Domain registration problems disrupt everything. Imagine that you wake up and find your website and email completely offline. A call to your host brings more bad news. Your domain name expired. No one knows who registered the name and what email address was filed with the registrar.

Domain Registration Continuity

Everyone urges small businesses to make continuity plans. Unfortunately, domain name registration gets overlooked. We seldom consider the long term impact of relatively low cost items. “Hey, a domain only costs six to twenty dollars annually, why worry?” As I wrote in an earlier post, DNS controls every aspect of your Internet presence. If your registration expires, there is no domain name for the domain name server.

Scenario 1: You stop using the email provider connected to your registration. We see this frequently, when people get comfortable using their own domain name for communication. Sometimes you change Internet service providers, or your provider merges and changes your address. Sometimes users abandon providers and email addresses over time. However it happens, the whois record no long matches any person’s actual email address. Renewal notices go nowhere, unseen. Your domain nears renewal and no one knows.

Scenario 2: Convenience and simplicity motivates a lot of choices. Why not register a name for ten years and annual renewals cease to create stress. Apply the hazards of the first scenario and you will return to an ugly mess a few years down the road. Who registered the name? Which registrar holds the name? If a reseller agent sold the name, does that reseller still keep a current account to access the renewal of your name?

Scenario 3: Inevitably, some businesses or assets move because of death and injury. Unless you plan ahead, your domain regsitration is lost.

Prevention is Better than Recovery

Keep bank accounts, passwords and your domain registration safely for transition. Whatever documents you value most, include your domain registration in that group. The alternative is worse.

The Ugly Alternative

This post is inspired by a client dealing with the alternative. We located the registration first for our client. Fortunately, the domain did not use a private registration or key information would have been unavailable. Using the whois record, we knew who registered the name, the email address where the renewal notices went, and the registrar. From there, the process will vary from registrar to registrar for their own internal security. However, the process will boil down to proving a legal right to access and alter the whois information. Essentially, prove that you represent the company that owns this record. If a corporate name changed over time, good luck. If the name registration only includes a person’s name without the corporate entity, I wish you luck again.

Cybersquatting for extortion provides revenue for a less savory part of the Internet. If your name expires and transfers to someone intent on squeezing every possible dime from the transaction, you face a tough choice.

When all else fails, buy another domain. Chalk it up to a lesson learned. It will mean rebranding all of your marketing materials, notifying your contacts and building your SEO from the bottom up again. I think of this as a last resort. The silver lining on that cloud will be that your website content and email data can be recovered but not your time.

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