I was chatting with someone recently who was telling me a story about the grief she had trying to separate herself from the person who hosted her website. I say person, not company, because apparently, the site was hosted on the server of her tech consultant, who had built her website when she first started her business.
She was ready for a new website, and wanted to start clean with a new host. The problem was that she did not own her domain name. Her tech consultant had bought it for her, but not in her name! For weeks she was having a hard time getting him to respond to her calls and emails to get the domain transferred to her. She finally got it straightened out without a lawyer, but not without a lot of headache.
While this is an unusual situation, it does happen, so protect yourself and your business.
Own it. Your domain name is unique and not easily replaceable. It should be owned by you, using your credit card, and you should have the login credentials, so that if you want to make a change, you can.
How can you check the status and ownership of your domain? If you search for ‘Whois’, you’ll find dozens of sites that will provide you with the information about your domain name. http://www.whois.net is an example.
Make sure at the very least that your name, address and email address are listed as the Registrant. And that the Administrative and Technical contacts are either you or someone that you trust. It is not unusual for the Technical contact to be listed as your tech person or web developer.
In the listing you will also see the name of the domain registrar and an indication of where the site is hosted, as well as the date the domain needs to be renewed. Check that the email address listed is accurate because that will be used by the registrar to contact you when it is time for renewal, and to let you know if your credit card information needs updating.
If anything on your WHOIS page doesn’t look right, or there is something you don’t understand, take care of it before it becomes a pressing issue, by contacting the person who set up the domain, or contacting the domain registrar.
Speaking of renewal, if you receive a renewal notice by postal mail, chances are it is an advertisement from some company trying to trick you into transferring your domain registration to them. Typically, renewals come by email. Be aware.
Make sure you own it.