domains and DNS

Reasons why you need to control your domain and DNS.

It may seem obvious, but it is crucial to ensure you control your domain name and DNS.

I have worked on websites for clients all too often, only to find that access to the domain and DNS can be problematic when it comes to putting them live.

Larger businesses often employ third-party companies to manage their domain names or even have in-house teams dedicated to this. Still, for smaller companies, it can sometimes get a little confusing.

This post is written to help people in smaller businesses understand a little more about registering domain names and how to do it properly – it covers the basics to ensure they are done right.

Here are five things you should do to secure the management of your domain name: 

  1. Make sure you know where it’s registered
  2. Make sure you have access to where it’s registered
  3. Understand the domain’s nameservers and where they point
  4. Have access to the control panel for where the name servers are
  5. Use a generic company email address for all this, not a personal or named company email address.

Make sure you know where your domain(s) is registered.

Domains usually get registered during the start-up phase of any business. This can mean they are often registered incorrectly by a company director in their name rather than the businesses.

Over time, it can be easy for people to forget where the domain was registered in the first place, and although it can be easy to figure this out, it can confuse further down the line if no one can remember.

As most domain names are set to renew automatically every few years, this process gets lost in admin and tracking down the information can take time and delay the launch of a new website.

Make sure you have access to where the domain name is registered.

If your domain name was registered ten years ago, there’s a good chance that the email address used to register it may no longer exist.

This can happen when staff move on or an email account that’s now defunct was used to register the domain name.

If you know where it’s registered but have no idea of the login details for the website where it’s registered, this can again cause delays if people need to make changes to DNS or other domain admin.

This may seem like something that should never happen, but it does pretty often and gaining access to a domain control panel where no one knows the registration email to user name can be a right pain in the arse.

Over and above all, also make sure it is registered correctly in the business name.

Understand the domain’s nameservers and where they point.

This is often the most significant cause of confusion when managing a domain name.

Just because you have access to the place where the domain is registered, it does not automatically mean that you will be able to edit the domain’s zone file.

This happens when the domain is registered with one company, but the name servers point to another company.

This means another login is required to edit the domain’s zone file.

Again, this might be a completely different email address, username and password combination, so you will need to ensure you have access to this too.

Never simply reset your name servers to your domain registers default: If you do, and the zone file is different elsewhere, you could take down your website and email.

Your name servers will hold the domain’s zone file and control where different parts of your domain’s DNS point – so the A record, MX records and subdomains, for example.

A lot of damage can be done here if you make changes to something, and if you make the wrong changes, you can’t simply switch them back – sometimes, these changes can take up to 24 hours to change.

Have access to the control panel for where the name servers are.

Just like access to your domain name control panel, you need to have access to wherever your name servers are set.

If you don’t, you simply can’t edit them, and your agency or WordPress Developer can’t either, so making sure all this is in order is worthwhile.

Use a generic company email address for all this, not a personal or named company email address.

It’s often normal for smaller businesses to set up all the domain and name server accounts using a named work email account.

Don’t do this; instead, set up a generic email account (group or forward; it doesn’t have to be a mailbox) specifically for domains and servers.

I suggest something like [email protected] or similar and have this email forward to all associated staff emails.

This way, it does not matter if there is staff turnover as the email remains, and you will also have the advantage of more than one person receiving emails about important domain information.

When you register a domain, you will also have the option to add different contacts, such as technical and billing, for example – again, keep the emails generic, so future emails don’t bounce if staff move on.

Additional tips for managing your domain name.

Never let your WordPress developer or agency register a domain for you.

This is something that can cause no end of problems.

Even if your agency registered it in your name, they still control access. If you have a disagreement or fallout, they hold access to something that is potentially very important and valuable to you.

If this is you, just let them know that you want to transfer the billing and everything associated with your domain to your account (create one somewhere if you don’t have one and transfer the domains).

Use a service like Cloudflare for your domain and give developers delegate access only when you need to.

Cloudflare can host your zone file and make managing it easy.

It also has the advantage of additional security, website speed and other features worth having.

You can also assign delegate access to your account on Cloudflare. Suppose you are not comfortable editing A and MX records. In that case, you can allow your agency to access your records via their own Cloudflare account without having to divulge your login details.

Be aware that the management of your domain can become fragmented over time.

A domain’s name servers can move, and zone files can remain, even if the domain no longer points to that particular set of name servers.

I recently worked on a project where Google was used for the name servers, but then they had been moved elsewhere; even so, an older and unique record remained on Google, which meant that we were unable to add SSL certificates to a newly launched site – this took about two days to discover and fix. During this time, the site was not secure.

Suppose your domain and site have moved from one developer or agency to others over time. In that case, old records can (uncommonly) cause problems, so old records should be deleted if things are moved.

Need help with sorting out your domain and DNS?

I’ve been doing this for years and can help you get your domains and DNS organised and accessible.

If you are having trouble with your domain, just get in touch, and we can have a chat about the current situation and how I can help.

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