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Take Responsibility for Domain Renewals

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Lee Hodgson


Lee Hodgson

About the Author:

Lee Hodgson

DomainGuru.com where domain name registration is made easy. Industry knowledge, and personal advice come together to help you secure the best possible home on the Web.

Lee Hodgson has written 18 articles for DomainInformer.
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I'm sometimes contacted by site owners complaining their web site and e-mail has suddenly stopped working. Upon investigation, I often have devastating news for them: the domain name used to access their site has been deleted. 99 times out of 100 this happens because they failed to pay the renewal fees for their domain name after the initial registration period ran out. This unfortunate situation has at least three common causes:

  • The domain registration company (domain registrar) did not send out a renewal notice. This can occur for a myriad of reasons. The company may have had technical problems the day the renewal notice was being sent out, they may have made an administrative error or they may have even gone bankrupt.
  • The domain renewal notice was sent out but not received. This normally occurs when the customer's e-mail address on record is no longer valid or the address is valid but the customer never checks his account.
  • The renewal notice was received, but not acted upon in time. This sometimes happens if the administrative contact is not the same person as the registrant. If a web hosting company or an ex-employee registers a domain they may receive the reminder instead of the customer. The renewal notice can also be missed by customers if they accidentally dismisses the renewal e-mail as spam or they forgot to act upon it in a timely fashion.

Whatever the cause, once the name is deleted, it is immediately available for any other party to re-register. And this is the "doomsday scenario" - when another party has already re-registered the name by the time the deletion has been detected.

Many customers believe they have the "right" to "their" domain names, even after they have let them expire and they have been re-registered by another party. Morally, this may well be the case, but in the real word, the rights to a domain name only last for the duration of the registration period.

If another party registers a freshly deleted name, the only ways to get it back are:

  • Purchase it from the new registrant for the best price you can negotiate,
  • Go through an ICANN-sponsored arbitration service such as WIPO. But be warned, arbitration is expensive ($1500 up) and time consuming. In addition, there is no guarantee of a positive result, especially if you don't have a trademark on the name in question.

Both of these solutions are time consuming and expensive, so the ideal solution is to avoid the entire mess in the first place. How do you ensure this? By realizing your businesses' domains are your responsibility. Here's a checklist of five things to do:

  • Don't rely on domain registration companies to inform you exactly when your names are due for renewal. Margins are so low for domain registrars that for many, they would rather lose the business than take the trouble to follow-up carefully with customers who have domains about to expire - sad, but an economic truth.
  • Always keep your domain records up to date. Most importantly, keep the e-mail address valid, and check it often. Nearly all registrars will only contact you via e-mail.
  • Keep a master list of your domain names. Record the registration date and in particular the expiry date, and also the domain registrar with which you performed the registration. If you need to look up the expiry date, use a WHOIS tool.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to renew your domains. Doing so puts them at extreme risk. Check the expiry date on your domains at least once a month, and renew well ahead of the expiry date. Remember, when you renew, the time is added to the end of the expiry date, not the date you performed the renewal, so really you have nothing to lose by renewing early.And if your names are important to you, go ahead and renew them for two years or more.
  • Ensure the renewal has been processed. Once you have performed a domain renewal, go back to a WHOIS tool the next day and ensure the expiry date has been updated. Mistakes can be made. Renewal scripts can go wrong.

Think carefully before delegating any of this responsibility to another party, particularly an outside organization such as your web hosting company. Some are very professional about such things, others are not. Why take the risk?

To summarize, be PRO-ACTIVE. These are your domain names, take care of them. Losing domain names has forced many small companies off-line and some out of business completely. Don't let it happen to you.

Update: An excellent domain management tool called Watch My Domains Pro has come to our attention. This program can really help you manage your domains, and in particular, let you know when your names are up for renewal. Read a full description and review here.

Article provided exclusively by DomainGuru. No reprints are allowed unless expressly stated in writing.

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