Control Your Domain Name, Control Your Future
Have you ever had a web company setup a website for you? Sure you have.
Have you ever had the company go belly up? Disappear? Or just go silent on you? Maybe.
After that, have you had problems like these?
your website goes off the air
a competitor buys your domain name because it expired
you get a new website and have no idea how to make it live
you change email services and can't get email because you have no access to your DNS records
I'd wager that for small businesses you can trace the root of these issues to a simple point: Who bought your domain name and who was involved in managing it? (Most of the time it probably wasn't you or you turned over control of your domain to someone else.
Your domain name is YOUR presence on the Internet.
Without direct control and protection for your domain name - all your hard work at building a brand can be undone by a few seemingly small errors.
Use a domain name provider (registrar) that offers good prices, DNS services, but doesn't try to get you to sign up for a ton of other often un-needed services.
Be choosy in who you use, you don't need to use the Registrar to host your website.
Clearly Identify your Domain Name as YOUR Asset in all relationships with web developers, companies, and marketing agencies. If you let someone else buy your domain for you, make sure that within the framework of your relationship with a supplier that the domain is clearly identified as YOUR asset - regardless of who pays for it.
If you terminate the relationship with a supplier, YOUR assets must be returned to you - including your domain registration.
Always use an email that is not the same as the domain for recovery and registration with the registrar. That way you won't loose access if something goes wrong with the domain name.
Renew domains BEFORE they expire.
Why is the Domain Name / Registrar so important?
In a sense, whomever controls the domain name at the registrar controls the keys to your organization's Internet and Email presence. This is simply because where you have your domain registered is where you define is called the DNS "point to".
The point to tells the internet where to ask for a translation of your domain name to a server address via this thing you've heard of - DNS. Someone who controls your domain name controls the flow of visitors to your website - they can make your site visible or make it invisible. They also can control the flow email addressed to you.
My advice to small business owners
Buy your own Domain Names with an account you control
Invite your vendor to manage aspects of the DNS without relinquishing control
Most registrar send multiple renewal alerts and emails. Read them. (Or setup auto-renew.)
DON'T lose the password information for the Registrar and use a very strong unique password or pass phrase for the registrar. If someone guesses your password they can steal your domains and disrupt your business.
Always setup a recovery email at a protected email address that doesn't have anything to do with the domain your registered.
Most services these days allow limited sharing or delegation of some settings that make it easy for a vendor to manage your DNS and thereby change email servers, add new websites, etc. Use sharing features so you vendors can manage your DNS without taking control of your domain name.
If your vendor buys and controls your domain name, then be sure they agree (in writing) that it is your asset and will be transferred/relinquished if and when your relationship ends.