Domain names are one the most important things that you can own, but the truth is, you don't actually own your domain name:
To start all .com domain names are a part of the ICANN - Internet Corporation for Assigned names and numbers. This is the master list of domain names.
For those of you who don't know much about the internet, the master registry is much like the Department Of Motor Vehicles. It is where you go to get your name on the list to say you can drive.. well the master registry is that master list for domain names.
Now much like the DMV, you go to an office or you contact an office to get your paperwork done, but you are not actually dealing with the master list, but an office that does registrations for you.
When you go to get a domain name, you go to one of the many companies online who is your registrar... the company that helps you register the domain name. Some of the biggest out there are Register.com, NetworkSolutions.com, Godaddy, 1&1 and so many more.
WHO OWNS THE DOMAIN NAME?
As I mentioned above, the master registry controls the domain name but your registrar does the paperwork for you.
So when you go and register a domain name, you fill out your online form and the domain name gets registered. This can be one of the first and biggest issues a company can have.
When you pay for your domain name as well, it doesn't matter who's name is on the credit card in most cases.. it matters to who's name is on the registration. You want to make sure that the person who set it all up for you puts your name and your email on the account to make sure that you can be contacted.. and that you own the rights to the domain name and not them.
Scenario #1 - You are a business owner that knows nothing about the online world.
You are an expert in your chosen field, but you decide that you are going to hire an expert to help you out online.
So you hire the expert to do "everything" for you.. so they go in and they register the domain name, they set up your website and you are off to the races. You receive the bills from that designer and all is well.
Then all of a sudden you decide you don't need the designer anymore, you stop paying him and all communication ceases between you and them...
Or they disappear for no reason.
Then all of a sudden your website goes down and your email stops working and you don't know what to do.
In this scenario your web designer did everything for you but they also registered everything under THEIR name and not yours. This puts you in a very bad position. In this scenario you don't own the rights to the domain name.. your "expert" does.
Most registrars will allow you to renew the domain name to bring everything back up and running, but you still won't have access to the domain name. Most registrars have some safe guards for you, meaning they can get you into a dispute process to allow you to reach out to the ICANN to try to get the name back.
Scenario #2 - YOU HAD SOMEONE IN YOUR COMPANY DO IT FOR YOU:
In this scenario, you had someone in your company, a secretary, an IT person, register it for you. Same as above, they put their name on the account but they are no longer with the company.
However if you are still receiving notifications about the domain name coming up for renewal, you can simply go to the forgot password reset link on the registrars website, get the password reset sent out to the same email and you would then have access to the account.
Now changing the "ownership" information. Every Registrar has different methods to do that, however if you can get into the main account where the domain name lives you can then control it.
Scenario #3 - YOU BOUGHT IT THROUGH YOUR PHONE / INTERNET PROVIDER
Many small businesses when they sign up for their phone or internet company, they offer an email address with a domain name. When this happens, they register it on your behalf, but the issue is that your phone and internet provider is not normally a registrar but they go and register it for you. However you are now "somewhat" at the mercy of your provider. They may not release the domain name to you when you ask, or in many cases these companies get bought and sold to other providers, and so they may not even know how to release the domain to you.
In this case it is up to you and your provider, you will need to work with them to gain the access.
CAN I MOVE MY DOMAIN NAME?
So once you have control of your domain name, now you can look at the other pieces. The Website and your Email. I will post on these later.
However, if you need to move your domain name from one company to another you can do that. There are some hitches to it though.
When you move a domain name, in many cases whatever you have attached to it will not move with it.
So if you have a domain name and you move it from let's say Register.com to Network Solutions, if you have email and hosting set up with Register.com and you move the domain name, at some point the settings will change to Network Solutions.
If you want to keep your email and your hosting with Register you can, but you will have to have someone fix the connection settings between the domain name and the hosting etc. but it can be done.
HOW DO I TRANSFER A DOMAIN NAME FROM ONE COMPANY TO ANOTHER?
If you have decided to move your domain name from one company to another there are many reasons to do so. Once again it is a scenario situation though:
Situation #1 - You have a domain name only
Situation #2 - You have a domain name with hosting
Situation #3 - Your web designer wants you to move it
Situation #4 - You are setting up services elsewhere (email / hosting)
Situation #1 - You have a domain name only and you are moving it.
Sometimes you will move a domain name for cost.
Sometimes you will move a domain name for the convienience of having all of your domain names in one place.
Sometimes you want to match up to services that you want elsewhere.
If this is the case, you will need to go to your current Registrar, you will need to "unlock" a domain name. The registrar you are with normally has a lock on the domain name that will help keep it from getting stolen. So your name will need to be unlocked by them.
Some registrars take a little time to unlock it and they normally will send an email out to the current owners email to make sure that they actually want to transfer it.
Next you will need a "transfer code" this is a code that will tell the new registrar that you want to send it to them and it will allow you to start the transfer process.
From there, you will then go to the new registrar to pay for the transfer into the account. Once you do that you will provide them with the transfer code and this will start the process to transfer.
This transfer process however takes time. It could take up to 9 business days for some of the transfers to come through. Once the transfer is complete you then have your domain at the new company and you should not have to go back to the old one. However if you have any add on services you will also want to have them turn off the auto renewal feature on them to ensure that you don't get billed.
Situation #2 - you have a domain with hosting or other add ons
If you have hosting or email attached to your current domain name, there are some things you will need to do before you transfer the domain name away.
#1 - Realize that at some point before you transfer your name you need to make sure that you have all of the "settings" from your domain name and hosting. They are called DNS or IP address. You want to take a snapshot of that info, just in case you need it again later.
#2 - you will need to know that at some point when you are moving your domain name, that the settings on the domain name and the email may end up changing and when this happens, your site and your email will stop working. You will need to be prepared to have your settings reset to make everything work again.
#3 - Also know that when the settings change it could take anywhere from 24-48 hours for the domain name settings to start working again.
Situation #3 - Your web developer wants you to move your domain name
This is something that I would not really want to recommend.
Normally your web developer may have some sort of program that they will want to use to build and maintain your site, this program however does not need to move your domain name.
Normally they can just use the Domain Name Settings and or the IP address to point the domain name to where they need it to go. So if they ask you to "move" your domain name, you may want to question it.
(This doesn't happen everytime but I have seen website developers who are trying to take ownership of your domain name so that if you leave them, they control your domain name and all of your branding) and if you haven't read this before then you may think it is "ok" to do but it can cause a lot of problems later.
Situation #4 - You are setting up services elsewhere.
Now with this one, it may make sense to move your domain name. If someone is offering a bundle with the domain name, hosting, email and everything together, it may make way more sense to be able to get the deal by moving your domain name.. but keep in mind the "stuff" attached to it may stop working.
It may make more sense to keep the domain name with your registrar and set up everything else, elsewhere.
I hope this helps a few people. I will be posting more info on Websites / Domain names and the like over the next little while. If you have any questions feel free to reach out. firstname.lastname@example.org