I guess it doesn't really need saying, but getting your own domain for a website is very important, it makes your site both memorable, professional looking (well at least the domain will look professional). If you sell anything form you site is also important, people will not trust their credit card details to a site hosted on geocities.
This is one of the most professional (and also more expensive) way to get yourself a domain name (apart from having your own dedicated server!) a virtual server behaves in almost exactly the same way as a dedicated server. If you buy a domain name and webspace from most hosting companies your site will be hosted on a 'virtual server'.
Forwarding is a cheaper alternative to getting your own server or virtual server. Forwarding is more flexible because your domain name is not tied to your hosts, companies who provide domain name registrations and forwarding usually provide a convenient user login so you can easily change your forwarding details. You can usually :-
your site around easily without affecting your domain name, or getting involved
with DNS problems / delays.
several sites and direct visitors to one site of your choice.
several domains pointing to one site, or even forward visitors to different
relevant pages on your site.
your domain name to your existing site on a freewebspace provider (i.e.
get an easy to remember professional looking domain for your geocities etc.
email sent to your domain to your existing e-mail account.
You can of course do all of the above with a virtual server, but it is often easier (and cheaper) to do it with forwarding. There are disadvantages with some types forwarding. The main disadvantage is that search engine results are often affected / become unpredictable.
This is the simplest form of forwarding, the disadvantage it that when a user types www.easydomain.com, they are simply forwarded to your existing website. Some old very browsers do not support forwarding, and the user has to click on a link to get to your site. The disadvantage is that the user can see the URL of the site you have forwarded them to - if it is an ISPs free server this will look unprofessional.
Using domain cloaking, the URL of the site you forward your visitors to is hidden. This is usually achieved using a frame set with two windows, one window is so small you cannot see it, and the other window contains the page you forward the visitor to. The disadvantage is that the frames page sometimes affects your rankings in search engines. The user will be able to see the domain you have forwarded them to if they open a link in a new window (_top or _blank)
the main benefit is using a separate company to register your domain name and hosting is that you can register your domains relatively cheaply, and not pay for any hosting until you need it. i.e. you can reserve your domain using a holding page until you need to use it.
Remember: if you register a domain name, then your website grows and you want to 'move-up' to your own server or virtual server you can always transfer your domain name to your hosting provided to achieve this. Always read the small print when register a domain name with a domain company, some companies offer incredibly cheap domain registrations but charge an extortionate fee when you want to more your domain!
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