Your DNS: Why you need to rule your domain

Here’s a couple of quick questions for you:

  1. Do you have control of your web domain?
  2. And do you know the password for it?

If you can definitively answer ‘yes’ to both of these then great – go and make yourself a nice cup of tea and relax. If the answer’s ‘no’, or ‘I’m not sure’, or ‘I really don’t have much of a clue what you’re talking about’, well I’d really suggest reading on.

Even if you find this techie stuff tedious, or confusing, or something best left to your web designer, IT administrator or whatever, this is one of those times (maybe the only one) when you need to spend a little time making sure you know what’s going on.

I’ll try and explain why…

Your web domain (for instance, is one of your business’ most important assets – it’s your online address, the thing that people use to find you online. However, for that to happen, websites are dependent on something called DNS.

What is a DNS?

DNS (or Domain Name System) is the rather clever set up that directs traffic around the Internet. It’s what ensures that people around the world who type your web domain into their browser get pointed to the specific location where your web pages sit. Each website on the Internet chooses somewhere that controls their DNS listing and, through clever jiggery-pokery, this is then copied across the whole of the Internet (If this has sparked your interest, “How Stuff Works” has a fuller and better description of DNS).

If your DNS records are missing, wrong or broken, nothing works: people can’t see your website and you won’t be able to receive email. So, should something go wrong with your DNS settings it’s really important that you can fix it quickly. If you don’t have control of your web domain, fixing any DNS problem can be extraordinarily difficult – a job that should take hours can take days, weeks or even months to fix – and all the time your site just won’t work.

How long can you cope for without a website or without receiving email? How much money would it cost you?

The potential impact doesn’t just end there – If your domain isn’t registered to your email address, its possible that your domain name could be sold to someone else without you being able to do anything about it. The company that is responsible for your domain will write to you at that email address when it’s due for renewal – if there’s no one to respond to those emails from your registrar, then your ownership of the domain could just lapse.

Now you might be reading this convinced that this still isn’t important and that your web designer, IT admin or whatever keeps an eye on all this – and they might. But, what happens if your web designer absconds with your copywriter, or your IT administrator has a paddy and just walks out one day, would you be left in the lurch? It doesn’t even require anything that dramatic – we’ve been working with several new clients over the last few months who have, for a wide variety of reasons, not spent a significant amount of time on their websites for quite a while and, over time, have just lost contact with the person who set everything up in the first place.

With that in mind, back to the questions at the top of this post: Do you have control of your web domain? If you’re not sure, it’s easy to find out.

Finding out who controls your domain

Simply go to WhoIs, type in your domain name and click the ‘look-up’ button. Now find the name of the Registrar listed and think carefully – do you have an account there? If so, do you know the password for it? If you can say ‘yes’ confidently to both of those questions – you too can go and have yourself that nice cup of tea.

If the answer to either of those questions is ‘no’, then as soon as you have some time available,  take steps to get access to it (we’ve got a really simple guide to help you). It really could save an awful lot of tears in the future.

Have you ever had problems with accessing your DNS? What were the implications for your business? Let us know in the comments below.

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