In the first of this series of 3, we saw just what a ‘domain name’ is, and a very important aspect when registering one – that it must be registered in YOUR name, not whoever is doing it on your behalf.
We now turn to what happens once you’ve finished the registration process (or someone’s done it for you, in your name). It’s a bit like wandering into a Telstra store and getting a new mobile phone number. They take your details, charge you an initial amount, and give you a wee little chip aka Sim Card for you to put in your phone. That’s essentially all you need to get a new mobile phone number – an active Sim Card.
But of course a Sim Card is useless by itself. Likewise, a domain name is useless by itself (unless you’re simply stopping anyone else from having it, but don’t intend to use it. Not legal in Australia!). In the same way you need to put your Sim Card into a phone before you can make/take phone calls, you need to link a domain name to web services eg. website, email.
Now if you get someone else to sort all this stuff out for you, you won’t need to do anything. Even if you DIY, it is very likely that whoever you use to register the domain name will offer you those linked services when you are going through the registration process. “Want webhosting with that?”
However, you are not tied to those web services. If you registered a domain name a while back and the same business hosts your website and/or does your email, it is very easy to switch to someone else. A very popular and highly recommended example is using the business version of GMail for your email accounts. $5 per month per account for buckets of storage space, state of the art anti-spam and anti-virus built in, nothing to backup, and easy access from just about any device that does internet. When you sign up, they will run through what you need to change in your domain name so that all the world knows that GMail is handling your email now. These changes are called DNS record changes. Your domain name keeps a list of what is where, and in this case when a mail-server has email to deliver to you, it will ask your domain name “Who do I give this email to?” and your domain name will say “Head over to GMail at this address”.
The same thing applies to your website. If you’re not happy with the performance of your website where it is, it is easy to find someone else to host it. Again, it’s a case of changing your DNS records to say “My website is now living over here“. If you do this, don’t forget to stop paying for the original webhosting though! You can bet they won’t go out of their way to ask you to stop sending them money…
The upshot of all this is that a domain name is independent of the services that attach to it. Your website can be managed in the USA, your email can be based in Singapore, your domain name registered in Australia. You are not stuck with who you start with. In fact, even the domain name can be moved to someone else without affecting anything else. Say you wanted Winch Websites to make sure that your domain is re-registered whenever required, and all its DNS records are copied to strategic locations around the globe to speed things up and make you more bullet-proof – easily done. So long as you are the Registrant!
In Part 3, we talk about what where you can go with a domain name beyond a website and business email accounts.