It’s a big unnerving how often I come across a small business owner who has a website but they have no idea who owns the domain name they make their living off of.
“My IT guy set it up”
“I don’t have any idea, ask my web guy”
“I have a domain name?”
Let me try and break it down a little to clear things up. When you decide to launch your new website there are 3 types of hosting you need to be concerned with:
- Domain hosting. Many people use Godaddy.com or Register.com or 1and1.com or any of the thousands of other options. They snag their domain for $10/year and then try and find their site. However, this is just where the domain name lives. Now you need to POINT your domain to 2 other places: your website hosting and your email hosting.
- Website hosting: This is the physical server of your website. If you work through a web group or freelancer, more than likely they are going to set you up on a server that they like working with (which is fine/great). Sometimes it’s the same place as your Domain hosting; sometimes it’s not (more likely the case). As a side note, if you take credit cards on your website you might also have an SSL Certificate hosted by a company as well. So many things hosted!
- Email hosting: Sometimes this is also referred to as your MX records, but it’s the servers that manage your email. It means you have your own email like email@example.com versus firstname.lastname@example.org. A lot of times people will use Google Small Business Apps or even Office 360. If that’s the case, your email hosting / MX records are actually with Google and Office 360, respectively.
If you have a domain name (or names), you should figure out and then write down exactly how things are set up for your company. It helps you know who to call if something isn’t working. It will do you no good to call your web guy about your email if it’s actually something that is hosted somewhere else.
But more importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, make sure you have full control over your domain names. What that means is that you can log in to Godaddy or wherever your actual domain is hosted and make changes and YOU ALONE can do this. Don’t give the keys over to anyone. You can make people administrators of accounts so they can make technical changes, but you never want someone to have full access to your domain name.
If you’re wondering why, here’s an example. You have an amazing web guy. You love him. He does great work. He sets you up and you’re in bliss. Then he sends you an invoice you didn’t agree to. He expects to be paid or he’s going to shut down your site. Now what? If he has full control to your domain, you have no choice. If he’s the only one that can log in to your domain hosting and website hosting and you have no control you are officially screwed.
That’s an extreme example, but in well over a decade of experience I’ve seen that and worse happen.
At the very least, today, make sure you can log in to where you domain name is hosted and that nobody else can. I would recommend you log in and change your password right now, just to be safe.