Domains and Domain Registration (and for you techies we’re talking about Internet domains, not AD Domains) are an important part of every business. Your Domain Name should be treated like any other asset in your company because that’s what it is. If you lose this asset the impact could be devastating. Devastating, you ask? Yes…. the worst I’ve seen was a lost domain name was picked up and registered by a pornography business. I’ve also seen someone take the domain name and not want to let it go so now it’s there business on the website, not yours. And, when email is lost…. well, I don’t need to tell you about that. Now, it’s hard to lose your domain name but it does happen. If a Domain Registration expires everything stops. Your website, your email and any other things you use it for such as remote access to your business. However, you have 45 days in most cases to recover it. So, it’s hard to lose it. Letting it expire, however, isn’t great either. If your website stops working and you lose email it will have an impact on your business.
You should know what it is, where it’s registered and how to login to manage the registration. You should also have documented everything that uses your domain name (Name Servers, Website(s), Mail/MX Records and DNS Records).
Domain Name Registrar
Registering a domain name is the easiest part and most people have a place they like to go to find and register a domain name. The place you register your domain is called the Registrar. arielMIS offers domain registration services at https://domains.arielmis.com (We are a Go Daddy reseller). Go Daddy, Register.com, Network Solutions and One & One are some other common Registrars. There are a LOT more! I recommend that you have one account where all of your relevant business domains are located.
Domain registration information is maintained by the domain name registries, which contract with domain registrars to provide registration services to the public. An end user selects a registrar to provide the registration service, and that registrar becomes the designated registrar for the domain chosen by the user. In essence, you pay the Registrar for your domain name and use their services to manage it.
The Name Servers settings in your Domain Registration point to where your Name Servers are hosted. The Name Servers are responsible for telling the world where to look to find all of the services you use with your domain name such as your website and email. Although the Registrar can host your Name Servers they don’t have to. And, in some cases (not many) they might charge for this added service. But, it’s not a service that the Registrar has to be responsible for.
That’s it for what the Domain Registrar is responsible for. Managing your Domain Registration and pointing to where your Name Servers are hosted.
Everything else about your domain name falls under what I would refer to as Hosting Services. Each of the Services discussed below could be hosted by one provider, several providers or even your company on-premise in your network.
DNS stands for Domain Name System and is how domain names and host names are translated to IP Addresses. IP Addresses, as you may know, are the numbering scheme used on the Internet to identify a device (such as a server and many other things).
DNS Hosting for your domain may be handled by the Registrar as I mentioned above, by the company that hosts your website (this is pretty common), by your internal IT Department (less common), by Microsoft if you use Office 365 (becoming more common) or possibly someone else altogether like a dedicated DNS Hosting company. This service is responsible for telling the world where your Mail Server resides (That’s your MX record), where your primary website resides (Your primary A record and your www host record) and other records that do things like tell the world where your email should be coming from (SPF records) or provide a remote access hostname such as remote.mydomain.com or vpn.domain.com. They also house a variety of other records that we won’t go into here.
You should document where your DNS / Name Servers are located, who is responsible for them and if applicable how to login to access and manage them. As the owner of the domain name this is your responsibility to know!
Lastly, if any mention of changing DNS crosses your path, make sure you understand exactly what is being recommended before allowing changes to be made. Engage your IT Department if you don’t understand. The last thing you want is for email to stop working because a change was made to your DNS that broke it.
People often confuse their domain with their website because it is the most referenced use of your domain name. However, your website is just another service that your domain name is pointed to by your DNS Server. You don’t even have to have a website with your domain name if you don’t want to.
Your Website Hosting provider is responsible for hosting your website and it’s important to document the company that is hosting your website along with relevant contact and account information. Your website, like your Domain Name is an asset to your company and you should have full access to the website itself as well as the account where it is being hosted. If your Marketing company is hosting your website I recommend making sure you know where it is being hosted and how to access the account if need be. If the Marketing company is hosting it in a shared environment where they will not provide access to the account you should have an agreement with them that you’re comfortable with. Personally, I believe that you should not allow your business to be in a position where your domain or any associated services are out of your control. But, there are business situations where this happens and it should be a conscious business decision.
And, just to be clear, there are at least two elements to your hosting that you should have access to. The account where the website is hosted (this may be a login account to the provider or simply an account that is in your company name with an account number that you can call and reference). And, the website itself where you can access the content and information on your site. Document that information so you can retrieve it if and when necessary.
Email is often the most critical service tied to your domain name. Understanding how your email is hosted is important and should be documented in your organization. Email may be hosted in-house/on-premise in your organization (maybe using a Microsoft Exchange Server), On Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps, or hosted with the same company that is hosting your website. Where ever it is located make sure you document where it is located and how it is managed along with administrative credentials.
What type of email hosting you’re using is beyond the scope of this article other than to say that I recommend business grade email for businesses for a variety of reasons. Talk with your IT Provider or Department if you have any question about that.
There are a variety of services that may be tied to your domain name in some fashion. This article won’t address them all but be sure you know how your domain is being used and what services are important. Your IT Provider should be able to assist you with that and should have that information documented.
Whenever changes are being made with your domain or related services be sure to pay attention and ask what changes are being made and why. And, if those changes occur, will it affect anything else in our business. A good IT professional generally knows what questions to ask and is a good “goto” when you’re not sure.