What is a Domain Name

Technically, a domain name is a name that identifies a particular IP address. The web would be a much less friendly place if we had to browse to addresses like: rather than https://flickr.com! Many domain names can point to the same IP address… which is why https://yahoo.com/ and https://yahoo.net/ go to the same place.

A complete domain name includes the domain name (such as flickr, google, yahoo) and a Top-Level Domain Name (such as .com, .net, .org, .us, etc.). Some TLDs are available to anyone, others (like .edu and .mil) are only available to eligible organizations.

How to Get a Domain Name

Anyone can purchase (lease) a domain name using a “domain name registrar,” a company authorized to sell domain names such as Network Solutions. You don’t even need an immediate use for a domain – you can purchase domain names just to reserve them for later use.

Purchasing is quite simple:

  1. Find a domain name registrar you wish to use
  2. Find an available domain name
  3. Purchase (lease) that domain name

The biggest challenge with reserving domain names may be finding one you like that hasn’t already been taken! You may also want to consider if your chosen domain name is important enough to you to purchase multiple TLDs for it. At the very least you should consider that different TLDs have come to mean different things to many people– a .org isn’t typically associated with a business, for example.

How to Use Your Domain Name

Once you’ve purchased one or more domain names, you put them to use by setting them up to point to your web space host. Many domain name registrars offer web hosting and there are hundreds of thousands of independent hosts that offer hosting for a few dollars per month– for basic, low-traffic sites.

For this course, we (the College) will provide the web hosting so you don’t have to pay for it. You can, in the future, transfer the domain name (as long as you “own” it) to a host of your choosing.

To point your domain name to the right web host, you will access the “DNS” controls and enter the appropriate “name server” addresses for your host. We’ll go over this in the tutorial below! Depending on the domain registrar you choose to work with, the process may look slightly different.

Purchasing Your Domain Name

The example here uses Network Solutions, but you can purchase a domain name anywhere that you can control your own DNS entries.

Using the domain search tool on the front page, search for a domain that is available. In this example I searched for citsf221.com

Network Solutions Domain Search Screenshot

This domain is available and I am selecting just the .com address for purchase by selecting its check box and pressing the Add Selected to Cart button:

With the domain added, use the Public Registration option to continue with registration. Private Registration is an extra fee and is unnecessary for our purposes in class:

Public registration setting screenshot

Select the Domain Only option for your domain name. You will not need any other services form Network Solutions. The College is providing you with a hosting account:

Domain-only option screenshot

Check that you only have a single domain in your shopping cart (unless you plan on purchasing more). When you are ready to checkout, use the Secure Checkout button in the bottom-right.

Shopping cart screenshot

Create your Network Solutions account. This is the same information that you will use to access your account later and that will be associated with your domain:

Create your account screenshot

If all is in order, continue and pay for your domain using whatever form of payment you wish. That’s it!

Setting Your Domain’s Name Servers

In order to use the CTC hosting server, you must set your DNS Entries for your domain. This is pretty simple!

First, log into Network Solutions, or whichever registrar you decided to use. Log in using the account you created when you purchased your domain name.

On Network Solutions, log into Account Manager

  1. Click My Domains
  2. Click on the domain you want to change
  3. Click the button, Change Where Domain Points
  4. Enter the new domain nameservers. We are hosting our domains with another hosting provider, so we need to edit our name servers to point to our domain host. Find the Nameserver fields. Enter the following name server information and delete whatever had been there as the default (be absolutely sure these are spelled properly!):

Confirm Your Changes and click Apply Changes. That’s all there is to it!

How Long Does It Take?
Once you make the changes in Account Manager, it does take some time for the Internet to get the message that your domain is pointing to a new place! This period of time is most commonly referred to as “propagation’ and can take a maximum of 24-72 hours to complete. While the Internet is updating, it is highly likely that your website will not be working normally for everyone.