In the ever-expanding landscape of the digital world, where virtual territories are as valuable as physical ones, owning a domain name is akin to staking your claim on the internet. Your domain is not just an address for your website; it's a crucial piece of digital real estate that can significantly impact your online presence, brand identity, and even business success. So ask yourself this question: Do I own my domain name?
In this article we will explore what a domain is, how it works and why it’s important you maintain control of it.
The Basics: What is a Domain Name?
Before diving into the ownership aspect, let's clarify what a domain name is. In simple terms, a domain name is the human-readable address that users type into their browsers to access a specific website. For example, "www.yourdomain.com" is a domain name. It’s unique, much the same as a house address and once you have the registration no one else can purchase it but your registration can expire and if you don’t renew it you could find you lose control, which can mean losing your website and email addresses so it’s critical you check you have control.
Leasing vs. Owning: The Domain Dilemma
Many individuals and businesses often assume they own their domain names outright. However, the reality is a bit more nuanced. When you register a domain, you're essentially leasing it for a specific period, typically on an annual basis. Failing to renew your registration can result in losing control of your domain. So when we talk about domain ownership, we really mean your domain lease and you can renew it annually bi-annually or longer if you’d like.
At this point I want you to stop reading and take action. Find out who has control of your domain lease. Do you pay a domain registrar, such as 123-reg or GoDaddy or do you pay a developer or other 3rd party to renew the domain for you?
I pay a domain registrar
Good, so you have control over renewal. Next question for you, do you have access to their control panel?
Try logging into their control panel and reset any logins if it fails, make sure you have the ability to update name servers, should the situation ever arise as this is the ultimate control over your brand.
I pay a 3rd party developer
OK, you’re not alone here but you are leaving your brand exposed. What happens if the 3rd party become unresponsive, or forget to renew your domain? You could be left in limbo with no website and no email addresses. Contact your 3rd party now and ask them to create a registrar account that you can access and transfer the domain into it. They can still have access for the technical requirements but you then have control should something happen to them.
The Risks of Non-Ownership
If you’re still thinking you don’t need control as someone else takes care of it then just beware of the risks you’re taking:
Expiration and Loss of Control
If you forget to renew your domain registration or fail to do so for any reason, after a grad period, someone else can swoop in and register it. This leaves your website without a recognisable address and can cause significant disruptions to your online presence. Ultimately your website and emails will simply stop working. This can be a temporary problem but can also lead to being a permanent problem.
Opportunistic individuals may register expired domains, hoping to sell them back to the original owner at a premium. This practice, known as cyber squatting, can lead to legal battles and added expenses. This, in most case, will be a permanent problem, without great expense in both time and money.
Brand and Reputation Damage
Losing control of your domain not only affects your online visibility but can also harm your brand's reputation. Unscrupulous individuals could use your domain for malicious purposes, tarnishing your image. It’s also worth considering if you should own more than one domain so your have your domain.com, your domain.co.uk, your domain.uk etc, to ensure you protect from others trying to damage your brand or mirror your brand. This, again, would be a permanent problem and you would have to rebuild your brand, under a different name, and publicise to all that you have changed name and web address. It could take a long time to recover from.
The Importance of Ownership
There are lots of technical points about how a domain name works. You may have heard of DNS records, MX records, nameservers and SSL certificates and I’m not going to dive into all of those here but essentially these records tell the internet where to go when looking for your website, which server it sits on and also where your email addresses are hosted. You can host your website in a different location to your emails and you can control the security level you use for website and email access.
As a business owner you won’t want to deal with these technicalities but the key to this whole article is that you can control who does deal with it. If your developer becomes unresponsive or you wish to move to a new hosting company you have the control to do that. If you want your emails to be moved to Office 365 or Google Workspace you have the control to do that.
The alternative is truly catastrophic and very stressful!
Owning your domain name is more than just a technicality; it's a strategic move to safeguard your digital presence. As the online landscape continues to evolve, understanding the nuances of domain ownership becomes increasingly vital. Take control of your digital destiny, secure your domain, and ensure that your online home remains your own.