Domain Name Reservations

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Domain Name Reservations: a reader asks…

I am a small business owner and have a website that was setup by someone who used to work for me. They’re long gone now and I don’t have anyone with skills in this area. I think I can handle making updates to the website itself (it’s on “WordPress”), but something came up and I don’t know what to do. I received an email saying that my ‘domain name reservation’ was due to expire shortly, and that I should renew early to save money. Ok, so I don’t even know what that is. Can you tell me what it is and what to do?

So in a nutshell, you are renting a few things to keep your online presence active. First, you are renting your domain name (i.e., the address that’s part of your website URL). For me, that’s “positek.net”. Second, you’re renting file storage space and processing power for a server (computer) on the internet that holds your website files. And third, you were renting someone’s time who had the savvy to maintain and update your domain name reservation, website hosting space, and website. Fyi, there are a lot of companies that provide these services, including my own.

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In the case of the first two of these three rentals, they are managed by one or two service companies. One of the oldest is Network Solutions although you may be using GoDaddy, HostGator, Bluehost, etc. All of these companies will provide both the domain name reservation and website hosting services, although I would advise most clients to use one company for domain name reservation services, and another company for website hosting services.

In these cases, you would log into your user account online with the service that you use. In the case of your domain name reservation, it’s possible that your former employee setup a user account under their own name, and you might have trouble gaining access to that account. Probably the first thing you should do is check the Whois database for your domain name, to see when it’s due to expire and who holds the reservation. You can go to https://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp and type in the domain name to get information. You’ll get a simple list of information that may be difficult to parse, so I suggest you pay attention to just these lines:

  1. Registrar Registration Expiration Date and Registrar
  2. Registrant Name and Registrant Phone or Email
  3. Name Server (there are two entries)

whois-registration-information

The Registrar information one will tell you what company serves as the agent for the domain name reservation. The agent is who you pay to reserve your domain name for a term of xx years. Once the reservation expires (if you don’t renew it), then anyone else can reserve your domain name, you only have exclusive rights to it with an active reservation. The expiration date will tell you when your current reservation term expires.
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Be aware that many unscrupulous companies may send you notices of domain name renewal, who are not your current registration agent. These are simply marketing attempts to get you to switch registrars. Unless you plan on switching agents, you should never pay attention to domain name registration communications from anyone other than your agent organization.

The Registrant information is the person or company that has reserved the domain name from the agent. This should be you or your company. Or, it could be a company that is acting as a ‘reseller’ for this domain name reservation service (as I do). And in some cases you may see such information masked when so-called ‘private registration’ has been enabled. In that case you can only know the company that manages the domain name reservation, e.g., the agent.

The Name Server entries show the exact name of the server computer that is hosting your website. It can be a server owned by the registration agent, or a different company that’s hosting your website. If you are using two companies for these two services (domain name reservation and webhosting), then you should have two sets of login credentials, one for each company. Again, this/these may have been set up by your employee to them self instead of your company.

You’ll also see entries such as Admin and Tech, these should all reflect the same as the registrant. If they don’t, you have two possible other people to contact. Because each of these entries (Registrant, Admin and Tech) are individual humans (or companies) that have full control over the domain name reservation. They are the ones you’ll need to contact if you need to do anything with the reservation. Hopefully, these entries for your domain name reflect you and/or your company, in which case you simply need to gain access to the registrar’s website and log into your account to renew the domain name or make any other changes.

spokeo-people-search-screenshotIf it turns out that the domain name was reserved under that former employee’s name (personally, versus your company), then you have no choice but to track that person down and get access to the domain name reservation account. You can setup a new account with any domain name registrar, and then request a transfer of that domain name to your account, but the original registrar won’t make the transfer without the current owner’s permission. If you need it, there are plenty of skip-tracer outfits online that you can use to try to find the person.

As with most things on the internet, a user account is tied to an email address (which is often also the username) and password. If the former employee used your company’s email system/service, then you actually control their email address – you can access their email account. Then you can take over control of the domain name reservation (and website hosting agreement). If the former employee used a personal email account, then you are stuck with having to get their permission to transfer the domain name reservation (and website hosting service) to you. In reality, these online services are tied to an email account and any changes to those accounts requires access to that email account. It really doesn’t matter who’s account that is, all that matters is being able to access the account so you can approve changes.

If you let me know your domain name, I can check into the registration and give you more specific instructions.

 

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