Numerous companies provide domain-name registration services. Simply registering myawesomebusiness.com might cost you $10 for a year, but other perks, such as preventing your registration information from being shown in a publicly searchable database, might cost you extra.
Some services claim to provide free domain registration, but there is a catch. They may require to be the administrator for a while or to transfer ownership of the site to you later, so buyer beware.
After you've decided on your domain name, you may want to buy it for multiple so-called "top-level" domains. That means you may register the .net, .com and .org versions of your domain so that no one else can take it and possibly impersonate your company.
For hosting -- a place to store your data and possibly to provide you with ways to trick out your site -- many options exist, depending on the combination of services you need. You could pay nothing or hundreds of dollars a month. Like shopping for a car, consider the amenities you need.
- Data storage: You don't want to have to spread your data across multiple hosting services.
- Data transfer limits: Some sites limit your monthly traffic, which can pose a problem if you become "too" popular.
- E-mail: Does your host provide @yourdomain.com e-mail addresses, and how many do you need?
Throughout the process, ask questions, both of your potential host, friends, colleagues and your Web designer. You're investing in this site, so be persistent. Does the site have around-the-clock FTP access? What is its tech support situation? Does it provide e-commerce tools, like a shopping cart and purchasing system? How secure are these tools? Do they have SSL encryption (the industry standard)? Do the e-commerce tools allow for multiple payment methods, such as credit card and PayPal? Does your account come with marketing tools, such as credits toward Google AdWords?
All of the above questions can help you to find the best possible host for your needs. And don't forget what may be most important: uptime, or how often a service crashes. Many small businesses have faced problems with unreliable hosts whose service is disrupted for days at a time without any explanation. Most leading hosting services report 99.9 percent uptime.
Besides consulting reviews and colleagues, sites like FindMyHost.com allow you to fill out a search form and find a service that fits your combination of needs.
Great. You're up and running. Now what?