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YOUR OWN DOMAIN ON THE INTERNET


May 1, 2001
By Pulp & Paper Canada

All large companies and non-profit organizations have their own domain name on the Internet today1 and an increasing number of small organizations and individuals have their own domain also. It is fai…

All large companies and non-profit organizations have their own domain name on the Internet today1 and an increasing number of small organizations and individuals have their own domain also. It is fairly easy and inexpensive to have your own domain. The only reason not to have one is that you have no foreseeable use for it.

WHY?

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The most obvious reason is visibility if you are selling something or wish to promote an organization. A more important advantage for some, including myself, in having your own domain is that your E-mail address remains constant, regardless of changes in location or Internet Service Provider. A third reason to register a domain name of your choice is to reserve it forever (actually as long as you pay the modest annual fee). Once someone has your family or company name, you are unlikely to ever be able to recover it.

NAMES

All domain names end with “dot something”, of which “dotcom” is best known. In principle, “com” refers to a company, “org” to a non-profit organization, “net” to a network organization serving the Internet, “edu” to an educational institution and “gov” to a government body, all in the US. However, anyone who fits the general category (or says he does) can register with these names, regardless of his location.

A two-letter suffix has been assigned to all countries. Canada’s is “ca”, Britain has “uk” etc. However, nobody seems to use the “us” for the USA. Domain names lacking a country suffix are assumed American, but all it means that they are registered in the US and may be in any location.

Virtually any word followed by a dot and the appropriate suffix that is not already reserved can be a domain name. A well-chosen name is a lot easier to remember than a phone number. My own domain is “mccubbin.ca” and my E-mail Neil@McCubbin.ca. Although it may be written with upper and lower case letters, Internet addresses are not case sensitive and it does not matter what is used.

It is usually best to choose the simplest name that suits your purpose. If you wish to cover both French and English names, it may be better to have two separate names, both pointing to the same web site and E-mail addresses, rather than to try to devise a bilingual name.

To check whether a name is available, you can pay one company advertised on the Internet that charges $1600 for a search fee. You can do it yourself in two minutes by looking at the web site of the responsible registering authority. For US names, go to http://rs.internic.net/whois.html. For Canadian names, go to the Canadian Internet Registration Authority at www.cira.ca and click on either English or Franais. The next page will display a box where you type the name or interest. If the name is reserved, the name and address, etc., of the owner will be shown. If not, a message stating that the name is available is shown. There are currently over 200 000 domains registered in Canada.

REGISTERING A DOMAIN NAME

The above-mentioned CIRA web page has a link explaining how to register a “.ca” name. Essentially, you hire an authorized registrar to do it, simply by filling in a form on the web and paying by credit card. We used www.eGate.com because it was cheap and a human being answered the phone. Cost to register “mccubbin.ca” was about $50.

For the US names (dot com etc) you will find a list of authorized registrars at http://rs.internic.net/regist.html Costs are similar to those in Canada.

ACTIVATING YOUR DOMAIN NAME

Simply owning a domain name does nothing more than give you, and nobody else, the right to use it. If you wish to do more than just hold the name for your grandchildren, you have to find an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to host it.

This involves paying someone to provide disc space for a web site and/or for E-mail boxes on his computer that is connected to the Internet. There are thousands of such companies, but not all will host your private domain. Some will do so, but charge an exorbitant fee. We had bad luck with a few, but have been settled with Videotron.ca for some time. We pay only about five dollars per month to have our domain supported for E-mail.

Support for a web site varies from free to about $25 per month for a 5-Mb site (say up to 30 pages). Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT necessary to have a web site to have E-mail on your own domain name.

Once you have web space, it is fairly easy to build and post a simple web site using Microsoft Front Page or Adobe GoLive. When selecting a service provider, check that it fully supports the software you wish to use. Everyone supports good old HTML, but it is horribly time-consuming to code a site in HTML, neither is it necessary today, unless you have quite exotic needs.

When choosing an ISP for small business, personal use or for a small association, the best approach is to look on the Internet and ask friends for recommendations. The ISP business is far from mature, so you are quite likely to change after some months or a few years; it is fairly easy to do so. Our first ISP fled the country with large debts. The next one closed down in the great Quebec ice storm in 1998 and never reopened; the third was deadly slow and the fourth uncooperative; the fifth (Videotron) gives us good service.

It is not necessary to mount your web site and/or E-mail boxes on the on your ISP’s system. You can have one company host your domain and use another for dial up, ISDN, DSL or other physical access to the Internet.

For a large web site, or extensive E-mail system, an expert should study all needs and issues carefully before selecting an ISP or a web-hosting service. Of course, you can provide your own, but this is uneconomic for all except perhaps the largest systems. P&PC

1 The “domain name” is usually the same as the part of an E-mail address after the “@” sign, or after www in a web address. The name is actually just an easy way for humans to remember Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, which look like “345.263.456.982”. Although we all use multi-digit phone numbers, the gurus behind the Internet considered that would be too much trouble, so they developed the much friendlier domain name, and let the computer take care of translating what we type, or click upon, into an IP address.


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