So, you've decided to start your own business. That's great! But what's next. One of the first things you should do is register a domain name. In fact, you should register several. Why? And how?
Why You Should Register a Domain Name
Your business, as young as it may be, is a lot like a person. It has an identity and will eventually have a reputation. These are things that you can and should protect. A domain name for your business forms part of that identity. Even if you're not ready to get a website right away, you should still register a domain name, if only to prevent someone else from registering it before you. In fact, there are people who do this for a living. They monitor publicly available lists of newly formed companies and then register a domain, named after a new company, in the hope of selling it to them at a much higher price.
It's also important to register your domain under several different extensions and variations if possible. For example, if your business is called "Premium Widgets", it would be a good idea to register the following:
This is not an exhaustive list, but I'm sure you get the point.
How Do I Register a Domain Name?
Registering a domain name is surprisingly easy. Simply go to the website of a reputable provider, search for your desired domain, and buy it. The domain is now yours. It's that simple! Feel free to shop around though because prices will vary between providers.
Ensure That You Own Your Domain
I once worked on a web design project where my client wanted to move their domain name to a new hosting provider, only to find out later down the line that they didn't legally own their own domain. How did this happen?
They had registered the domain through their previous web designer who offered domain registration, web design, and hosting as a package deal. There's nothing wrong with this type of deal in principle but the danger is that the web designer may be dishonest and register the domain under their own name, instead of the client's. This is exactly what had happened to my client. In the end, he was able to get the domain transferred him but it was a lengthy process and it can also be costly.
If a dishonest individual or company register's a domain name for you with their own information (name, address, etc), it means that they own it and you don't. Depending on how unscrupulous they are, they may even charge you an extortionate amount of money to transfer ownership of the domain to you, especially if your business is financially successful. So, my advice would be to always register domains yourself, never through a third party. You don't want to be held for ransom and have to buy back something that's rightfully yours anyway.
But how do you know that this hasn't happened to you already?
Who Owns Your Domain?
Checking domain ownership is easy. Generally speaking, the register of domain names and their owners is publicly available information. Go to a site like whois.com, enter your domain in the search field, and submit the query. If the results retuned belong to anyone other than you, then you don't own your domain.
What To Do If You Don't Own Your Domain
There may be costs involved with reclaiming a domain name, but there will definitely be costs in terms of time, hassle, and paperwork so the best way to avoid this is to register the domain yourself from the start.
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