DNS. Domain Name. IP Addresses. Just the thought of getting involved in anything that has to do with the aforementioned website terms can strike fear into one’s heart.
But if it’s your job to deal with websites in any capacity, cozying up to these terms is certainly in your best interest.
And once you’ve learned them, getting control of your domain should be your top priority.
What is a Domain Name?
So glad you asked. According to ye olde Wikipedia, “a domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet.”
AND YOU ARE THE PROTECTOR OF THE REALM!
But seriously, your domain name is a critical piece of your presence on the web. Think of it as the address to your online house. For example, our website’s domain name is “authenticwebsolutions.com.” It’s the name of our company and that’s where we live on the web.
Once you know the ins and outs of domain registration, it’s not difficult to control. But first…
A Few More Internet Terms With Which To Familiarize Yourself
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of why you need to maintain control of your domain, let’s continue getting your web vocabulary up to speed.
DNS: This is short for “Domain Name Server” or “Domain Name System.” It’s a server that translates a web address into one or more IP addresses.
IP Address: Your website lives on a web server and has a specific address assigned to it, called an “IP address,” which stands for “Internet protocol address.” Your IP address, which points to your website, is made up of four segments separated by a period (for example 123.456.789.123).
Registrar: A registrar is a company that you purchase and register your domain name with. Popular registrars include GoDaddy, Tucows, Hover, Network Solutions, eNom, and Google Domains. Some web hosting companies also offer domain registration.
Most registrars have a pretty easy-to-use control panel that will allow you to make updates to your domain name, specify who in your company is in control of it, and what nameservers it points to.
Why is it important to have control of your domain name registration?
Having control over your domain is important. After all, it’s your brand’s online home. Losing access is not only a stressful ordeal, but it could also put your business at risk.
So you are definitely going to want to stay involved in the process.
Losing Control: Common Situations
We’ve seen some of these scenarios play out for our clients. The situations are more common than we would prefer.
Agencies Register the Domain
In some instances, agencies take it upon themselves to register a domain for their client, but they can’t turn over the keys just yet because the domain is registered under their own account, along with hundreds of other domains that they own.
When someone else registers your domain on your behalf under their own account, there is a 60-day period that the domain is locked. It can’t be transferred to a new owner, and frequently, the domain doesn’t get handed over after that period. It just falls off the radar and nobody remembers to follow up on the domain transfer.
Domain Never Handed Over
Or there have been times when the web company that created the site finishes their work, but forget to go through the domain transfer process upon completion. And so the client never receives access to their domain.
Employee Leaves the Company
Oh, and then there is the fun situation where the company actually has access to their domain. Everything is going smashingly well until the credit card on file with the domain registrar expires.
That wouldn’t be a big deal, except the one person at the company who knew where the domain was registered quit to go live their best life. Now, the domain is expired and nobody has any idea how to log in and pay to get the site back up and running.
What if my domain is being held hostage?
Sometimes, you know exactly who has your domain and unfortunately, they are not friendly folks.
Maybe the agency that built your site has your domain. They can give it to you, but not until your billing dispute is resolved.
And then there are the dreaded cybersquatters. Also called “domain squatting,” cybersquatting is the practice of using a domain name to profit by infringing on a trademark or holding a domain name hostage for profit at an inflated price.
Cybersquatting reached an all-new high in 2017 according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The biggest industries to get dinged were banking/finance, fashion, and Internet/IT. These sectors accounted for nearly a third of all cybersquatting disputes handled by WIPO.
How to Reclaim Your Domain Name
You may run into sticky situations like these where you don’t know how to gain access to your domain, or worse, someone doesn’t want to fork it over to you. But there may be a way you can get access before the company attorney gets involved.
First, start by identifying your domain host. Google recommends three ways to go about finding this information.
One of the fastest options is to use the WHOIS lookup, which is as easy as entering your website’s address into a search field and clicking “lookup.” Just look for your registrar in the results and go to their website. Here are the results for our company site:
Sometimes, just reaching out to the registrar can allow you to take steps to prove that you are the true owner of the domain, such as proof that you’ve paid for the domain. If that doesn’t work, a letter from a lawyer might also help you start the process of transferring the domain to its rightful owner.
Steps to Prevent Losing Access to Your Domain
There are ways to safeguard yourself against a lapse in ownership of the domain.
When you buy a house, you don’t just make one set of keys. You make copies and give them to a few trusted people. Managing your domain is no different.
Take some steps to protect your kingdom:
- Use a separate email address to register your domain name – For safety reasons, don’t list a domain-specific email. It could be an invitation for hackers to access your DNS controls.
- Secure your registration – Many domains allow for privatized registration so that your email and phone number aren’t listed publicly.
- Lock your domain – Domain locking keeps it from being transferred to another party or modified by cybercriminals.
- Limit third-party access – If a web developer or contractor had access to your account at any point, be sure to change the contact information and password once they’ve wrapped up work.
- List more than one authorized contact – If one of the contacts leaves the company, or isn’t readily available in a domain emergency, it’s always good to have a backup contact.
Claim the Realm
Hopefully, now that you understand that having control over your domain doesn’t have to be left to your IT department or an ad agency, you can go forward with confidence.
And if you’ve lost control of your domain, the time to take control over what is rightfully yours has come. We wish you well on your journey. Godspeed.