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Cheap Domain Registration
You need more than an idea and hosting plan to set up a web site. You also need a domain name. A domain name is your unique address on the Internet. Cheapwebhostingreport.com, google.com, microsoft.com, and yahoo.com are examples of domain names.
Why "Free" is sometimes bad
Many web hosting companies will offer to give you a domain name when you sign up with them. This can be a great deal, provided they register the domain in your name. Unfortunately, some hosting companies register the domain in their name. That means that they own your address and they don't have to let you move your domain name to another web hosting company. This can be very bad. It would be like someone else owning the name of your company. So before you take advantage of free domain registration with the hosting company you choose, be sure that they register the domain in your name. If they do not say they do, it's probably safest to assume that they do not.
Fortunately, registering a domain name is simple and inexpensive. Unlike a few years ago when one company had a virtual monopoly on commercial domain names, there are now a large number of registrars to choose from and competition has lowered prices and increased the ease of domain name registration.
What to Look For
There are two important things to look for in a domain registrar: reliability and location. No one knows exactly what will happen if a domain registrar goes bankrupt. There are supposed to be safeguards in place to protect domain registrants from losing their domains, but you don't want to be one of the people testing these procedures, so a solvent, reliable domain registrar is a must. Location is important because domain registrars are subject to the laws of the country where they are located and some have been known to refuse to grant (or worse yet, grant and then take back) domain names that are unacceptable under the laws of their home country. A registrar in the US may be your best bet if you have possible "freedom of speech" issues with the domain name (or the site contents in some cases) you'd like to use.
What to Avoid
Most registrars now offer all sorts of additional features -- like web hosting. Most of the web hosting plans we've seen at domain registrars are feature poor and over priced. If you are tempted by one, think twice and check out other hosts before buying web hosting from your domain registrar. Many will try to make it sound like it is a lot of extra work to host elsewhere. It isn't. All you have to do is point your domain account at the registrar to the nameservers your web hosting company gives you. This involves typing two urls. It is not hard at all.
My clients and I have had good luck with the following three domain registrars.
First Choice: GoDaddy
Our current first choice of an affordable, reliable, US-based domain registrar is one of bthe most popular domain registars, GoDaddy. They can register .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, ,ws, .us and .name domains for $9.95 a year or less (and there are additional discounts when you register for multiple years). If you already have a domain name and are still paying $35 dollars a year for it, you can reduce your domain costs by transfering you domain to GoDaddy and paying just $7.95 (for most types of domains) to renew your domain for an additional year.
Second Choice: Dotster.com
Dotster.com is our second choice of an affordable, reliable, US-based domain registrar. They can register .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, .us and .name domains for $14.95 a year (discounted when you register for multiple years). If you already have a domain name and are still paying $35 dollars a year for it, you can save money by transfering your domain to Dotster and paying just $8.95 to renew your domain for an additional year.
Third Choice: Yahoo
Many of my small business clients like Yahoo Small Business. They only register .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, .us domains and they charge $9.95 a year, but many small business people seem more comfortable with a major name brand -- and Yahoo qualifies.