How your domain name can disappear (and how to prevent it)

A little oversight can pull the plug on your entire business identify, brand, and ability to communicate with customers.  It's easily solved though with the right resource.

A little oversight can pull the plug on your entire business identify, brand, and ability to communicate with customers.  It's easily solved though with the right resource.

This week I received a call from a prominent local business that received another email from a domain name registrar that they didn't know how or whether or not to act on.  The name the email was addressed to was a former employee's name, and they weren't sure whether or not it was valid.   It's easy to assume right now at this moment that the email should just be processed, acted on, or ignored.  Then move on.  Right?  

Absolutely not.

Any question around the status of their domain name resulting from receiving this email  indicates the business has a major - and very expensive - problem in the works.  Here's why:

1. The business owner and CFO or controller should already know the status of all domains.

  • This is one of those areas where either the company's technical person, either internally or externally, has been "too busy" to get this step done, or the company doesn't yet have an tech resource and needs one.  
  • Think about your company's lease on its current space:  You know when it ends, and there's a designated contact on file for both your company (likely the business owner) and the landlord contact.   Why would your domain name, your company's most brand-valuable web real estate, be handled any less formally? 

2. Domain name registrars and other Internet marketers often send confusing and misrepresentative emails.

  • Some of these emails and letters make it look like you need to take action in order to preserve your domain name, but in reality you're authorizing them to switch your registration service to them. This can be disastrous on for three reasons:
  • The first problem with this is that you could lose your domain. Authorization to transfer or other doesn't necessarily mean keeping ownership of your domain.  Regardless of whether or not you can fight it afterward and prove you were fooled, do you really have the time to deal with it?
  • The second problem is that even if it's a valid transfer, this doesn't mean your DNS (domain name service) settings transfer.  These are the settings on the Internet that everyone uses to send you email, to find your web site, and more.  Imagine losing all connectivity while it takes days or even weeks to restore (see problem #3).
  • The third problem is how you go about recovering from an accidental ownership change.  The moment this happens, even though it was easy for the blunder to occur, it's painfully slow to recover from.  You may have to get your corporate ownership papers, identification cards, visit a notary, hire an attorney, and other steps.  All to prove you're the owner.  Then it takes days or weeks for the registrar or ICANN (the entity that loosely regulates registrars) to process.  During that time you have to operate without your email, web and other services.  To your customers it's like you've disappeared.  Even if you spend the energy communicating your temporary email address to your customers, you'll have to do it all over again when things get back to normal.   Think of the impact to your brand and to your business.

Wouldn't it be better to prevent all this?  The solution is as simple as getting all the information you need in order, and making sure it's on the right calendars and reviewed at the management level at least annually.  This typically should be assigned to a technical resource at the right level- namely, a management level that understands business and technology.   If you already suspect you have a mismatch in technical resource because your technician or service provider's busy fixing things all the time, then this may not be getting the attention it deserves, and you definitely do not want to assign this priority to a tech who only understands the technical layers.  That could lead to a small oversight becoming a big disaster.