When you create an account with a domain registrar you need to enter your personal information.
This personal information is normally referred to as “Contact Information”. The information you entered can be applied to all of your domains or you can enter unique contact information for each domain in your account.
Four Types of Contact Information
There are four types of contacts for a domain: Registrant, Administrative, Technical, and Billing.
It is important to understand what each type of contact refers to.
- Registrant Contact – This refers to person or organisation that has full rights to the domain
- Administrative Contact – This refers to the contact person for administrative matters such as legal issues and change of ownership
- Technical Contact – This refers to the contact person who is responsive for technical issues
- Billing Contact – This refers to the person who is responsible for domain registration and domain renewals
The most important contacts are registrant and administrative. The registrant contact has full rights to the domain and is the person who is contacted when a domain transfer is requested. If for any reason the registrant contact does not respond, the request may be made to the administrative contact.
If you handle your domain and website affairs alone, all four types of contact information should refer to you. Larger organisations sometimes use different people for the contact types referenced above so that different departments can handle the administration and management of domains.
For example, a large company may want all invoices emailed to their payroll department and all technical issues to be emailed to their IT department.
For the rest of us, it is better to make all contact information identical for each type. Every registrar offers an option to use the same information for all four contact types so that you do not need to enter your details multiple times.
The Hidden Costs of a Free Domain Name
Many hosting companies, particular those who offer shared hosting plans, give customers a “Free Domain” when they sign up. For a large number of website owners, this is the first domain they register online.
I put the term “Free Domain” in quotations because the domain is not technically free. There are a lot of hidden costs with free domain offers that are not made clear to customers when they first sign up.
Only the first year of the domain is offered free and domain renewal costs are usually more expensive than registering directly at a domain registrar. BlueHost, for example, charge $15.99 for domain renewals. This is much higher than the $10 to $12 most domain registrars charge.
Many hosting companies also charge for features such as email forwarding that domain registrars provide free of charge. These charges can range from just a few dollars up to fifteen dollars.
The real problems arise when you want to transfer your domain to another company.
Finding information about transferring your domain away can be difficult as hosting companies will prominently display information about transferring your domain to their service but not display information about how to transfer your domains away.
Many hosting customers open a support ticket about transferring their domain away and then find that their hosting company has locked them in. I have seen charges as high as thirty dollars to transfer a domain away from a hosting company. Transferring a domain name to another company should be free of charge so any company that adds such a costly “Administration Fee” is doing nothing more than holding their customers to ransom.
Hosting companies are rarely transparent about the costs of registering a domain with them. If you do want to take advantage of a free domain offer, I recommend speaking to the hosting company beforehand and asking them for a detailed price list of domain registrations, domain renewals, and related domain name services.
The Importance of Controlling Your Domain
Unfortunately, it is not just hidden costs you need to worry about when you accept a free domain offer.
The main way a hosting company locks a customer's domain is to not give them full control of their domain. The hosting company will set themselves as the registrant and administrative contacts so that the customer cannot transfer their domain away. Most customers are unaware of the significance of this because they see their name registered as the technical or billing contact and assume everything is correct.
If a hosting company uses their own contact information for any of the four contact types for a domain name, then the chances are that they have taken these steps in order to lock the domain and stop the customer transferring their domain away to another service free of charge.
It is therefore vital that your personal information is used for the registrant and administrative contact for every domain you own.
I do appreciate the offer of a free domain is incredibly tempting, however my recommendation is to not take advantage of any free domain promotion that a hosting company is offering you so that you always have full control over domain names.
If you do choose to register a domain through a hosting company, contact them beforehand so that you know the cost of domain renewal fees, the cost of added extras, and the cost of transferring the domain elsewhere. This will help you see the true cost of managing domains with them.