Assuming that no one has beaten you to it, anyone can register a domain name. Nominet encourages companies and individuals to register a domain via an ISP. This is because the majority of ISPs are Nominet UK members. Once you have registered with an ISP, they will then submit the application to Nominet, ensuring a more thorough and secure process.
However, contractual terms, charges and service levels vary dramatically, so it is worth noting that shopping around is key to the best deal for you. Some companies offer domain registration, others include free web space and email addresses or more specialist options.
Always read the small print and ask to see copies of the terms and conditions for domain name registration as well as your right to move across to another ISP if you are unhappy. If you don't register with an ISP there are around 6,000 companies who have domain registration facilities. Nick Imrie of Domainnames.com, says:
"The key rule is that 'you get what you pay for' and it is often worthwhile paying the extra to deal with an up-front reputable company who won't let you down."
There are some online packages and ISPs that will offer you a domain name for free such as Microsoft's Office Live. However, you may still wish to register the domain name independently.
Once you have decided upon the company who is going to register your name, the process is generally swift and painless.
First, you will be asked to pay a fee to secure your domain. Once this is done, the company will then send a template of your registered domain name to the network information centre (NIC). Each country has its own NIC, which is a centre where all the details of registered domains are held.
If your registration is accepted the company you have chosen will set up a domain name system (DNS) entry. Essentially, this means assigning your name to a name server that collates and keeps all registered names so that your domain can be found on the internet. The process usually takes up to 24 hours, but could take between two and three days (depending on your provider).
Once these stages are complete you are alive and kicking on the internet and are able to use your name.
What does it cost to register a domain?
There are a variety of packages on offer. Some are cheaper than others and it often depends on what other services are included (for example, registration fees and support service fees).
Nominet's Cowley has seen a great deal of variation in the cost of domain names, from free of charge to £200 for .co.uk names, but this depends on levels of service and support.
Prices will vary, depending on what your business needs, but there is an average price you will pay for single domain name registration.
Assuming that you have a portfolio of names, approximately 10, you may need the services of a domain name manager. This is a relatively new entrant to the dot com scene and for a relatively small fee Domainaudit.com promises to manage and maintain your domain assets.
Niamh Cullen, marketing manager for Domainaudit.com, explains: "Due to customers complaining about the amount of confusion they suffered after they had registered their domain names, we started the company. For just over £100 we can almost instantaneously register, manage and give you updates on the names you own, when they are up for renewal and who owns the names you want to own.