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Master of Your Domain – Part 1 – Where should I register?

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masterdomain

It’s a common question, and one that can have serious ramifications if you don’t consider it:

Where should I register my domain name?

Domain registrars can come in many different forms. The difference between web site host and registrar is often blurred these days. Network Solutions, Register.com, Go Daddy, Namecheap, etc., were originally established to register domain names. Over the years they began to offer additional services such as email and web site hosting. There are also companies that started their lives as web site hosts, then later became domain registrars as well. Then, just to make it confusing, there are resellers—companies (like Winhost) who can offer domain registration services, but are not registrars themselves.

Technically, as far as your web site and users are concerned, where your domain is registered is irrelevant. A site hosted at any host can use a domain registered with any registrar. The DNS system will route your traffic like the post office routes your letters. Well, hopefully better than the post office routes your letters.

For the sake of convenience, many people choose to use their host as their registrar, so that everything can be managed from one location. Whether you do that or use a registrar that is unrelated to your host is a matter of preference.

fulldomaincontrolHere at Winhost your user account contains your domain registrations, so they are separate from your hosting accounts. That’s an ideal set up for anyone who wants to maintain that separation and flexibility without managing payments in multiple locations. The independence and control that you have can save you headaches in the long run.

If price is a concern, then you’ll want to go with a registrar who can offer the lowest price on the kinds of domains that you need. These days there are very few truly “budget” registrars left. The market has leveled out and you will not typically find a difference of more than a dollar or two between registrars. But for those who are strapped for cash, there is the lure of the free domain name. But be aware of the pitfalls that may come along with “free.”

Are “free” domains really free?

You may have heard horror stories of domains being held hostage, or made unavailable through the neglect or – in some cases – vindictiveness of the host. A common tool that many hosts use to get your business is the offer of a “free” domain name. While that may be a tempting offer, you should get some details about that free domain. Before you pour your time and effort into creating a site around it, ask the host following questions:

Who owns the domain?
Typically the host will make themselves the administrative contact for any domain names they provide for free as part of a hosting package. The administrative contact controls the domain, so you always want your contact information to be the admin contact information. At the very least, you want your email address to be listed in the admin section.

Can I keep the name if I change hosts?
Some hosts may allow for this, but only after you pay them a fee. Sometimes that fee is retroactive, meaning you’ll wind up paying for the domain from the day they registered it. Back when it was supposed to be “free.”

Can I keep my hosting but transfer the domain to a registrar of my choice if I opt to pay for it myself?
If you spend six months creating a site and building an audience you may want to take further control of your domain by moving it away from the host and paying for renewals yourself. Make sure the host will allow you to do that. If you are the admin contact, you can usually move the domain, but if the host is listed as billing contact, they can make the move difficult if they want to.

If you use a domain that you don’t own or you can’t move, you may be in for trouble down the road. We have seen many new customers having difficulty gaining control of what they thought was their domain name. But if you are aware of the “gotchas” surrounding domain name ownership, you can avoid those kinds of problems.

Here at Winhost you always have full control of domains that are registered through us. You are the administrative contact, you can cancel your site or move it to another host, switch the domain on your hosting account—whatever you do you’ll always have access to your domains.



Circle us in GooglePlus – a new social frontier

A lot of you have joined our circles on GooglePlus, and we’re excited about what we may be able to do over there. It might seem like overkill, what with Facebook, Twitter, the Winhost forum, this blog – now another spot to occupy?

The thing is, we enjoy connecting with you in all of these different areas. We’re always anxious to hear what everyone has to say and see what we can contribute.

We don’t have the star power of these guys, but we’re trying:

[Video deleted.]



Holding Domain Names Hostage

howto

I’ve been reading that some registrars make it difficult for a person to leave them. That once you register your domain name, they will do almost anything to keep you. There may be a good reason why you want to jump ship and have your domain name registered with a different registrar. It could be for price, convenience, or simply better support. Regardless of the reason it should not be “rocket science” to change your registrar.

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Now, I’m not here to insult anyone, but what I want to make it clear that Winhost has made every effort to allow customers who register their domain name through us to move to another registrar if they wish. Before we proceed with the steps—and you may be surprised how simple it is—let us run through a preliminary check list.

Everyone should check this list before attempting a registrar transfer, regardless of what registrar you are with.

Preliminary Checklist

    1.  Check and verify who your registrar is.  Use this link: http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp. I know this sounds like a waste of time, but I can’t tell you how many times people will argue with a hosting provider only to find out that they were never the registrar.
    2. Check whether you have whois privacy enabled.  If it is enabled, you will need to make sure you disable it. Whois privacy or Private Domain Registration is a service that allows a person to keep certain domain name information private. Information such as Billing, Administration, and/or Technical Contacts. Some people don’t like their information to be available on the Internet. By purchasing Private Domain Registration, when someone does a whois look up of your domain name, all they should see is the registrar name, the name servers the domain is pointing to, and the domain name expiration date.
    3. Make sure that the email address on record with the registrar is valid and active. This is very important because during the course of the transfer, transfer approval emails will be sent to the email addresses associated with the domain name. Verify that your Administrative and/or Technical contact information is up to date, and the email address is valid and active.
    4. Last but not least, you’ll need to verify that the domain name has not been registered or renewed within the last 60 days. This is a standard requirement and can be checked by pulling up the whois record and checking the Expiration and Modified date. If you have just registered the domain name or renewed it within the last 60 days than you cannot transfer it. Some registrars will forbid you to transfer your domain name to another registrar if you simply update the contact information on your domain name. Winhost has no such limitation. Our only condition is the 60 day registration/renewal window.

Now that you’ve gone through the list, transferring a domain name away from us should be fairly easy.  Oh, before I forget, make sure you have selected a registrar that you will be transferring the domain to.  You will need to set up an account with them before you initiate the transfer. Each registrar has their own steps for registering so I’m not going to go over them in this article.

Here are the steps to transferring a domain name away to another registrar:

    1.  Log into the Winhost control panel and click on the “Domains” tab.
    2. In the “Whois Record” column, click the “View/Edit” link.  This will take you to the domain name’s personal information (Contact, Administrative, and Billing information). From here you can disable Whois Privacy if it is enabled, and you can also update the name servers if you wish to point it somewhere else.
    3. Back in the Winhost control panel/Domain Manager, click on the “Unlock” link in the “Move Away” column. Unlock your domain name, and you will be given the Authorization Transfer Code; also known as the EPP Auth Code. You will need that code when you  initiate the transfer at your new registrar.
    4. Go to your new registrar and go through the steps to initiate a registrar transfer to them.

That should be it. Pretty easy, right?  If anything goes wrong, check with the new registrar to see where the process may have failed. Check your email address in the whois information, and lastly you can always open a ticket to Winhost support to see if anything is stopping the registrar transfer on our end.


While this article has been about how to move your domain away from Winhost, we do hope that you will continue to use our hosting services. We think we provide the best hosting value available anywhere. You may be able to find a lower price, but one thing you will not find at the cut-rate hosts is our level of service and commitment to quality. Those are things we live and breathe, we don’t just talk about them.

If you are at one of those lowest-common-denominator hosts now and you want to come join the Winhost family, stay tuned for an upcoming article on painless host transfer. Yes, it is possible!



When coming in fourth really means you won

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You might remember that back in September we asked you to vote for us in the DevProConnections Community Choice Awards. A lot of you must have responded, because we placed 4th!

You might think 4th place is nothing to brag about, and usually that’s true. But look at who we placed 4th behind:

  1. DiscountASP.NET – An established industry leader that wins this award every year
  2. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) – Maybe the biggest cloud service provider on earth
  3. Go Daddy – One of the biggest shared hosts in the world with millions of users

When you look at those kind of heavy hitters, the fact that Winhost, as a relatively young upstart, managed to rank anywhere near them is kind of amazing.

We work hard to provide the best hosting service anywhere, and it’s great to have the .NET hosting community tell us that we’re doing a good job.

And most of all, we thank all of you who voted for us. You are the reason we get out of bed every morning (or every afternoon, for those guys on the night shifts) and look forward to coming in to work.

So yeah, maybe we’re the only people who are goofy enough to announce losing, but to us, it’s a major win.



Winhost (us!) and winhost.exe (not us!)

howto

You know, when you’re naming a company you might think all you have to do is come up with an appropriate, catchy name, secure the .com and you’re all set. Funny thing is, you can do all those things and still have some unpleasant neighbors in search results.

Let’s take, oh, I don’t know, Winhost for example. For a company that specializes in Windows hosting like we do, it seems perfect. And it is perfect. But when you search for Winhost on any big search engine (meaning Google, but I’m trying to be fair to scrappy little upstart bing), the first things you’ll see is us, but also on that first page you’ll see listings for pages describing a nasty malware Trojan infecting people’s computers.

Yes, we share the name of a virus! Cool, isn’t it?

No?

Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

Luckily winhost.exe is a relatively old piece of maliciousness, so it’s slowly fading from view. But I figured if we’re going to talk about it, I may as well tell you how to get rid of it! So if you’re suffering from this nasty old threat, here’s a solution:

First you want to delete the file itself. It’s commonly found in C:/Windows/System32. It can also be found in your startup directory, so be sure to check there. Also, perform a search on your System folder just in case the file has been copied to other locations.

Okay, here comes the fun part. Of course deleting the winhost.exe file from your hard drive is not enough. Once you have deleted the file(s), you also have to delete it from the registry.

Before you start modifying the registry it is a good idea to back it up. To backup your registry go to Start/Run and type regedit. Click File/Export and save the file.

You may also want to set a restore point on your computer (though you’d be restoring the virus too if you reverted), go to Start/Run and type RSTRUI and follow the wizard to create your restore point.

Now for the registry.

The fastest way to find and delete all of the winhost.exe entries in your registry is to go to Start/Run and type regedit. Make sure you are focused on the top level of the registry key which should be “Computer” so that it will search the entire registry tree. Go to Edit/Find and type winhost.exe. It will go through the registry and you can delete the winhost.exe records one by one. It is important to make sure all the entries are deleted, but the most important registry keys to be sure to clean up are:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunServices
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run

Next, go to the refrigerator and have a cold drink. because you’re finished!



One good apple

There have been about 849 million words written about Steve Jobs in the past five or six days, so why not add a few more, right?

It’s always sad to see a truly original character exit the scene, and Jobs was certainly that. A man who knew exactly what he wanted and never settled for less. That’s rare. It’s rare because it’s incredibly difficult to pull off. Perfectionists are difficult to work with or for, and there has been no shortage of stories about Jobs’ unrelenting drive and perfectionism.

earlyapple

But he was also a good salesman. In fact, that may have been his true gift and greatest contribution to the modern gadget scene. He wasn’t the nuts and bolts (or should I say soldering iron and resistor) guy after all, that was Wozniak. And when you think it about it, after they scrapped their original operating system and moved to a UNIX-based platform, all Apple was really selling was a different computer interface in a different box, and on the surface that’s a tough sell (ask Microsoft and IBM about O/S2).

You could get into an entire utilitarian-object-as-fetish-object thing when discussing Apple, but that discussion tends to make a lot of people who love Apple cranky. I’ll just say that it’s quite a feat to foster a club-like atmosphere for a consumer product and Jobs and Apple did that better than anyone else.

A great deal of that comes down to personality. If you gave Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer the first generation iPhone and told them to sell it to people, it wouldn’t have had the same impact. Because, let’s be honest, Gates and Ballmer are not cool. Larry Ellison is kind of cool, but I don’t necessarily think people would buy a phone from him either. He’s cool in a I’m-way-cooler-than-you-and-we-both-know-it kind of way, while Jobs had a knack for seeming like the coolest guy who could conceivably be your friend in the real world. You could probably find Ellison on an experimental Gulfstream G750 somewhere over a large ocean, drinking highballs with Hugh Hefner, Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and Alec Baldwin while Jobs was in the Apple offices pacing up and down the hallways demanding more, better, faster. Rocking the non-ironic turtleneck all the while.

Admittedly, I have never bought an Apple product, so it might not come as a shock that I’m not convinced that things would be much different today if there were never a Steve Jobs. We would still have smartphones, notebook and tablet computers. But things would have almost certainly been a lot more boring. And my hat is off to anyone who makes the world a less boring place.



Defending your domain

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Your domain name is serious business; it represents you or your brand on the Internet, and you want to do all you can to protect it. Which is why we continue to see scams around domain names. Some of these have been going on for more than a decade, others are more recent. But just about every day someone asks us, “Is this real? Do I need to respond to this?” and the answer is always, ‘no.’

What is a typical domain registration scam?

One of the oldest scams started under the name of Domain Registry of America (or Domain Registry of Canada, or several other “Domain Registries of”), and it involves a form letter sent to the physical address listed as the admin contact for the domain in the whois record. The letter looks like a legitimate domain renewal notice—it contains your whois information, the domain expiration date, everything you might expect for a renewal.

The only problem is, it is not sent by your registrar, and if you respond to the letter and pay the fee (which is typically several times more than what you’re already paying), you are contractually agreeing to transfer your domain name to the new company. Once that happens, they make it very difficult to transfer it back out, and often in the fine print of the agreement you unknowingly entered into, they can charge you a “transfer out” fee! No legitimate registrar will ever charge you any fees outside of the domain registration fee itself.

This type of scam relies on victimizing people who are busy or just not paying attention and think, “Oh, another bill,” and throw it into a pile and write a check at the end of the week.

So be very wary of any regular postal mail that has anything to do with your domain name. It is unlikely to be from your registrar.

What’s new in the world of domain scams?
Another scam that has been circulating via email for a few years, and continues today, has to do with “trademarks” and Country Code TLDs. Country Code TLDs are the two letter domain extensions that were designated for use by specific countries, such as .us, .de, .uk, .jp, etc.

Large companies with brand names and trademarks to protect often register many of these domains in an effort to protect their primary domain. If you visit pepsi.de or pepsi.co.uk, for example, you’ll see very different sites than pepsi.com, but they are all legitimate sites run by PepsiCo.

The trademark domain registration scam attempts to get you to register a version of your domain name in different Country Code TLDs (most frequently seen these days using the .cn, .hk and .tw Country Code TLDs). There are dozens of variations of the email, but the gist of it is this:

We have been contacted by an individual or company to register the domain names:

yourdomain.cn
yourdomain.hk
yourdomain.tw

It has come to our attention that you currently hold the trademark to yourdomain. In order to protect your trademark, please respond to this email within five days. Failure to respond could result in loss of your trademark, etc., etc.

When you respond to such an email you are met with a convenient “offer” to “protect” your trademark or domain name by registering yourdomain.cn, yourdomain.hk and yourdomain.tw yourself. They prey on your fear of loss of control of your name or trademark in order to sell you domains that you don’t necessarily want and almost certainly don’t need.

In case you haven’t guessed, no one attempted to register yourdomain.cn, yourdomain.hk or yourdomain.tw. The scammers simply plug existing .com, .net or .org domains into their form letter and mass email them to millions of domain owners.

There are a couple of ways to avoid becoming a victim of one of these domain registration scammers. First, very carefully review any correspondence pertaining to your domain name. Second, enable whois protection, a service that removes your direct contact information from the domain’s whois record.

You can add whois protection to your Winhost domains in Control Panel. And always remember, if your domain is registered through Winhost, any legitimate email about the domain renewal will come from Winhost Domain Services <billing@winhost.com>.

If you ever have any questions or concerns about your domains registered through Winhost, don’t hesitate to contact us.



Microsoft doesn’t seem to like Gmail too much

Here’s another funny Microsoft video – this one dissing Gmail: