What many small business owners don’t realise until it’s too late is that if you don’t have control over your domain, you can’t effectively manage your email or website properly. You’re essentially handing over control and in some cases ownership of your website and email to a third party.
Imagine for a moment your business has moved into a brand new premises. There’s signage on the front of the building, parking for your customers and it’s in a prime position so you’re getting loads of walk-ins and business on account of the free advertising from your signage.
Now imagine for a moment that the contractor who set up your signage, organised the fit out of your store and set up all your shelving, etc had complete control over your store and it’s advertising, sales and communication elements. Let’s imagine you wanted to move to a better location but you couldn’t, because the contractor you had set everything up controls everything and is either uncontactable or wants to charge you exorbitant fees for the move.
‘But it’s not even his stuff’ I hear you say... ‘I paid him only to set it up, technically it’s mine!’.
You’re perfectly entitled to think that way, but at the end of the day it all comes down to who’s name is on the ownership and who has control of it. This is the same unfortunate situation many small businesses find themselves in with their domain names and it’s not until something happens and they find their email is down or their website doesn’t work they soon start to realise someone else has control over one of the most important aspects of their business communication.
If you don’t own and control your domain, you can’t control your email. Why would you willingly give up ownership of email your business can send and receive?
The important difference between control and ownership of a domain
It’s incredibly important to note there’s a difference between ownership of a domain and control of a domain. Ideally businesses should have control over both, but in some circumstances they only have access to one, or worse have neither ownership or control over their domains. This is a precarious situation for any business to be in because it means the proverbial website and email rug can be ripped from under them at any moment.
What does it mean to have ownership of a domain?
When a domain name is registered, particularly a .com.au, the person registering it needs to provide name, contact and business details like ABN, business address, etc. The details on this ‘registrant record’ ultimately decide who has ‘ownership’ of the domain name. Sometimes, web developers that don’t know any better, don’t care or don’t want customers to have control setup domain names for their clients under their own business details. This means that technically the web developer own the domain name.
Many times this isn’t an issue and your website and email will continue to run as long as the person who set it up originally continues to renew your domain name for you. The issue arises when that person stops paying the bill or you need to get into your domain name for some reason.
Here’s a story we’ve heard many times before:-
- Small business gets ‘friend’ or ‘super cheap deal’ to set up domain name, website and email
- Email and website runs fine for a time
- Email stops working and website is down
- Small business tries to contact ‘friend’ only to find they don’t respond
- Small business continues to contact ‘friend’ only to find they have disappeared off the face of the earth
- Small business calls reputable company like Marketeam to assist
- Small business learns the difficult lesson of not controlling or owning their domain name
- It’s worth making sure you have ownership AND control over your domain name to ensure you don’t ever find yourself in this situation.
What’s the worst that can happen if someone else controls or owns your domain?
It’s worth playing devil’s advocate for a few minutes here to really hammer home how important it is to have ownership and control of your domain. Here’s what can happen if someone else has control and/or ownership of your domain name:-
- Your domain name will lapse if they don’t pay the bill to renew every year / two years
- Your website will go down and emails will cease working if the domain isn’t renewed
- They can rightfully put your domain on the market and sell it as they technically own it
- If your domain lapses and someone else purchases it, you will need to pay their price to get it back (This happened to a person who called us for our assistance, the party that snapped up this person’s domain name wanted $5,000 for the domain. Far too much for a small restaurant to pay)
- They can change DNS records to route email to wherever they want
- They could sell your domain to your competitor who could then set up emails using your domain and receive enquiry emails that are supposed to be coming to you
Now we’ve never seen the last point happen in the wild, but it’s certainly possible. All the other points, we’ve seen and had to help customers solve these issues. It’s never simple and takes a lot of time, phone calls, running around and filling out of forms to get these types of situations rectified. It’s much easier to ensure you control and own your domain name in the first place.
How to find out if you own your domain
The easiest way to find out whose details are attached to your domain name is to do a whois search. Simply go to http://whois.domaintools.com/ and add your domain name into the search box and it will tell you all sorts of information like:-
- Where your site is hosted
- The IP address of your server
- Registrar Name (this is the company where your domain name has been registered)
- Registrant details (who’s technically the owner of the domain name)
If you’ve done a whois search and you find the registrant details have someone else's name there (usually the ‘friend’ or ‘super cheap deal company’) then you may have some issues as you don’t technically own your domain name.
What to do if someone else has control over your domain name
If you’ve found yourself in the position of finding out your domain name has been set up by someone else and you don’t technically own it, don’t worry – we will run you through the steps you can take to wrestle your domain name back into your control.
What to do if your name isn’t on the registrant details of a domain
If you find someone else’s name is on the registrant details of your domain you will want to update the registrant details so they reflect your name and business. Ultimately you will want to transfer this domain name to an account that you control and to do that you will need a ‘domain key’ (sometimes called a secret key or domain password) as this will allow you to transfer the domain name away from the ‘friend’ or former website company and into your domain account.
Sometimes this proves difficult as you can’t contact the friend or previous company, but we’ve found that if you can get a hold of the person who has control of the domain, they’re usually pretty happy to offload the domain name as then they don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Sometimes they might even offer to start the transfer process for you (domain transfers can happen from either the sender or receiver account).
What to do if your domain name is in a reseller account
Sometimes web designers, graphic designers or IT people will offer to organise the registration of a domain for a customer, but fail to tell them it’s going to be put under a reseller account.
A reseller account is where a customer can contact a domain seller like Crazy Domains, Netregistry, Godaddy, etc and get their own portal to sell, manage and invoice domains. Then they can have all of their clients’ domain names under the one roof and manage them from a single control panel whilst usually getting a discounted rate for domains so they’re able to use reselling domains as a revenue stream.
This is very convenient however it really only benefits one party – the person with the reseller account. If your domain name is under a reseller account typically you:-
- Can’t make changes to your domain name easily
- Are required to contact the person or agency with the reseller account for any enquiries
- Can’t contact the domain registrar directly with enquiries of changes
- Can’t change DNS records (needed for loads of things from email setup to Google verifications, etc)
How to get your domain moved out of a reseller account
Getting your domain name out of a resellers account doesn’t have to be a lengthy, difficult process if you know what to ask. Here are the steps I usually walk people through to get their domain out of a reseller’s account and into an account that they control:-
- Ask the reseller – you might be surprised and they simply transfer your domain to an account you control
Note: this is much easier if you have an account with the same company as the reseller. Please be aware they may charge a fee for going through the process of transferring your account. This is at their discretion.
- Ask the domain registrar – Each domain registrar will have their own process to move domains from a reseller account into a private account. You will typically need:-
- Proof of business details (ABN, ACN, company letter, etc)
- Photo ID
- Proof of directorship (if a .com.au)
- Application form (sometimes these are online, sometimes they’re a PDF)
These are the two main avenues for getting your domain name removed from a reseller account. It’s best to make sure you’re civil with whoever has your domain name in their account as they have the ability to deny the request, depending on the domain registrar it’s registered with.
If you’re having issues with your domain name or would like some assistance getting your domain into an account you control, feel free to contact Marketeam on (07) 3882 3375 or request a quote and we will get in contact with you ASAP.