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Every month, I work with small business owners trying to work on their websites, renew domain registrations, or change web hosting services and less than half of them have positive control over their online identity and access to their accounts.  The rest I have to inform, sadly, that their webmaster was not really their friend and they (the customer) do not own the domain they they think they own and have paid for all these past years. I then let the customer know that I perform “domain recovery” and show them the way to restore their independence and protect their online image.

I wonder sometimes who is more angered by webmasters who still practice these tactics to keep their clients held hostage, me or the customers I help?  The reasons why it happens are numerous, but most center around to uniformed customers trusting a webmaster too much.  So, with that said, my hope is that the information I share here will help keep (or get you) out of trouble. Remember: It’s your domain, you paid for it!


These key questions below will tell you all you need to know about your partnership with your registrar/domain manager:

Q: When you signed up for your domain, were you provided with administrative access to your domain?

YES: This is how it should be.

NO: No access means no control. This arrangement is fine if you really don’t know what to do and trust the company your are working with and plan to stay with them for the life of the domain and believe they will be in business just as long. Often limited or no access to domain registration and dns management indicates you are shopping with a bulk purchaser who must acquire and manage domains under their primary account. They are a re seller for a larger, more prominent registrar.

Q: Is your domain actually registered in your name (or your company’s name)?

YES: This is how it should be.

NO: If you are not listed as the registrant, you do not legally own that domain. Records that are much over a week old with invalid registrant information shows that whomever registered your domain “for you” didn’t finish setting your domain up properly and may not plan to.

Q: Is the domain registrant email your email?

YES: This is how it should be.

NO: You will never receive emails from the registrar of record regarding your domain. Should you have a falling out with whomever registered your domain, you will have to go through a difficult (and sometimes painful) process to gain access to your own domain registration to transfer, renew and manage your domain registration.

Q: Do you have access to your dns records?

YES: This is how it should be. DNS records can be managed at the Registrar or hosting server level depending on your Registrar. Both are acceptable, legitimate operating norms.
If your DNS is managed at the hosting server level, you still should have access to your Nameserver settings. Be sure that you have access to this information .

NO: You cannot make any changes without going though the ones holding the keys.  That means mail servers settings, hosting changes, everything.  They control your domain. If you do not have access on the hosting server it may mean you are on a shared server and do not have an individual account that you can manage- or even worse your site is being hosted as a sub domain on your webmaster’s account. This arrangement is only fine for as long as the friendship lasts & is not a professional arrangement (and often in violation of hosting policy guidelines determined by the owner of the server).

Q: Do you fear that leaving your current provider you will lose your domain and your website?

YES: IF this is your current situation, please call me immediately! You paid for it, it’s yours, and you are free to do what you want with your property.

NO: This is the way it should be.

If you answered no to any of the questions but the last, contact the company that set your domain up “in your name” and ask to have them provide you the information you need to manage your domain-even if you do not plan to and make any registration changes you deem necessary.  Should they be unresponsive, unable or unwilling to fulfill your request, I would be honored to put you and your company back in charge!