk’.

It is also becoming common for companies to have e-mail addresses (or aliases) for individual departments, such as ‘sales@companyname.co.uk’. This is simple for customers to remember, and also makes it instantly obvious to anyone receiving an e-mail which company the message is from.

Your website address

The same rule should be applied to your website address, or URL. The benefit of this is that it can be easily worked out. A customer looking for your website may not use a search engine, but instead try to guess the URL, probably using the company or brand name followed by .co.uk. If they do not find you at once they may become frustrated and give up, or be side-tracked by other sites, possibly your competitors'.

There is a range of URL suffixes, reflecting the type of organisation and often the country in which it is based. It is perfectly acceptable – and probably advisable – to register your company and product names in several domains, for example:

        http://www.companyname.co.uk/

        http://www.companyname.com/

        http://www.companyname.it/ (protecting your domain name in Italy as well)

One URL should be used as the main address that you use for marketing purposes, while visits to other domain names could be automatically forwarded to the main address.

Which domain name registrar?

For big established ISPs with overheads to cover, domain name registration is only a sideline – although a key part of the service to a business customer. The early specialists in domain name registration have a legacy of high prices from when the market was small, and their legacy administration costs are much higher than is now possible. This has left a gap in the market for automated, high volume domain name registration at low cost. This gap is being filled by niche companies who may be operating at very small margins in order to build up market share.

1&1  are currently our reccomended supplier for the registration of .co.uk and .com domain names and web space. Their attraction  is not only their low prices but also the on-line functionality of their service. You can register your chosen domain name  using a credit card, and then point that domain name at webspace anywhere on the Internet. You can also forward e-mail sent to that domain to your existing e-mail account. Accounts can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection and a browser, or by using your normal e-mail client.

There are many domain name registration companies on the Web where you can check whether the name you want has been registered, and purchase domain name services:

Reviewed January 2011

last updated : 21/01/2011



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