Starting a web hosting business (Chapter 5)

Chapter 5. Decide on Domain Name Reseller Account

Web Hosting is incomplete without a domain name, so it's crucial that a web hosting company offer domain name registration services. About a decade ago, domain name registrars strictly sold domain name registration services while web hosting company strictly offered web hosting services. Today, many domain name registrars not only sell domain name services but also offer web hosting services. Web Hosting companies also resell domain name services provided by the ICANN accredited registrars while offering web hosting services. Web Hosting without domain name offering will not be able to survive as busy customers are looking for a turn-key solution from a single vendor.

Very seldom a customer will register a domain name from a domain name registrar, and buy web hosting service from a web hosting company. People are simply too busy, and also maintaining two separate accounts to manage your domain name and web hosting accounts doesn't really make sense any more. So, how do you find a reputable domain name registrar? There are several things to consider when reselling domain names.

1. Avoid a middle man by signing up with a ICANN accredited registrar. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet\u2019s unique identifiers.

2. Find a reputable domain name registrar who can offer you good price. ICANN accredited registrars have to meet the criteria set forth by the ICANN in order to retain their accredited status with ICANN. They have the technical resources and financial support to stay accredited. Check with ICANN to see if intended registrar has high number of complaints.

3. The billing software that you found in previous chapter has to support the registrar that you intend to resell. Even if you can write your own application to communicate with 3rd-party API, why would you reinvent the wheel when you can find a reliable billing software for a few hundred dollars?

Some domain name registrars offer fully functional website that you can use to resell their domain name, web hosting and other value added services. If you have no desire build your own website, manage your own servers, and provide your own customer service; this option may not be a bad option to consider. Start simple and expand as you grow your business.

Personal Experience

When I was initially searching for a domain name registrar in 2003, there weren't that many registrar to choose from. I have contacted a half dozen registrars, and only a few responded. Not all registrars offered programming APIs to integrate their service with 3rd-party website. I have considered Directi, eNom, and Wild West Domains, and choose to use eNom even though they were not the cheapest. I was looking for a registrar offering programming APIs, so that I can build my own application based on the API provided. It turned out the be a good choice as I'm still using eNom for all domain name services.

As I was also offering website design services, I wanted to resell SSL certificates. I wasn't able to find a good company offering reselling package for SSL certificates. Based on pricing, I was very tempted to go with RegisterFly, where I have personally purchased more than a dozen SSL Certificates; but I soon realize this company wasn't very reliable as I wan't able to reach them when I needed to. RegisterFly started out as an eNom reseller, but became an ICANN accredited registrar by an acquisition. Although this company was very successful at attracting new customers, they weren't very good at providing customer service. Due to negligence, ICANN officially removed Registerfly's accreditation on March 31, 2007 and ordered Registerfly to cease operation.

When I was looking for a commercial billing software, eNom was supported by majority of software I was considering. I have chosen AWBS as the billing software, and one of the reason for choosing AWBS was because it offered fully functional domain name services right out of the box which made it very easy for me to setup a custom website for my own business.


Domain name industry and web hosting industry have converged, and the landscape has changed completely from a decade ago. There are many ICANN accredited registrars offering reseller programs tailored for web hosting companies. Finding a reputable registrar isn't too difficult in today's market. The question is whether to purchase a fully functional website offered by a domain name registrar, vs. building your own website from a billing software and integrating it with the control panel of your choice.

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