iRead, iLearn, iWrite. Hence, iBlog.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Configuring a Free Domain Name with your blog

(Note : The following post is meant to guide a total n00b (someone like me) through the process of registering and configuring a free domain name. So I would be laying special emphasis on addressing the What-s and How-s of the issue. The Why-s may not be addressed satisfactorily due to reasons of brevity.)

As it would be evident from the url above, I recently registered with a Domain name provider that provides free domain names (1). By doing this the address of my blog which earlier read http://shubhspace.blogspot.com is now http://www.shubhspace.co.cc. My reason for doing this was simple - To understand and learn Domain Management concepts. It also made my address shorter and hence, hopefully, easier to remember (So that people who liked my blog would be able to acces it easily).
So with these issues sorted out, let us get down to getting you your own free Domain name and associating it with your online property [your existing blog/website].

In order to follow the instructions given in this post, you will need 3 things: -

1. A domain name (obtained from co.cc)

2. Your website or blog (My blog on blogger)

3. A DNS server [provided for free by Every DNS]

Let us now see how each of these must be setup for a smooth, error-free performance.

1. A domain name

Your domain name is the identity of your online property. Think of your Domain name as the name plate of your house. You may live in some apartment, but until and unless you put up a name plate on the front door, your identity would be ambiguous at best. So the first step to gaining an identity online is to get yourself a Domain name [your name plate]. Now if you Google the term ‘Free Domain Names’, you will be bombarded with a plethora of sites offering you a wide variety of domain names ranging from co.nr to .tk to .biz.ly. But before you go ahead and register with one of those, let me point it out to you that they are merely url re-direction service. Using another Apartment analogy, think of a url re-direction service as your friend knocking on the doors of your next door neighbour. Being the next door neighbour, you are obviously known to them and so they point out your house to the visitors. But if you’re a popular guy, who is visited often by different people all the time, this ringing on the neighbour’s door is not going to make you very popular with your neighbour. In other words, if you use a url re-direction service, your site will not be popular with search engines (read, GOOGLE).
So when you register with a free Domain registrar, make sure that they also offer you a DNS service (discussed later). AFAIK, only two free domain registrars offer the DNS service - .uni.cc and .co.cc. Of these two, I prefer the .co.cc registrars, simply because .co.cc is shorter and also sounds like a paid domain name (read, sounds professional). Your domain name would appear as www.example.co.cc, where example could b replaced by a name of your choice.
The first step to registering a domain name is to see if it is available or has someone already taken it. That you may do in the box provided.

If it is available, then you shall get a message congratulating you and asking you to register.

Registering for the Domain name is a complete no-brainer. Just fill up the simple information that you are asked to fill up and then your domain name would be registered. You may have to activate your domain name through the link sent by them to the email id that you entered. Once activated you will officially have your own private identity on the Internet – your own domain name to flaunt.

Note: While registering, with .co.cc, you need only to give your email id correctly. The other information may be made up just for the sake of registering. It is advisable NOT to give out your real name, address or telephone or fax number.

2.
Your website or blog

It is the most important aspect of all. Your blog or website is like your house in the Internet, whereas your domain name is like the name plate. A name plate attains significance only when you have a house. The site or blog could be located on a free hosting service [like a rented apartment] or it could be hosted on a paid-for hosting server [an apartment taken on lease]. You could also setup your own server to host your site [an apartment of which you have full ownership]. In this tutorial we shall be using my blog as the house which is need of its own unique name plate ;-). My blog is hosted on Blogger, which provides this service for free [a rented apartment kind]. So all blogs hosted here will have an address which would read like blogname.blogspot.com. In technical jargon it would mean that your blog address is sub-domain of the .blogspot.com domain
(2). Setting up a blog on blogger is a complete no-brainer. So just register for a blogger account here. Once you have registered on blogger, login and you will reach your blog dashboard. On the dashboard click the link that says Settings

Once the new page appears, click on the link titled Publishing

Then click on the Custom domain link on that page.

Since we shall be using a free domain name, ignore everything else and click on the link that says Already own a domain?Switch to advanced settings

Once the page opens up, you shall see a section titled Your domain. Enter the domain name we had earlier registered into that space. Do not forget to add the www in the address.

Once this is done simply click on the button that says Save settings.

Thus you have now fixed the name plate on your front door.

3. A DNS server

So, now you have your own blog (house) and a personal domain name (name plate). But if the name plate is fixed to the door of your apartment on the fourth floor, then how is someone to know that you are residing on the fourth floor. Simple, all you have to do is attach a list on the ground floor stating the names of each resident and floor on which they reside. So any visitor to your house would know where to reach you.
This task is performed on the Internet by the Domain Names System (DNS) server. It associates the domain name to the hosting site
(3). So in order to associate the Domain name with the hosting site you will have to make use of DNS server. If you opt for a paid domain name, like .com or .co.in or .info, the domain registrars would have provided you with their own DNS Nameservers. However .co.cc being a free domain registrar, does not provide their own Nameservers, but instead allows you to enter the addresses of external DNS Nameserver. A paid-for Nameserver could cost you a small fortune to setup. However, there are a number of DNS service providers that offer you the use of their Nameservers for free.
One such free DNS service provider that I am using is EveryDNS. Registering for their service is also very simple. Once registered, login into your account. On the left column you shall see a section titled Add new domain. Type in the domain name you had earlier registered at co.cc and click on the basic button. Please note that in this box you should not add www to the address, just type in as I have shown you in the picture.

Once this is done, you will see an entry on the same column under the heading Primary domains - click on it.

One the page opens up, you shall see the section Current Records and under this you would see certain entries. Delete those. Go down to the Add a record section.
In that section this is what you must enter the following values (in bold)

Fully qualified Domain Name = www
Record Type = CNAME (select it from the drop down menu)
Record Value = ghs.google.com
(These values are applicable only for blogger blogs)



Once this is done simply click on the Add Record button. Under the heading current records, you will have an entry under the heading Current Records that looks like this (I have blanked out the information that is not applicable)

With this your just one step away from getting your own private domain name completely setup for your site.
Log back in to your domain account in .co.cc. All this while, although you had registered your domain name you had not configured it. So when you click on My domains, it would appear in Red, asking you to ‘Please Set Up’. Click on the Edit button.

You would now be asked to select between two options - Manage DNS and URL Forwarding Records. Select the Manage DNS option. Pay no attention to the statement that says - It can be difficult, because if you have reached this stage after having followed all the steps described earlier, it means that you have already passed through the difficult part (and you didn’t even know that, How cool is that!!!).

When you select that option click on the [+ Add more Name Servers] link twice. This way you will have two more sections to fill in. The Name Servers used by EveryDNS are as follows

ns1.everydns.net
ns2.everydns.net
ns3.everydns.net
ns4.everydns.net



Enter the data accordingly and click on the Setup Domain button.Next you shall be taken to a page that would look something like this.

Once this is completed your job is done. Log out. Sit back and wait for around 48 hours for your own domain name to be attached to your Blog. At the end of 48 hours, when you type in your domain name and your blog opens, pat yourself on your back for a job well done.
If you have any doubt please feel free to ask me throught the comments section.

Footnote

(1) It is actually called a Second-level Domain name that they provide for free.----[Go Back up]

(2) Blogspot.com is in turn, a sub-domain of the .com TLD----[Go Back up]

(3)A DNS server resolves a domain name into the corresponding IP/CNAME address of the server on which the site is hosted and forwards the request to that server.----[Go Back up]