OK, this is the part that I am still, even after several years, learning a lot about. However, I will relate to you some of what I consider important and some pitfalls to avoid. I went through hell, and considered filing a lawsuit over some of the hassle I went through with one "company", trying to get a domain name and host for Troop 53. The result was that we were not "on the air" for over a year and a half, had one domain name, lost it and had to register another, and I lost money personally over the whole mess (never got it back, BTW). I am not asking for your sympathy or crocodile tears on this; just warning you that shysters are out there willing to take your, or your unit's, money and give you very little or nothing in return.
This is also the point at which you start spending money. The Troop 53 Committee decided that the $100.00, or so, that we spend per year on our domain is worth the price and it is budgeted for the same as rechartering, insurance and other expenses are. Your unit may think it's not worth it. Or you may not be able to afford it.
First, let's discuss
troop53.net is a domain name. The "http://www." is implied. There are a number of what are known as Top Level Domains: .com, .org, .net, .gov, .mil, .edu are some of the more "traditional" TLDs. .com was originally conceived as the TLD for commercial business, .org for non-profits, .net for networks of computers (like an ISP). Recently a number of others have been created: .biz, .info, and .name. The reason for the new TLDs was that most of the good, understandable, domain names using the original TLDs were already taken. The lines of distinction between TLDs were being blurred — a lot of, ahem, "pharmaceutical" sites have recently been using .org names and troop53.net really isn't a network.
What this means for a Troop or Pack wanting a domain name is that most of the .org (non-profit) names such as troop23.org, pack47.org, bsatroop76.org, etc. are already taken as are similar .net names and even some .com names. Higher unit numbers (3-4 digits) may be easier to get. Right now, you could probably get any .info name you want. They aren't real popular yet, but that won't last.
You must register your desired domain name with an approved registrar. Here's the first point that the hucksters will try to steal your money. If you pay more than $15.00/year for a domain name you're being taken. Most registrars are now down to the $10.00-$15.00/year range. Some are less than $8.00/year. You can register a name for as little as one year to as many as 10 years. The names I have registered I did for 2 years. I figure that cost may come down and don't want to be stuck with (although it's already been paid) a price that seems exhorbitant by the standards of 10 years hence.
How do you register a name? First, make up a list of at least 2-3 desired names and prioritize them. Then go to register.com and type in the first name on your list. The next page displayed will tell you whether or not the name is available and also have a chart of a bunch of combinations of that name using several TLDs. If your name is available, or if not, and you find another you like that is, do not register it at register.com. They have some shady business practices using scare tactics to get you to transfer a domain or domain name from an existing registrar/host to them. But their whois is useful, so take advantage of it. Another registrar with the same practices is VeriSign, so I also recommend not using them. I have registered domain names with our current host, Powweb, and with Bluedomino.com (a division of Coffee Cup Software) and have never been hassled by either. A company with which I have no experience, but who is selling names for less than $8.00/year is godaddy.com — may be worth a look at least. One last word of warning: within a year of registering a domain name I can guarantee you will receive either a letter or an e-mail from a "company" named Domain Registry of America. It will warn you that your domain name is "about to expire" unless you send them $30+. Do not under any circumstances, for any reason, respond to these! They are trying to hijack your registrar of record and rope you into paying exhorbitant registration fees.
A couple of other tips when registering a domain:
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