Domain names enable us to create personalised emails and websites, but if the technology crashes it can be both inconvenient – and costly.
Just such a crisis has hit thousands of customers of web-hosting provider Easily. An ‘upgrade’ caused chaos with many people temporarily locked out of their websites and unable to access emails.
The problems at Easily highlight how vulnerable many people are in the internet age, reliant on technology for day-to-day business and leisure needs.
James Prestridge said he was impressed with WordPress which he used to set up his website
Internet domain providers are often eager to take advantage of consumer ignorance and tech fears, overcharging for a service not always up to scratch.
Mark Anders works for digital development agency MB Interactive. He says: ‘Some providers happily leave customers in the dark. They look upon website technology as a foreign language no one should understand but themselves. The idea is to ensure customers are reliant on their help.
‘If you are investing in a domain name and want to run your own website then you need to feel comfortable with the process. You do not need to understand all that technical jargon but it can be important to have a real person available at the end of a phone to provide help with queries or problems.’
The first step is to find an available domain – a word that can be used for a personalised email address or website. This involves buying from a name registrar. There are dozens from which to choose – including 123 Reg, GoDaddy, Google Domains, Easyspace, Hover, Namecheap, NetNames, Porkbun and Tsohost.
The cost of a name with a British ‘.uk’ suffix usually starts from about £10 a year, but it can be £20 or more for a memorable name or domain with a US ‘.com’ suffix.
It is important to take your time and also enjoy the experience – picking an imaginative domain name can be fun.
But you also need to consider whether you will want the registrar to offer a web-hosting service if you plan to use the domain for a website. Often website design support is offered as part of a package. It may also include storage space used for emails or website capacity. This cost is usually on top of that for the domain name – perhaps £10 a month.
It is important you feel comfortable that what is offered matches up to your needs – and is affordable. But opting for the cheapest is a false economy if it fails to offer what you want.
Anders, whose firm is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire, says: ‘Consider your priorities. Some may prefer the security of an outfit such as Google – because if that fails the whole system comes crashing down.’
He adds: ‘Others might be more interested in the personal touch. Providers such as Tsohost have a good name for providing assistance.’
How I built my culture website in one evening
Writer James Prestridge recently used WordPress to register a domain name so that he could set up a film review website called Close-Up Culture.
After discovering a domain name that he was happy with, the 24-year-old picked web-hosting provider WordPress after being impressed by its website-building options offered as part of a package.
James, from Watford in Hertfordshire, says: ‘I am no technology whizz kid but there was no way I was handing over hundreds of pounds to someone else to do all the work.
‘Building my own website proved to be simple and straightforward thanks to a template and tools available as part of WordPress’s deal. I had it up and running in just one evening.’ James pays £25 a year for the domain name with a ‘.com’ suffix. In addition he is charged £7 a month for a ‘premium’ deal which provides him with the tools to build and adapt his own website whenever he chooses.
The website, which reviews the latest film releases, theatre productions and live music, has already had one makeover. The package includes 13 gigabytes of storage space which is enough to store hundreds of high resolution photos.
Anders continues: ‘If you feel up to the challenge of a DIY website, the software offered by many web-hosting services means it is more straightforward than you might imagine. But if the process fills you with dread perhaps consider a specialist such as a business like ours to do everything. Getting a domain and developing a personal website may cost around £500.’
You do not buy a domain but rent it. This is usually for a minimum of two years and a maximum of ten. When the rental agreement is coming to an end you are informed by email and given first opportunity to re-register.
You do not need to use the same registrar but if you fail to re-book in time, the domain name can be lost and go to someone else.
So-called cyber-squatters make a living out of trading in the catchiest domain names – some of which are snapped up when the original owner fails to re-register in time. The most eye-catching names tend to be the most expensive.
The idea of buying a number of available domain names in the hope of making a financial killing by later selling them sounds appealing, but the market is saturated.
One of the most profitable sales was $7.5 million (£4.7 million) for business.com – paid in the dotcom boom of 1999. The seller had originally paid £100,000.
All ‘.uk’ emails and websites are policed by non-profit organisation Nominet. The US-based ICANN looks after other suffix websites. If a website is used for illegal purposes Nominet works with the police to take it down.
It also decides if a name cannot be used as it infringes on the copyright of others. If you rent a domain using the name – or similar – to that of another registered business you might be forced to stop using it and hand it back.
Nominet says that if you are not satisfied with the service you get from a web-hosting provider, it should be possible to switch without difficulty.
A Nominet spokesman says: ‘To switch your domain name to another registrar, you should contact your current provider and it should be able to complete the change for you. If there is a problem you can make the move through Nominet – for a £12 fee.’
Further details of how to switch plus information and rules on domains are available at nominet.uk.
Customers of Easily are currently confronted with an internet message: ‘We are currently experiencing a high call volume at Easily. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause.’
It has failed to respond to requests from The Mail on Sunday to discuss its ongoing issues.
The key steps (and the costs) behind your site
The use of a domain name requires you to rent it. This can be done through a number of name registration companies, usually costing £10 or more a year. It is important to re-register ‘ownership’ when a rental agreement comes to an end to avoid losing it.
If you want to set up a website or need somewhere to store your emails, you will require a host to look after it. Most domain registrars offer this service. Depending on space required – for photos or video clips – expect to pay between £5 and £30 a month.
Templates and online tools are often offered by a web service provider that enable you to build a website. They often come as part of a domain-hosting deal. You can also pay a specialist to design and build a website for a one-off £500 to avoid monthly fees.
When buying a package consider phone support – even if it costs extra. Also consider bolt-on options such as email storage, the ability to transfer a domain name and being able to use a website to sell online. This adds at least £10 a year to your overall costs.
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