Nov 22, 2013 • Jessica Jones
Recently we posted about the soon to be available new gTLDs and what they mean to you. Discussing gTLDs inevitably leads to discussion of what your ideal domain would be - if you’re lucky, you may already have your ideal domain. If not,the new gTLDs will give you plenty of fresh opportunities.
Chances are, though, if you have a website, you have a domain. But do you know how to access that domain?
The answer to this question is more important than you may realize. We regularly meet business and organization leaders who know that they have a domain but have no idea where that domain is registered or who is listed as the Administrative Contact for that domain.
This was touched on in an earlier post about choosing and securing your domain name - in that post Daniel recommended that, when registering a domain, you make certain that the domain is registered using your name and email address rather than that of the web developer who may be helping you with the process.
Your domain may already be registered, however, and if this is the case it is extremely important that you be aware of who controls it. There are three pieces of information that every business or organization leader should know about their domain:
Where it is registered.
Who is listed as the Administrative Contact.
How to log in to the account that the domain is associated with.
What does all of this mean and why is it important?
All registered domains are registered through a registrar - a company that manages and reserves domain names. If you’ve worked with a web developer, they may handle registration - many Slamdot customers have their domains registered through us. Some of the more popular public registrars are GoDaddy, Network Solutions and Register.com, though there are many companies to choose from.
Domain name registration is billed in annual increments. It is possible to pay for multiple years of registration at a time, meaning your domain may very well be paid up for the next five years, but this is information that you need to be aware of. When is your registration due for renewal? If you don’t know you can find out through your registrar - and, of course, your registrar is who you will need to pay when it comes due.
If you allow your registration to expire your website will go down, no matter where it is hosted. The domain name will no longer perform its function of directing users to your site. Upon expiration the domain will go into a period known as redemption - meaning that, while your site will be down, your registrar will hold on to that domain for 30 days, during which you still have the opportunity to renew it - for an extra fee. The amount of that fee varies depending on the registrar.
If you still do not renew your domain it will be released back to public availability, and there is a very high likelihood that it will be purchased very quickly - if not by someone who actually plans to use it, then by someone who hopes to sell it back to you at an inflated rate. Once your domain has been released back to the public there is no guarantee that you will ever be able to regain it - and if you do, it may be for a steep price.
Don’t let your website go down or, worse, lose your domain because you didn’t know the details of your registration! Stay aware of when your registration expires and who you need to pay to renew it.
But shouldn’t the registrar let you know when your domain is about to expire so that you don’t lose track? Yes - these notifications will be sent to the person listed as the Administrative Contact on the account.
If the account was originally set up by someone who is no longer with your company, while they may have turned the login information for that account over to you, that person may still be listed as the Administrative Contact. Or, if you registered it yourself, you may have switched email addresses and your old email address could be listed. Either of these scenarios would result in notices regarding your domain being sent to an address where you may never receive them.
It isn’t only registration renewal reminders that you might miss - if you should choose to switch registrars you will need to go through a verification process. That process is conducted through email and those emails are sent to the Administrative Contact. If you don’t - or cannot - respond to those emails you will not be able to transfer your domain.
If you’ve realized that your Administrative Contact information is out of date, how do you update it? If you log in to your account with your registrar there will be, somewhere on any registrar’s site, an option for updating this information. If you don’t know the username and password for that account, however, you won’t be able to make these changes.
The Administrative Contact information isn’t the only important update you may need to make, either. If you decide to change who hosts your website then you or your web developer will need to make changes through your registrar to direct your domain to your new hosting account. If you are unable to access the domain then it will be essentially stuck pointing to an old website or, even worse, nothing at all if your old hosting account has been cancelled.
Always make certain that you retain that access - being unable to make changes to the account can, in some cases, be as detrimental as losing the domain entirely.
If you have no idea where to start finding this information, the Domain WHOIS Lookup Tool is a good place to begin. The amount of information you get will vary greatly depending on several factors - which registrar you use, whether you (or whoever registered the domain) signed up for private registration, etc. - so there is no guarantee, but in some cases you can find out the registrar as well as the name and email address of the Administrative Contact.
This is a situation that we see fairly regularly at Slamdot - usually there is a happy ending after some research and investigation, but unfortunately the happy ending is not guaranteed. Sometimes we have to prepare clients for the possibility that access to their domain may not be retrievable.
Even if technology isn’t your strong suit and you leave the website management to someone else in your company or organization, being aware of where your domain is registered and how to access it is simply good business sense. Protect yourself from the possibility of losing an important part of your brand!