For today’s business owners, web presence is everything. Making an impact online is how most modern businesses generate leads and make an impact on their target markets. A big part of a company’s online presence is their domain name. Your domain names serve as your company’s internet address, inviting new and existing clients to explore your online headquarters.
Understanding the Basics: What is a Business Domain and Domain Name?
The domain name system is not terribly complex, but it can be tricky for busy business owners to fully understand and manage. In fact, many organizations turn over all control of their domain name to an external agency to manage. However, for those looking to learn a little more about domain name management, let’s explore the basics:
- A domain name is a web address that defines a designated space on the internet.
- Like a business’s physical address, a domain name is an online location where mail is received and customers can visit a business.
- Simply put, a domain name is an address that directs online users to a company’s online domain – namely, their unique business website.
- Domain names are also very often used for company email addresses, making it the primary way for clients and colleagues to stay in contact.
Breaking Down the Process: How Businesses Register and Optimize Domains
Now that we’ve got the domain-101, it’s important to get a handle on the key things about domain management that business owners should know. From registration to renewal, its critical for business owners to know the ins and outs of properly registering and strategically maintaining their online address.
Here are some key bits of information to help you better understand domain-name management:
- What is the DNS?
DNS stands for Domain Name System. The DNS is a server that translates a web address into one or more IP addresses.
- What’s an IP Address?
Your company website lives on a web server and has a specific numerical address assigned to it, called an IP Address, which stands for Internet Protocol Address. IP addresses are made up of four segments separated by a period, like 123.456.789.123.
- What is a Name Server?
Name servers are machines that route domain names to the proper IP address. When a company’s domain name is assigned to a set of name servers, the name servers have the authority to direct the domain name anywhere. Name servers are usually implemented by the vendor that hosts a company’s website.
- What is a Domain Search?
Before a company can put their ideas into action, they need to ensure that the domain name they have in mind is available for use. There are plenty of resources online that help business owners search for available domain names and select alternatives if needed. Check out some of the leading domain name search tools here.
- What is a Domain Registrar?
When you decide on what your domain name should be, it must be externally registered with an entity called a domain name registrar. A registrar is a company that issues and manages domain name registration for an annual fee. Check out some leading domain registrar sites here.
Don’t Let Your Online Headquarters be Sold to The Highest Bidder: Managing Domain Expiry & Renewal
Ok, so you choose a domain name, you search and find that it’s available. You make sure it’s registered, and you’re done, right? Wrong. Domain name registrations expire and must be renewed upon expiry. Business owners who don’t renew their domain name registration in a timely fashion, risk having their online address be put back up for grabs on the world-wide-web.
Even more challenging? When many business owners are getting started and launching their website, they often enlist the help of a tech-savvy friend or one-time tech contractor to get the domain set up and registered. Then, when expiry is looming, business owners are scrambling to figure out how to log in and make sure domain information is updated and renewed. In worst case scenarios, business owners are only made aware of this once their domain is already expired.
While many companies outsource a lot of their web-management responsibilities to an external digital agency, domain name management is the one part of web presence that business owners must have a handle on themselves. Why? As mentioned, a domain name is an address for your company’s online headquarters. It controls how new and existing clients access your website and reach out to you by email. Keeping tabs on managing this critical piece of business helps ensure your unique web presence remains untouched.
It’s also important to note that, while extremely important, domain name management is not that difficult for businesses to control. As long as you have a handle on the domain name expiry and renewal processes, you can put strategies in place to ensure you’re never unexpectedly evicted from your online office.
Here’s a rundown of the various steps in the domain-name expiration and renewal process:
- Domain name registration expires
Quite simply, expiration happens when a company does not renew their domain name before the expiry date. However, businesses are given a bit of a break. Once a domain name expires, the domain is placed under the status of a Renewal Grace Period.
During the Renewal Grace Period, a company has the chance to renew their domain name without any additional fees. Renewal Grace Period length varies among different registrars.
- Renewal Grace Period Ends
Once the grace period is over, the expired domain name is then placed under the status of Registrar Hold. This status holds expired domain names for 30-45 days, during which business owners still have a chance to renew their domain. However, they will likely pay a redemption fee of approximately $100, depending on their domain registrar.
During Register Hold status, registrars can attempt to sell the domain name to the highest bidder in an open auction. However, if the domain is sold, the buyer must wait the full 30-45-day period before the domain is handed over. If a company renews their domain before the Register Hold period ends, the auction buyer will be refunded. If it the domain is never renewed, it will be transferred over to the auction buyer at the end of the Register Hold status.
- Registrar Closeout Sale
If a domain is not renewed by the original owner before the end of the Register Hold period and is also not sold at auction, some registrars attempt a closeout sale once the 30-45-day Registrar Hold has ended. Closeout sales usually offer expired domain names to buyers at a discounted price. Many registrars even go further to waive registration fees during closeout sales, increasing the incentive to buy.
While not all registrars use closeout sales, they are successful for those that do. Sales are first come, first serve and they move quickly – with cheap, expired domain’s flying off the digital shelves.
- Registrar Released to Registry
If the domain name doesn’t get renewed or sold, the registrar then releases the domain name to the registry, where it is placed under Redemption Period status. Under this status, the domain cannot be modified or deleted. This status gives original owners one last chance to restore their domain by paying a redemption fee. This status lasts for a maximum of 30 days.
However, it’s critical to note that once a domain name enters the Redemption Period status, a company’s website and email addresses will stop working. Business communications will halt and clients will not be able to access your online headquarters.
- Redemption Period ends
Once the Redemption Period status ends, if the domain has still not been renewed, it is then transferred to Pending Delete status. Pending Delete status lasts for five days, during which it cannot be restored by the original owner or the registrar. Company website and email addresses will remain inactive.
- Domain name deletion
Once the 5-day Pending Delete period ends, the domain name is deleted and dropped from the online registry. As soon as it’s deleted, it becomes available for registration by the general public.
While it’s apparently possible to manually re-register an expired domain name as soon as it’s been deleted, the chances of success aren’t great – especially if the domain name is potentially valuable to others.
Keeping Your Domain Name Safe: Strategies for Locking Down and Maintaining Your Online Presence
The leading reason companies lose control of their domain is that they realize far too late that their domain name had expired. Therefore, it’s critical for business owners to implement standard policies to manage domain name maintenance and renewal. Even companies who think they have domain name management under control should make a conscious effort to prevent an expiry crisis.
Set an annual date to check-in on domain-name expiry. Keep your eyes peeled for renewal reminders from your registrar in your inbox. If your domain is set to renew automatically, it might fail if your account billing info is outdated. Make sure to keep tabs on the billing information on your domain name account to ensure registration fees are paid effectively.
Here’s a list of other key strategies for managing domain name renewal:
- Use a separate email address for the accounts you use to manage your domains. This will avoid communication issues if your email is rendered inactive in case of expiry.
- Keep and store registration and ownership records and account access details. Make sure this information is stored in a safe and easily accessible place that you’ll remember.
- A designated person should be bestowed with domain-name control responsibilities. It’s recommended that this responsibility remains with the business owner, however, if you’re going to delegate, be sure to transfer the responsibility to a reliable and trustworthy employee who’s in it for the long haul.
- Make sure your domains are renewed before expiry every year. Keep track of domain records, account and billing information and renewal history to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings.
- Keep open lines of communication with your domain registrar. Ask them explicitly to consult with you directly before any domain changes are made and make sure they know the best ways to reach you.
In a business landscape that is increasingly web-based, taking care of your online headquarters is just as important as maintaining your physical office space. A unique domain name gives you a chance to creatively present your business online and develop a unique web presence. Making sure your online address stays secure and well-managed is critical, because an expiry notice can quickly become an eviction notice.