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Ruminations from open’s internal braintrust

Expertise is organic. It must be constantly nurtured if it is to grow and flourish. This is one of the fundamental pillars of OPEN’s internal culture.

Marvin Chaulk, Vice-President, Senior Consultant
OPEN Communications

openblog

the opinions and musings behind the expertise

Blog Author: Catherina Murphy

Losing yourself on the Internet? Domain Ownership Tips for Small Companies

Catherina Murphy

Posted: July 11, 2013

Years ago, in an effort to establish your online presence and enter the digital century, you tasked a staff member to register a suitable domain name for your company. True to your plan, the company website and emails were soon up and running and all was right in the world. You even developed social media accounts and created your own YouTube channel. And just when you thought things were going as smooth as they could possibly be, WHAM!  Your email stopped working.

Noticing this early in the morning, you calmly place a call to technical support at your hosting company. After waiting patiently on the line for 10 minutes, a voice on the other end kindly informs you that your domain had expired. Apparently you did not register the domain through them and thus you would need to renew the domain yourself. All you need was the credentials to log in at the Registrar’s.

“The what?” you asked.

“The Domain Registrar”, came the reply, “where you registered for your domain.”

Hmmm. Sifting through the fog of your memory, you try to figure who took care of this for you. Was that that guy, Danny? Or perhaps it was that guy Bob, Danny’s brother-in-law, the tech guy who set everything up for us as a favour? Either way, you are in a pickle: Danny is no longer with your company – and hasn’t been for almost two years.

Now what?

Sensing your need, the helpful voice on the other end of the line volunteers, “Your Domain Registrar is XYZ. You will need to contact them.” Obediently, you contacted XYZ. The nice lady who answers advised that you could retrieve the login information via the “forgot username / password” link on the login page, and the information would be sent to the admin email address on record.  That’s precisely when you realized the email address in question, like the departed staff member, no longer exists with your company.

After many more minutes and questions involving a secret PIN, the last 4 digit of long-gone Bob’s credit card combined with Bob’s mother’s maiden name (eliciting the inevitable “how the heck do I know”), you were mercifully given a way out: Fill out and submit a form, along with photo IDs or documents to proof that you are the owner of the domain. Once the associated fee and required documentation is received and approved, you will regain access in about a week.

A week?!?!?

That’s right. This is how long you could potentially lose your electronic lifeline to all your clients and associates. Motivated to ensure you avoid this potential nightmare? Then read closely and always keep this best practices list in mind:

Good Housekeeping
Maintain a record of your domain ownership and information. Include login information, security questions and answers, expiry dates, name server and registrant information (much of this information can be found by performing a ‘whois’ at www.whois.net). File this information with all other important documents such as your web hosting or insurance information.

Accountability and Renewals
Assign a person or company to be in charge of domain management and renewals. Ensure this person has access to the admin email address on record for the domain. Utilize calendar alerts in your mail application or on your smart phone to remind you to renew your domain.

Renew Before Expiry
Do not wait until the last possible day to renew your domain, lest unexpected things should happen to delay the process. Once a domain is expired for a certain period of time, a redemption fee is often required in addition to the regular renewal fee before the domain can be renewed. Depending on the agreement set out by each Registrar, the expired domain may also be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

Many Domain Registrars offer auto-renew feature, which is a wise-choice to many. Also, a domain registration that lasts several years ranks higher in search engine results. Consider renewing your domain for multiple years.

Update Domain Registrant Information
Just like your driver’s license, you should always ensure that the admin contact information, in particular, the admin email address, at the Registrar is up-to-date, and that you have access to that email address. If you choose a company to register / manage your domain on your behalf, request to use your company information as the registrant’s information. Although this means diligence in forwarding domain associated emails to your management company, it allows absolute ownership and control over your domain.

Once the domain set up is complete, lock your domain and turn on the privacy option (if available) to prevent domain hijacking.

Professional Services
Do not fall prey to scams. Do not concern yourself with emails / mails warning you about the possibility of losing your domain, unless they are legitimate communications from your registrar (and if your account is not in good standing). When in doubt, contact the person / company responsible for domain management. Do NOT attempt to change any of the domain settings (such as DNS / NS info) without help from a professional.

Final Note
As you safeguard the deed to your house, so you should safeguard the domain registration of your online identity.
In the end, a little trouble goes a long way in ensuring your online assets remain yours.