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FYI DNS 2 ISP AOK?

There's a new "reality" TV show called "Fear Factor" that shocked audiences by making contestants lie down while 400 rats ran all over them. Big woo. People were appalled, but since my pet chinchilla (kind of an ultra-lux rat) was running all over me at the time I thought nothing of it (just as you think nothing of it when your cat or dog runs all over you). I'm sorry, but rodents get a bad rap—not a single contestant got bitten (except by themselves so they could show the bite marks to the others and scare them!)

So despite some people thinking this was "schlock TV," I found it quite educational. It reminded me that fear is based less on reality and more on fear itself.

My fear? Moving my web site to another ISP. Really. I have avoided it for years. I didn't want to go through the hassle I knew I'd have with domain name registrars and ISPs. So I just left it alone. "If it ain't broken," and all that.

Since I refused to move my site, the universe forced it on me. (The universe is annoyingly good at that kind of thing.) How? By having my ISP say it was shutting down. Well, they didn't come right out and admit it, I heard it from a friend of a friend, called to confirm it, and it's true. They can't tell me exactly when, though, as if they don't know. That's unfortunately how this stuff has become.

So now I had to face my deep web-fear: the seemingly inevitable "limbo period" while the domain goes from one ISP to another (it can take from 2-4 days to "propagate" through the domain servers worldwide), during which my site could disappear and my e-mail get returned-to-sender.

If this happens, I can imagine people thinking I have disappeared off the face of the planet or been some kind of unfortunate figment of their imagination—no trace of me existing in cyberspace. My life and business on the web are, in a way, ME, and when they disappear, do I cease to exist?

(Maybe I am just a figment of your imagination—in which case I ask that you imagine me looking like Cary Grant and see me in your mind's eye driving a Lexus SC430 hardtop convertible, OK?)

Back to reality, or what passes for it these days. So now I had to figure out how to make the move work. I'm a web-savvy guy (it says so, right on my business cards), but there can be a lot of steps involved.

First I had to move my domain name from the old registrar who was unresponsive and had made me semi-insane when I tried to set up my sister's site (details below on how to switch yours). Then I had to sign up with the new ISP and figure out how to write the script that would let me get multiple domains to work on the same account (it's a good feature because it's cost-effective, but technical stuff like this makes my head hurt, so you're not alone if you feel that way).

Now all that's left is to get the nerve pull the switch that will move my DNS to the new ISP and hope it's all A-OK. I haven't done it yet—and won't do it until next week just to make sure that I don't go into cyber-limbo at a time when you might want to reach my site or me.

But I have to admit that after much fear and loathing, other than taking longer than expected each step has gone fairly smoothly, as, I hope, the entire transition will.

Who knows, maybe I will disappear off the face of the web for a while. That happened to a friend of mine for almost two weeks when his DSL ISP went under without notice (something that happened to thousands of companies). And guess what—they all lived through it, and had a lot less e-mail to contend with when it temporarily stopped coming to them.

So, as in many things, maybe the fear of moving my site will end up being worse than the actual event. Famous last words? It's a safe bet that I'll keep you posted.

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Master Of Your Domain

DOMAIN NAME BASICS:  While I was afraid to move my domain name, the fact is that having a domain name makes it easier to move. Why? Because no matter what ISP you use, once you switch your domain to a new provider, your friends and customers can still reach you at the same address. You don't have to give people new URLs or e-mail addresses, you just have to wait for your domain to be moved (which takes anywhere from 2-4 days worldwide).

A domain name is basically a name that points people's browsers to a long numeric "IP" address that represents your site. People usually never see that IP address, because browsers show them the domain name instead. This is, of course, much more friendly for everyone involved.

Having a domain name makes it easier for people to find your site. Instead of some long unwieldy name like www.ispnamehere.com~username you can just have www.FuseLetter.com—the domain name also looks more professional and credible. And it's "portable," meaning that if you change web-hosting companies, people can still find your site at the same "address" (even the same e-mail address, see below).

While so many domain names are taken, and it seems harder to get new ones, there are some things you can do. A site called http://www.nameboy.com helps you create names by putting together two words, and similar words. It can be very helpful.

There are also NEW EXTENSIONS coming that will be here soon, like .pro .biz .info and .name. Some, like law.pro, cpa.pro and med.pro will be restricted to licensed professionals. Others, like .name are only for proper names, such as John.Doe.name

This will open up millions of new names (though don't try to go in and take a registered trademark and try to get a new domain, you won't be able to get something like coke.biz because there have been legal precedents that mean trademark holders have first right to their name.

And DON'T be confused by companies like "new.net" which created their own extensions that only work if people install special software on the computer. This means that MOST of people WON'T be able to see your site with one of their non-standard domains. Also, the software they install might make your computer have trouble connecting with the web. So beware.

The bottom line: if you have a site but don't have a domain name, consider it. It's a $19-$35 a year investment in your site, your company and your future. (It's my belief that Register.com at $35 ends up being a better deal than cheaper registrars because it gives you easier access and more control over the domain itself).

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Switching Your Domain Name Registrars

I use http://netobjects.register.com for all my domain names (and I have 14 of them, which is a little scary, but apparently I'm now collecting them the way I collect watches!)

I just recently moved the first two domain names I ever bought from the original domain name company to http://www.register.com . Why? Because I find it much easier to manage my domain names there.

Register.com gives you more control over your account and don't have to worry if your e-mail address, ISP or phone numbers change—you can still update your domain info online, just by using your password. This can save you a LOT of hassle, and I say this with first hand experience!

Register.com has toll-free customer support (with a number that's easy to find, rather than being hidden, as it is on other major domain sites).

Register.com lets me update my domain information online, instantly (no waiting for lots of e-mail back and forth like other major domain companies—a process which is frustrating, confusing and often ineffective).

Register.com even has services for free that other sites charge for. For example, you can easily create an web-based e-mail account for your domain name for free, while other domain registrars charge $60 a year for the same thing!

Switching is easy.

  1. Go to http://www.register.com and click on "Transfer"
  2. Click on "Transfer Registrar" - "Now Automated!"
  3. Enter your domain names here, and follow the instructions.

There is no charge for the switch—but you do have to pay for a year of domain name, at $35.

The process takes two to five days, and your web site and e-mail will work seamlessly during the process (there was absolutely no interruption to mine).

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A New Home For Your Web Site

The company that will be hosting my site is www.intermedia.net an excellent web-hosting company I've used for several sites.

While I wouldn't recommend them for neophytes, I do recommend them to people with some experience—and those who like hands-on control.

They give you complete control of your servers and domains—all online. They make it very easy to set up new e-mail boxes, too—and they can forward mail anywhere you want. They also provide WebTrends traffic analysis software which runs on their servers (so you don't have to download a lot of stuff and run it on yours)..

Intermedia charges from $25 a month for 50MB of disk space and unlimited traffic (important if your site gets busy, or your visitors need to download large files from you). They're also right on the web backbone in Palo Alto, so performance is excellent. (Remember, your web host does not have to be local—it's best for them to be well run and have a big, fast connection).

While they have no phone support (so if you need real hand-holding this is probably not the place for you) their e-mail response is fast—usually well under an hour—and smart. They've always clearly and accurately answered my questions—something that can be rare these days.

The other useful thing about Intermedia is that, if you have any technical knowledge at all, you can host up to 12 sites in your own server space, each with its own domain name. So if you design sites, you can run your clients sites in your space, for just $5 a month per additional domain name.

While most ISP's let you point multiple domain names to a single IP address, you end up seeing the same site for different domains. With this service, each site can point to its own space, so it doesn't appear to be shared.

So that's where I'm moving my site, along with several others, to get the most possible value ("by Grapthar's Hammer, what a savings!"—If you don't get this, watch Galaxy Quest, one of my Top 10 funny movies—and I'm not even a Tim Allen fan.)

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ISP Survival Guides

A few months ago, cnet's New York offices were left high and dry when their DSL provider disappeared. After this, cnet Internet Services posted an article about what to do is your ISP does a Houdini and disappears:

http://one.digital.cnet.com/cgi-bin1/flo?y=eCCH0DNda0 k0tTq0Aa  

They don't specifically talk about web hosts, but it's a good thing to read none the less, because you still have to connect with the web.

My advice—you may need one ISP for dialup access and another for web hosting. Ask your friends who they use and how they like the service. And try these two sites for finding an ISP http://thelist.internet.com/ and http://boardwatch.internet.com/

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Process Your Forms Easily

No matter where your site lives, if you've created a form on the web, you know that making one is only the tip of the iceberg. If you want it to work, you have "process" it, which requires stuff on your server you probably don't even want to know about.

Now there's a very sophisticated but easy to use forms processor that uses the coolmaps web server to store your form information until you're ready to use it. When you're ready, it delivers it to you in a useful format, like Microsoft Excel, so you can easily search, sort, and really use the info.

For $38-$58 a year, the system stores data, sends response e-mails automatically, and lets you administer it all online through an easy, web-based interface.

This is far more sophisticated than the response-o-matic site I had recommended in the past. It works easily with NetObjects Fusion through a component, and can even work with non-NetObjects Fusion sites. Learn more at: http://club.coolmaps.com/component_detail.cfm?nfx=81

Also—find out about the latest update to coolmap components at:

http://club.coolmaps.com/components_updates.cfm

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Do Good For Free With Just A Click

NOW is the time to visit these sites, and click to donate for free. Visit their advertisers, too, so they'll keep supporting these good causes.

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One More Thing: Fear

I'm not afraid of dying, I'm afraid of not having lived.—Melina Mercouri

Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed.—Michael Pritchard

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