Avoid Domain Name Headaches

Nearly every month, I receive at least a few questions from clients about renewing their domain names. They often receive official notices to renew their domain, but they aren’t sure if they are legit. Sometimes they are. Quite often they are not.

And I’ve helped new clients through the hassles of recovering a user name and password from a domain registrar. It can take weeks and be a headache.

The bottom line: It’s very, very important that you keep track of your domain name and some specific information about your registration. It’s easy and involves just a few bits of information, but it can become very, very crucial.

Now, did I say “very, very” enough? It's not necessarily urgent, but when the time comes, failure can put your company out of business for a day or a week. I've seen it happen. That's pretty crucial in my book.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Basics

There are a few pieces of the puzzle you should understand.

  • Domain Name: It’s your web address like PacesetterMedia.com
  • Domain Registrar: A company that registers domains for you. It costs between $10 and $35 a year. You simply visit a registrar’s web site (there are lots of them), check if a domain is available, and if it is, pay the yearly fee to own a domain. I usually recommend GoDaddy.com.
  • Web Hosting: This is where your web site is physically stored. A web site is a collection of text, photo and multimedia files stored on a high-speed web server with a high-speed internet connection 24 hours a day, which is exactly what you get with web hosting service. Small businesses typically lease the service, and it usually includes e-mail for your domain.
  • Visitor: Well, this one’s easy…a person who visits your web site.

A Gross Oversimplification of How It All Works

Before giving the explanation, I have to give this caveat: This explanation is ludicrously inadequate to a web techy. There’s lots of cool networking magic behind the scenes, but business owners and managers don’t need to know it. So I’m billing this as “A Gross Oversimplification of How It All Works.” You’ll get that exactly. So here goes.

  1. A visitor types your domain in the address field of a browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari or clicks a link to visit your site.
  2. The registrar for your domain points that user to the correct hosting computer somewhere on the internet.
  3. The hosting server responds by sending your home page to the visitor.
  4. The visitor continues clicking around your site to his heart’s content and finally buys gobs of your products and services. You subsequently have a prosperous, happy life

So in Step 2, the registrar is an important step in getting the visitor to your site.

Recommendations

Register your domains yourself.

If you already have your domains, go to the next recommendation.Wh

Even if you hate computers, gut your way through this. Don’t delegate this one thing. Or if you have to, delegate it carefully. Then go on to the next recommendation.

By the way, I often recommend GoDaddy.com for domain registration. They are a legitimate, established company and only charge about $10 a year per domain.

Know Your Registrar and keep the user name and password safely on file.

We created a savable and printable PDF to help you save this information. Get The PDF.

Imagine the worst case: Your web guy (or gal) falls off the face of the earth. First, please take a moment of silence, but soon after that you’ll need to manage your web presence. At a minimum, you’ll need the ability to move your web site to another web design company. (I highly recommend Pacesetter Media, of course.) To move your site, you need to Know Your Registrar.

Don’t wait on this. I’ve seen horror stories when a new client calls telling me they can't contact their webmaster, and they don't have the user name and password for their registrar accounts. Registrars are rightfully very diligent about making you prove who you are when you try to recover security information, and I’ve seen it take weeks sometimes. Your web site and e-mail could be down for weeks because you can’t move your site…ouch.

At a minimum, keep this information on file where you can find it:

  • Registrar Web Site
  • User Name
  • Password

Know the expiration dates of your domains.

If your domain registration expires, your whole web presence breaks, so know the expiration dates of your domains, and renew before they expire.

Check your domain registration and contact info once a year.

It's a good idea for you, and ICANN, the top level group that manages domain names, requires registrants (that’s you) to verify their contact info once a year.

BTW: ICANN stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. How’s that for an acronym? Those techies who run the internet sure know how to mash letters together. You should try reading their technical bulletins. It’s a great way to break your insomnia. www.ICANN.org

So I recommend that you

  • Log in to your registrar once a year.
  • FIRST TIME ONLY: Confirm that you or your company is the Registrant (owner) of the domain. I’ve seen companies that hired a web designer to register a domain, and the designer made himself the registrant. MAKE SURE YOU ARE THE REGISTRANT ON RECORD.
  • Verify your domain(s) expiration dates.
  • Synchronize expirations so they are all in the same month. (GoDaddy.com offers this service for minimal fees.)
  • Renew upcoming expirations.
  • Verify your contact info.

However you manage yearly to-do items for your business, put this one in the cycle, too.