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Cracking the Mystery of Hosting Services and Domain Registration in Canada

By Jon Watson
Posted Sunday, November 28, 2004

In this article I will attempt to take the mystery out of how your hosting package interacts with your .ca domain name, how the .ca domain registry works, and what your web geek should be helping you with.

There is so much hype, so much information and so many players in the domain name registration and hosting services market that it's overwhelming. In this article I will attempt to take the mystery out of how your hosting package interacts with your .ca domain name, how the .ca domain registry works, and what your web geek should be helping you with.

Let's start with the .ca domain registrations. The .ca domain is a top-level (like .com, .org or .net) internet domain that is accessible from everywhere on the planet. The .ca suffix on your domain name means that the owner of that domain is Canadian. A person or an organization must meet Canadian residency requirements in order to buy a .ca domain name and this is enforced by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). The CIRA is a non-profit organization that is mandated by the Government of Canada to operate the .ca domain registry. CIRA does not actually sell the domain names to people, they just operate the central registry.

In order to buy a .ca domain name, you must go to a CIRA certified domain registrar (called the registrar for the remainder of this article) and buy your domain through them. The registrar is responsible for verifying that you meet the Canadian residency requirements (available at (http://www.cira.ca)) before allowing your registration to go through. Once you have satisfied the registrar and paid them, your request goes to the CIRA. The CIRA then requires you to verify some information with them and then allows your registrar to get on with the business of activating your domain.

Now what? You've got an active domain. Wonderful. Well, until you have a hosting package from a hosting service provider you have nowhere to 'point' your domain. At this point in time, anyone typing your domain name into their browser will get nowhere. Part of the service you should expect from your registrar is free 'domain parking'. Domain parking means that until such time as you have a hosting package (and presumably a website) up and running, your new .ca address will bring people to some kind of 'under construction' page located at your registrar.

OK, you're halfway there. You've paid your registrar, you've satisfied the CIRA and when you type your new domain name into your browser you get a nice, spiffy 'coming soon!' page from your registrar. Whew...now take a breath and we'll talk about how your host comes into the picture.

Your hosting service provider (called your host for the remainder of this article) is the company that sells you web space. Depending on your needs, you can spend a little or a lot on your hosting package. You should be aware that your host can provide much more than web space. Your host is responsible for providing anything you want to happen at your domain. For example, if you want email addresses under your own domain or an ftp site, you have to ensure those features are present in your package. If you want to run an e-commerce site you need to make sure that your host includes some scripting languages, databases and security certificates with your package. This is the single biggest decision you will make for a while and you need to make sure that you have a good idea of what you want your web site to do now, and in the future. Buying a cheaper hosting package now and hoping that you can upgrade later could cost you money and downtime.

Unless you are a seasoned web developer, I recommend enlisting the help of your web geek before buying your hosting package. She or he can turn your "I want to run a subscription newsletter and sell widgets with credit cards online" into "you need to ensure your hosting package includes mailing lists, a scripting engine, SSL and databases". Don't expect your geek to guess what you need, but if you tell him or her what you want to do in detail, your geek should be able to find a hosting package that will let you do it.

Once you have made your decisions and bought your hosting packge, you will probably want to build your own customized 'coming soon' page. Go ahead and do it, and place it on your site. The last step is to go to your registrar and tell them to 'point' your domain to your new host. This change usually takes about 24 hours within North America and as long as 72 hours to propagate through the rest of the world.

Now hand the whole thing over to your web geek and take the rest of the day off!

Happy Building!

About the Author
Jon Watson is a computer information systems professional with over seven years experience in the web development field. Jon is a professional web developer, world traveller and all around nice guy.