Take Control of Your Domain

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sandy, help! My website is down!

More than once, a client has called me in distress with a downed website. Strange ... the server isn't down and no other client websites are down. The first thing I do is a quick whois lookup to check out the state of the domain name. Predictably, the lookup shows the client has let the domain expire. The domain registrar moved it to a parked state (so the domain no longer points to the webserver where the website files reside), so they can work to collect the renewal fee or ultimately release the domain for sale.

I've learned that most clients who come to me, having already purchased a domain name, don't even realize they HAVE a domain registrar, let alone an account with that registrar that needs to be maintained, paid for, and kept current.

As a business owner with a web site, it's imperitive that you understand your domain name is an ASSET to be closely watched, guarded, and cared for. It is the foundation of your web presence. If you don't mind your domain matters, you run the high risk of having that domain name stolen right out from under your nose ... and that would be bad, very bad.

Here's are 8 basic pieces of information related to your domain name that you must gather, ensure their accuracy, and then keep in a file. This information WILL come in handy during the life of your web site - there is no doubt. It will also help you protect your online business identity.

Take the time to go through each of these items and make updates to the items that need attention. It is important that you know or have access to all of this information.

  1. Where did you purchase your domain name? This is your domain registrar. Create a file for your domain registrar.
  2. Once you know who your registrar is, find out their website address, plus the username and password of your account so can login and check things out. Call them if you need to! Once you get this information, write it down and put it in your domain file.
  3. Login to your domain name account and write down who is listed as : the Registrant, the Technical Contact, the Administrative Contact, and the Billing contact. Put this information in your domain registrar file.
  4. If you bought the domain, YOU should be listed as the registrant. If you are not listed as the registrant, you do not own the domain. Really ... you don't! You may think you do, but technically you do not. The registrant has the final and legal say in all matters related to that domain name. So, if you are the owner, but you are NOT listed as the registrant, you need to take immediate steps to get this corrected. Contact the registrant if you need to -- in most cases, if it's not you, it is your current webmaster (or perhaps a previous webmaster) who purchased the domain on your behalf. Bottom line, get this corrected ... today!
  5. If the technical and/or administrative contacts are listed as your webmaster, that's perfectly fine. Webmasters often need access to your domain to properly administer and maintain your website. If the technical and administrative contacts are someone you don't know, change them to your name.
  6. The billing contact should be you. It some cases it may be your webmaster if they take care of the renewals for you and then pass through the cost. However, ultimately as the owner of the domain, you are responsible for the renewals and should be the point of contact for any billing related to the domain name.
  7. What is the email address associated with the Registrant, the Technical Contact, the Billing Contact, and Administrative Contact? The Registrant and billing email addresses should be yours. The others can be your webmaster. If you change email addresses, you must remember to login to your domain registrar account and update the email address. If you do not, you risk not receiving timely renewal information and other contacts related to your domain and activity on your domain name.
  8. When does your domain expire? How does the domain registrar notify you the domain needs renewing? How do you pay the renewal fee (online, via US Mail, etc.)

These 8 items are very non-technical and highly critical elements of properly managing your business domain name. Treat your domain information file as if it were a birth certificate! Don't lose it. Keep it safe. Make sure the information is accurate at all times. Be in control of your domain.

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