The most basic and the “golden” rule of using a domain name (and website) is that you should maintain control as the registrant of your domain at all times! Your domain name is the life blood of your online presence. You or your business should always be listed as the registrant of the domain name on the WHOIS database as the registrant is the legal “owner” of the domain. This means when you purchase the domain name, do it yourself. Do not allow someone else to purchase the domain on your behalf and list themselves as the registrant. Most problems involving your website, host account, contractors, etc. can be fixed. But losing control over your domain can be catastrophic!
For example, if you rely on a web site designer to apply for and register your website domain name, the registrant information could be incorrect. The individuals that purchase the domain name on behalf of you or your business often list themselves as the registrant, purposely or otherwise. If you ever have a problem with the domain or want to switch your hosting, need to redirect your domain, sell it, etc., you will not have authority to do so since you don’t technically own the domain!
Host providers such as Godaddy or Network Solutions do not list themselves as the registrant of your domain or website (like all other reputable ISP’s). However, I strongly recommend you always carefully read the terms and conditions of your Host or ISP agreement to be certain if you are dealing with an unknown or new registrar.
Has Your Third-Party Managed Domain Name Expired?
You can share limited administrative functions with your designer or other third party. But, you should maintain complete control over the actual domain account administrative functions (user name and password) at all times. In other words, make sure you or some trusted employee is named as the administrative, billing and/or technical contacts of the domain registrant. Any person or entity named as a contact on the WHOIS database has the power to affect your domain name. At a minimum, the billing contact should be someone who you can at least trust will ensure the domain name is renewed before it expires.
Controlling your domain name is also extremely important since you or your business should have the ability at all times to transfer the domain to another host provider at your will. If you use an unreliable hosting service, you will want to be able to redirect the domain name server (DNS) to another host provider. If you decide to hire a website designer to create your website and/or handle the domain name purchase and registration (not recommended), you MUST read your web site development agreement carefully. You must make sure that the agreement does not contain any language that says that the web site designer owns the domain name or allow your designer to list anyone other then you or your business as the registrant!
I recommend that you set up the hosting account yourself through the host provider and then provide the FTP (file transfer protocol) user name and password information only to your web developers. Ideally, you should simply designate the developer as an account executive without providing any FTP account information (Go Daddy allows you to do this). DO NOT provide your main domain account user information (user i.d. and password) to the designer. Otherwise, your developers will have the administrator information to your domain account and could potentially exercise control over the domain(s).