Domain Names: More than just an address

You’ve come into the office early, turned on the computer ready to read your e-mails and get a head start on the busy day ahead.

Your e-mails aren’t coming through, so you go and check your website to see if it’s running. It’s down too, but the Internet works. So you figure it’s probably a web hosting issue. You call your host to find out everything is working on their end. What could it be?

This is usually around the time I get a frantic phone call from an upset client who needs their site back up and running and more often than not there’s not a lot I can do, apart from offer some advice on who to contact.

The problem? The domain name has expired, shutting down the website and e-mail. Why weren’t they notified about the upcoming expiry? The domain name registration was set-up with an ex-employee’s e-mail address that was no longer active so notifications were ending up in cyberspace.

Your domain name is the major controller of your website. It’s very important that you have full access to your own domain name. If a web company, employee or agency has purchased this name on your behalf, you should ensure you’re listed as a contact. It’s also a good idea to have a secondary contact person listed. If for some reason one e-mail address isn’t receiving notifications you have a backup e-mail address.

If you’re not listed as a contact with your domain name company (also known as domain registrars) you’ll have a very hard time trying to gain access to it. Often you’ll be required to prove you’re the owner of the domain (in the form of passport ID, driver’s license, company pay slips – a lot of information that you may not want to send via fax to who knows who).

As it’s becoming more and more difficult to obtain lost user names and passwords and secret questions from registrars, it’s crucial to store these details somewhere secure.

A few important things to note:

  1. Domain names are often purchased for a duration of one year, after that time you’ll need to renew your domain.
  2. You need access to your domain name if you want to:
    • Switch hosting companies or move your site to another web server.
    • Purchase a Security Certificate (SSL) for your domain (although you can purchase an SSL from a different registrar than your domain, it’s often easier to use the same company).
    • Forward your domain name to another web address.
    • Renew your domain.
    • Transfer your domain to another registrar.

How will domain name companies contact me?
Most domain registrars will only contact you by e-mail, however after recent dealings with a popular registrar, it seems they now won’t send password reset information to email addresses due to security issues. Which means you’re waiting on snail mail to receive your password information. If your mailing address doesn’t match the address on file, they won’t be able to send the documentation to you. Pretty backwards for a web based company!

Also be aware of companies contacting you by regular mail. The Domain Registry of Canada is one that prompts calls from clients stating, “I just received this registration information in the post, should I renew it?”

In the case of the majority of my clients, who are registered with DirectNic.com, these messages are solicitation; and the domain is due to expire for another 6 months.

How do I check that my domain registrar has my correct contact details?
Firstly make sure you know who your domain registrar company is; if you don’t know then start by running a Whois on your domain name: http://www.whois.net/

If you know your registrar, go to their website and log in. Don’t know your username and password? Now’s a good time to obtain that information. Ask whoever registered your domain if they still have the information. If they don’t, then you’ll need to request the password be reset.

Once you have access to your domain, check that that mailing address, associated e-mail addresses and people registered to act on behalf of your domain is correct.

What should you do if your domain name expires?
The answer to this question will relate to how long your domain name has been expired for and who your domain registrar is. Most registrars give you a grace period to renew your domain. If you don’t renew your name within that timeframe, the domain will go into redemption and you’ll be required to pay somewhere around $200 and file a bunch of paper work to get your domain name back.

Not a situation you want to be in, all the while your website and e-mail addresses will be inactive.

Make it a yearly practice to ensure your domain name information is up-to-date so you’re not frantically trying to get your website and e-mail back up and running again, especially on a busy day.

Peaks Media Inc. specializes in WordPress Website Development. We offer a full range of web solutions: Content Management Systems (CMS), eCommerce, Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Our sites are interconnected using a variety of Social Networking Platforms.

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Cathy Earle

Cathy Earle is a WordPress Web Developer and Internet Consultant. She has been developing websites and consulting clients in Australia and North America for over 15 years.
Her degree in Public Relations and Management Communication, in addition to a 12 year career as owner of an independent publishing company, have proven beneficial to her work today — navigating the vast world of the internet and online marketing.

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