What is a Domain Name, and Why is it So Important?
Your Domain Name is the alpha characters that represent the numeric characters in your URL, or IP address. So, instead of something like this: "55.486.0.452", it is "mybedandbreakfast.com", which is much easier to use than a string of numbers. This domain, or host name, tells a browser where to look for your site on the internet, much like a physical address tells someone where to look for you. When a webmaster sets up a website, they go into the domain account and point the nameservers, and that is how people find your website on the internet.
So, when you consider that a domain tells people how to find your website on the internet, you can see how important it is to have control of it.
Domain names are basically rented out to website owners by domain providers, such as Network Solutions or GoDaddy. The cost can depend on how in demand is the domain name, but most run between $15-$20 per year, and you can purchase them for one or multiple years, usually up to 5 or 10 years at a time. You can also purchase something called "private registration", which keeps your info private, so that no one can look up who owns the domain.
When you purchase the domain, you get a domain account that requires a username and password, sometimes a customer number. It is imperative that you keep this information safe and updated. You will fill out 3 sections for contact: Registrant (this is the "owner" of the domain), Administrative Contact, and Technical Contact. You should be the Registrant and Admin, unless you appoint someone to be your admin, and your webmaster should be your technical contact.
I can't overstate the importance of having control of your domain.
In recent weeks, I have tried to help a few innkeepers and association admins access their domain accounts. This has proven to be a sometimes very difficult proposition. In one case, the domain needed to be renewed, and because it was under private registration, no one knew who the "owner" was to get the username and password. We've had cases where the registrant had died or moved away, and there was no way to access the account other than call the domain company and try to convince them to give access with business documents. In another situation, the former webmaster "owned" the domain and didn't want to give it up. In yet another situation, the old website was down, the new one was ready to go up, but the domain "owner" would only transfer the domain, rather than just re-set the nameservers for the new inn owners. This caused a 3-day delay while the transfer was completed, which caused the site to be down for 3 days.
Downed Sites are Not Making Any Money.
The worst situation ever, which I have written about in the past, was the innkeeper who changed her email address, never updated that contact info on the domain account, and didn't know that her very valuable domain had expired and been purchased by someone else. When that happens, there is nothing you can do to get the domain back, and you are left with a website that is not on the internet, and no way for people to make reservations online.
If you buy an inn, make sure you get the domain login along with the keys.
If you are not sure of your domain status, DO NOT DELAY - make sure you have the log-in and that the contact information is all up to date. You do not want to lose the single biggest marketing product you own.
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