When your site has a domain you have complete control over the site, its identity and its future. Not to mention the search engine benefits you lose from not having your own domain name. I dont wanna go into that too much in this post as most of you already know that a domain name is important to the long term success of your blog. 🙂
As I mentioned the other day, I have been a domain reseller for more than 4 years through my website 815Domains.com. As a domain reseller and as someone who used to run several webmaster communities I have came across a problem that still goes on today.
This is so important im gonna make it big and bold!
Never Ever Let a hosting company
control your domain name
Why shouldn’t I use my hosting company for domain names?
First off, it’s best to explain how domain ownership works. Every domain name has 4 pieces of contact information attached to it. Namely :
- Registrant Contact
- Administrative Contact
- Billing Contact
- Technical Contact
For most domains, all 4 pieces of contact information are identical. However, when transferring a domain name it is the Registrant and Administrative Contact information that the domain register looks at. As per Icann :
The Administrative Contact and the Registered Name Holder, as listed in the Losing Registrar’s or applicable Registry’s (where available) publicly accessible WHOIS service are the only parties that have the authority to approve or deny a transfer request to the Gaining Registrar. In the event of a dispute, the Registered Name Holder’s authority supersedes that of the Administrative Contact.
You may be reading this thinking ‘What’s this got to do with hosting companies?’. Well, a common offer which hosting companies pitch to potential customers is that if you sign up to a hosting package with them you will get a domain name for free! It sounds like such a great offer, no wonder hundreds of thousands of people have went for it hook, line and sinker. Now many hosting companies have integrity and are trustworthy. Unfortunately, many aren’t and give the rest a bad name because of it.
If you took them up on their free domain name offer or even just bought a domain from them then you probably received great service and customer support…..until you emailed them asking to transfer the domain or change hosting companies. You see the hosting companies would change the billing contact to your information but the admin and registrant contact details would be in the name of the hosting company.
So if someone called Robert Smith signed up for the hosting package with free domain name you may find the contact details look something like :
- Registrant Contact : Host Company
- Administrative Contact : Host Company
- Billing Contact : Robert Smith
- Technical Contact : Robert Smith or Host Company
I learned all of this the hard way back in 2001. I had two domain names registered with a UK hosting company who also sold domain names (For the record, UK companies have been notoriously bad for this in the past). When I checked my account I could change the Billing and Technical contact details. Everything seemed fine…or so I thought.
Trying to move my domain name
The reason I wanted to move was I was very unhappy with the hosting and wanted to move to a different company. Their hosting contract stated ’24 hours server monitoring’ and ‘unlimited bandwidth’. Neither was true. When a sports discussion community I was running was taking up a lot of bandwidth they simply switched my site off without so much as an email warning me. I complained very heavily and got mad when I heard the tech guy in the background saying ‘tell him to go elsewhere, he’s using too much bandwidth’. Thankfully, after threatening a lawsuit I got a full refund.
My problems were not over. My domains were still with this company. I made an attempt to transfer the domain. Now from a legal point of view they were not breaking the law as they kept the registrant and contact details in the company name. However, ethically, they had told me the domain was mine and that I had full control. I had no control.
I eventually had to fax a written authorisation letter to them and pay a 30 pounds transfer fee (roughly $60 US).
It was a very hard lesson but a lesson I’m glad I learned. It was shortly after this episode that I got involved so much in the domain name industry. I paid $60 for my domain and $60 to transfer it when there were domain companies out there charging $10 or less and giving you full control over your domain name.
It happens again and again
Thankfully, I have never had any problems with my domain names since that day. However, thousands of others have including friends.
I have two other examples I would like to share with you all to illustrate what can happen if you don’t have 100% control over your domain.
Example 1 : The family Friend
When you work on the internet, friends inevidently drop your name in conversation when someone mentions they know someone needs a website. This has happened to me a lot unfortunately! 🙂
I designed the company website for my friends dad’s company around 2003. The company had a website briefly a year or so before that and they had a company domain but had no idea how to get it back. It was important to get the domain as it was the .com version of their full domain name and they had also branded all of their stationary with it for years! Eeek! Since I had went through the same problem the year before I said id do my best to help.
It turns out that the hosting company had also used their details for the admin and registrant contact. I never got to find out if the hosting company were trustworthy as they had gone bust! The company was later bought over by another hosting company who were’nt the least bit helpful. First off, they had no records of the domain name on their books (even though the whois still pointed there).
The domain name was expiring in 6 months but they needed the site asap so they took the decision just to register a different domain name.
Example 2 : The Cowboy
Many of my customers at 815Domains chose to change their account from a $8.15 retail account to a $8.95 reseller account. This means that they have the ability to resell domains and any money over $8.95 is 100% profit for them. I had a singapore hosting company who did this.
A few years later I find out what the guy has done. The guy decided to quit the business. He didnt try and sell his website or whatever. I don’t know the whole story but it sounds like he pretty much just vanished and never responded to any emails. Which wasn’t good news for his customers…or myself.
Upon inspection of the hosting company’s account I noticed that although he decided to have a reseller account, he changed his mind and simply registered all domains for his hosting customers on their behalf. So he had 30+ domains in his account. Thats 30 people whose company domain were sitting in his control.
Due to the volume of domains under me, I only found all of this out when several domains had expired and their owners contacted me stressed out! Thankfully, I was able to catch and renew most of the domains but some were unfortunate and they went into the expiration process.
This is another example of what can happen if you do not have 100% control over your domain name.
Be a ‘Smart Blogger’ when you get your domain name?
I know that throughout this post I have used websites as examples and have not referred to blogs specifically. However, everything I have said is applicable to bloggers who are looking for a domain name. Which is why im gonna say this again :
Never Ever Let a hosting company
control your domain name
- Gives you 100% control over your domain name
- Gives you most features like redirecting and url masking free
- Backed by a major domain name company like Enom or Godaddy
- Doesn’t charge more than $10 for the major domain extensions (eg. com, net, org, info etc)
I stress again that all hosting companies should not be tarred with the same brush. Many are honest, well priced and give great support. All I have tried to do in this post is illustrate the problems that can arise when you do not legally control your own blog’s identity.
If you trust your host and are keen on registering your domain through them, I recommend you ask them some questions before committing to buying from them.
- Ask if you can see a demo area of the domain control panel
- Ask for confirmation that you will gain access to and will be able to edit all contact and DNS details (DNS = Domain Name Servers).
Remember, there’s nothing stopping you getting the domain and hosting from a different site (i actually encourage it).
If you have any questions please let me know and I’ll do my best to help. If I see the same questions coming up time and time again then I will know that its something I need to cover :):)