It’s a bad idea to use your domain name registrar as your web host or your web host as your domain name registrar, as I mentioned yesterday in Choosing a Web Host. With that out of the way, let’s look at some things a domainer should look for in a domain name registrar:
What you need
Make sure you’re aware of all services included with a domain name registration, renewal, or transfer at your chosen registrar. Some registrars offer free domain name forwarding, DNS control, shared hosting, 24/7 telephone customer support, among other freebies. While a registrar may appear cheaper, be sure it’s still cheaper after all the services you’ll both need and might need (eg. domain registration fees, domain renewal fees, domain push and transfer fees) are factored into the equation. With a monetization account, Fabulous has some of the lowest prices in the industry. Without it, Fabulous is much more expensive than most alternatives. Godaddy has very low prices for executive account holders and those who don’t mind asking other domainers all the time what the latest coupons are. It’s worth noting that Godaddy has hidden fees (eg: next paragraph was pretty much written off of Godaddy policies) and spams you to death with product offerings. Moniker’s prices are a bit higher than Godaddy, however they’re still very reasonable. Moniker charges for URL forwarding which I personally find ridiculous.
Some registrars occasionally run promotions offering domain registrations below or near the registry wholesale price – selling domains at (or near) a loss requires them to make the money back somewhere else, usually from other products, hidden fees for spam, invalid whois, fees for customer support during ownership disputes, warehousing domains, and, almost always, more expensive domain name renewals (easily avoided by transferring the domains to a different registrar). That’s not to say more expensive registrars don’t have hidden fees — don’t agree to anything without both reading and understand it and ask all questions you have prior to choosing a domain name registrar.
Domain name security
Will you be needing additional security features or private domain name registration? Compare costs and features. We’ll look at 3 different registrars: Godaddy, Moniker, and Fabulous.
Godaddy Protected Registration: $24.99/year.
Moniker MaxLock: $34.99/year
Fabulous.com Executive Lock: $0.00/year
“Fabulous is trying to offer this as another free value added service. If this manual transaction service is overused by wholesale account holders by processing high volumes of lower value domains, the service will have to become a paid feature in the future. Please take care to use this service appropriately for your special domains.” (source: See Fabulous link above)
Expiration Protection – Godaddy will renew any domains you purchase Protected Registration on for an additional year should they expire. This is a one time feature and you’ll need to pay the renewal fee back should you wish to keep the domains. This may come in handy if your auto-renew billing source fails or if you forget to renew your domains. A common sense alternative for Moniker and Fabulous would be to renew your domains for additional years in advance, and this is something you should be doing anyway with valuable domains.
Nameserver Protection – Fabulous provides additional protection against nameserver changes as part of their free Executive lock. It’s unfortunate that Godaddy and Moniker do not offer additional protection against nameserver changes as they do transfers of ownership with their premium security offerings. Hijacked nameservers can be extremely damaging to a company, having both financial and consumer trust-related consequences.
Private Registration – Many people purchase private domain name registration to increase the security of their domains. If a hacker can’t figure who owns the domain, it makes it much more difficult to compromise the account containing that domain. With the high level of security provided by the Fabulous Executive Lock and Moniker MaxLock, private registration isn’t really necessary unless you want to conceal your identity from the noobs sending you lowball offers on your generics each day. Private Registration currently costs $2 per domain at Moniker, is included free of charge with Godaddy’s Protected Registration or when you purchase or transfers 5 or more domains to Godaddy ($8.99/year for future years) and isn’t currently offered at Fabulous.com, however it appears there are plans to offer it in the near future.
User Experience — Customer support depends to a large extent on who your rep is, moreso than necessarily the company. Some companies have a reputation for having many incompetent reps, Godaddy in example being a bad company to contact for support via email. That said, I’m quite happy with my Godaddy executive account rep — very knowledgeable and helpful. Godaddy, Moniker, and Fabulous all score high points for customer support. The domain name management interface is also something to carefully consider. My best advice would be to try them each out and find what works for you before transferring your domains over and finding yourself unhappy. Out of the three, I consider Fabulous as having the best interface, followed by Godaddy, and then Moniker.
Transfer Protection – Even if you choose not to go with an Executive Lock on your domains, Fabulous still offers exceptional protection over the industry average. With up to five security questions requiring answer, Fabulous makes it very difficult for any would-be domain thief to make unauthorized transfers of ownership on your domains. By default, domains at Moniker are locked at both the registrar and registry level. Fabulous offers a registry level lock with their Executive Lock feature. One of Moniker’s main attractions is that all transfers out are reviewed by Moniker employees, rather than being a strictly automated process. Moniker has a longstanding reputation for being one of the most dedicated and successful registrars when it comes to domain name security. Godaddy’s regular protection in the event of transfer requests is limited to sending an email to the email address listed as belonging to the administrative contact. This is unfortunately insufficient in many cases, with many phishers obtaining access to domain name accounts by first compromising the email address listed as the administrative contact and subsequently requesting the password. Godaddy’s protection for intra-registrar transfers is non-existent and Godaddy locks only at the registrar level, facilitating decisions which may detrimentally affect domainers (eg. FamilyAlbum.com).
Government and Cybersquatter Protection – When incidents such as Kentucky happen, whose side is your registrar on? Moniker and Fabulous have time and time again put their customers first. I can’t say the same about Godaddy unfortunately.
Registrar Judge is a free website which allows domainers to submit feedback about their experience with a domain name registrar. If you’re still unsure of who to go with, this is a great place to start. If you haven’t done so already, please see my posts on Domain Name Security, Phishing, and Social Engineering. Choosing a safer registrar is an excellent start, however it’s no reason to forget entirely about security measures you can take to help your registrar better protect you.