Your domain name is one of your most valuable business assets, yet there are many pitfalls for the unwary that can result in losing your domain name. Follow the tips below to make sure this does not happen to you.
Keep your domain name and hosting separate
Most web hosting companies will offer to register your domain name for you, and many domain name registrars also offer web hosting. As per the old saying, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, I prefer to always keep these two things separate, to know I can always move my site to wherever I want to host it, whenever I want to do so. Here’s why:
- In a worst-case scenario, some disreputable companies may register your domain name under their own name rather than yours, or otherwise make it very difficult to move your website to a different hosting company should you desire to do so later.
- Even if the company has done the right thing to begin with, things go wrong – companies go bust, get taken over by other companies and the service declines, your web developer arranged the hosting for you and has vanished off the face of the earth – or any other scenario where you find yourself wanting to quickly move your site to another hosting company. While in most cases it should still be possible to do so, having both functions tied up together can add hoops for you to jump through, unnecessarily complicating the process. It gives me peace of mind to know that if anything does go wrong, I am in complete control of the domain and can quickly and simply move it to wherever I want it.
So who should I register with?
Make sure the company you are registering with is an accredited registrar. In Australia the .au Domain Administration Ltd (auDA) keeps a list of accredited registrars.
There is also an international list of approved registrars maintained by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Keep your contact details up to date with the registrar
Your domain name registrar should send you warning emails leading up to the time when your domain name is due for renewal, so make sure you keep your contact details up-to-date so you can receive these notifications.
Make sure that they also have an email address that is not linked to the domain, such as a Gmail or Yahoo account – remember, that if there’s a problem with your domain name, you will lose access to the domain’s email accounts as well.
Know who your domain is registered with, and when it’s due for renewal
I can’t stress this one enough. When you register your domain name, you will receive a welcome email, with all your login details for managing that domain name. Keep this email safe, and always refer back to it when you want to do anything with your domain name.
Many unsuspecting people have been caught out by a number of unscrupulous spammers, who send out either hardcopy letters, or emails, advising you that it is time to renew your domain name, and requesting a (usually inflated) sum of money to do so.
At best, they are trying to trick you into moving your domain registration to their company (and subsequently make it difficult to move it back again). At worst, they may just take your money and run, without doing anything to your domain at all. Some of the companies that I’ve received these kind of scams from include:
• Domain Registry of America
• Domain Renewal Group
These letters look very official, and it can be easy to get sucked in by them – unless of course, you know very well that they are not the company you registered with!
Too late, I’ve lost my domain name! What can I do?
So you got up this morning and found your site is down, and suddenly remember that email from the registrar that you kept putting off dealing with. If your domain has only just expired, don’t panic! There is a grace period, and it goes through a number of stages:
• “Expired” status – 40 days. In this period, you can still renew your domain for the normal renewal fee. The site and your email will still be down until you do, but if you log in to your registrar, you should be able to just pay the fee to get your site up again.
• “Redemption” phase – 30 days. You can still renew the domain during this period, but there will be an extra fee. It may also be a longer and more complicated process to renew once it has reached this phase.
• “Pending delete” phase – 5 days. The domain is locked during this phase. You can’t renew it, and nobody else can buy it yet. Really, by this time it’s too late – the domain will be released back into the pool of available domain names, and you will need to compete with anyone else who wants that name to get it back again.
OK, I’ve missed the redemption period, how do I get the name back?
If you’re feeling lucky, you can take your chances and try and snap it up the minute it becomes available. I wouldn’t recommend this one though, as there are companies that buy up expiring domain names, just so they can ‘park’ them with ads on them for a while, and see if they can make money either from that, or from the previous owner willing to pay an inflated price for the domain. They are able to automate this process, sending repeated hits to the server much quicker than you can manually refresh your screen, so if they are after your domain, there’s a good chance they’ll get it.
The other option, is to go to one of the domain backorder services, who, for a fee, will watch the domain for you and try to grab it. Like the ‘domain squatters’, they automate the process, and so are much more likely to get hold of the domain for you. There are a number of companies that offer this service, which is outside the scope of this article, but if you are interested in this, have a look at Mike Davidson’s excellent article on How to Snatch an Expiring Domain. After reading Mike’s article last year, I managed to successfully get hold of a domain I wanted for a reasonable price, so his article is definitely worth a read, whether you’re trying to back your own domain, or have one that you have your eye on. (Hopefully after reading this blog post, you will only need his advice for the latter scenario, and not the former!)
Thanks to Mike’s article above, and to Cyberindian for information on the phases that expired domains go through.