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Domain Registration and Ownership

Every year I am reminded of the importance of Domain Registration and ownership of that domain. I have had many clients come to me over the years, asking for help in gaining access to their domain. Generally, because they want to move their domain from one web hosting provider to another. Problems arise when the owner of the company realizes that they do not actually own their business domain.

Many companies have the IT manager, office manager or any company employee who understands how to register a domain, register the company’s domain. This is not a problem, until 2 or 5 years later, when ABC Company wants to move web hosting providers and discovers they have no access to their own domains.

What generally happens, when businesses need to register a domain, is that the employee uses a lot of their own personal information to register the domain. They may even create the account under their own name, using their own personal email, particularity if this is a new business or the first web site for an existing business.

So how can you, as a business owner, protect yourself? First, have the employee create the account under your name or the business owner’s name. Second, if they must use their email account to register the domain at first, make sure you have access to the account and change the contact information to your email address.

When you hire a consultant or a web hosting company to establish your web presence, make sure they use your business information. NEVER allow another company to put their information under the Administrative contact.

Contact. You, as the business owner should always be under the Administrative Contact. If you have a web designer or hosting provider helping you manage your site, it is okay for them to be under the Technical Contact.

Whoever is listed under the Administrative Contact is the owner of the domain. Make sure that all the contact information is pointing to your business. Even if John Doe is the Administrator and he is no longer at your company 5 years later, you can at least request the account information be updated from the registrar. They may require you to provide letterhead and business license information, but you would still have a chance to gain control of your domain. If all contact information is pointing towards your employee, it would require a lot more time and expense to gain ownership again.

If you do not know who is listed as the owner of your domain, you can look up the whois record at sites like Domain Tools. If you see anything referencing privacy, you may have privacy protection (keeps your email and other information private to avoid spamming) on your domain. You may need to have access to that feature, which may require a separate account. Some registrars create an additional account for the privacy on top of the domain account.

The Administrative Contact will receive all notifications of domain expiration, so it is important that the email address remain up-to-date in order to avoid your domain expiring without your knowledge.

Domains are the most important part of your web presence. Domains cannot be replicated and if you lose control of them, they are extremely difficult to get back, if at all. Your domain is part of your business and should be owned by your business.