Managing your Domain

When you purchase a domain from a registrar or host a domain with a web hosting company, you will have a control panel that allows you to configure aspects of your domain.  Once you purchase a domain, the domain is yours to do with as you please.  If you become unsatisfied with the support or performance of a domain registrar or a hosting company then you can take your service, and your domain, elsewhere.  This page describes some of the common domain management tools and some considerations for their use.  Managing your domain is not a difficult thing to do if you know the basics.

There are other options, in addition to the below when managing your domain but I have limited discussion to the fundamental “must knows”.  ICANNwholesale has some great tutorials on their domain management interface, which, while it differs slightly from other domain registrars, the concepts are the same.

Contact Information

There are three types of contacts with a domain name: Administrative, Technical, and Billing.  Of the three, the most important is the Administrative contact.  It is the Administrative contact that controls the domain and has authority to change Technical and Billing contacts.  Make sure you are the Administrative contact at a minimum.  There is no reason why you should not be the billing and technical contact as well though sometimes web hosting companies will list themselves as the technical contact while they host your domain.  I recommend you make yourself the contact for all three types.  Contact your web hosting company or use the control panel of your domain to make appropriate changes.

Of all the contact fields, you want to make sure that the e-mail address is one that comes to you.  Domains can be managed by any number of domain registries authorized to do so.  There are those who try to transfer domains to themselves.  Transfer requests use e-mail and, if not responded to, will go forward automatically.  Discussed later are some domain security settings you should set to prevent this but suffice to say that you should make sure the e-mail address in the Contact Information is yours.

One drawback to contact information on for domain names is that it is publicly available.  While it is necessary to keep your domain contact information pointed to you to protect your domain from being pilfered, the drawback is that marketers and spammers use the e-mail and mailing addresses to bombard you with unsolicited offers.  Some domain registrars, like RegisterFly, offer a service that allows you to hide your contact information from the world wide web and eliminate this major nuisance.

Nameserver Information

On the page what is a domain name? you can find an explanation of the domain name system.  A nameserver is a server at a registry, a web host, or any company that contains a list of domain names and their associated IP addresses.

When you register a domain with a registrar (RegisterFly, Network Solutions, etc.), the registrar creates a record in the domain registry that says “Customer X owns domainname.xxx” with all the contact information of the customer. The different registries (.com, .net, .us, …) now know that the registrar is the place to send queries about that domain name.  As an example, suppose I register websitepundit.com with RegisterFly.  RegisterFly tells the .com registry that I know own the domain and the .com registry is updated to tell the WWW to go to RegisterFly any time it needs nameserver information for websitepundit.com.

When a record is first created it will have the nameserver information for the registrar.  You can change the nameserver information to any nameserver you desire.  For any organization there is typically a primary domain nameserver (DNS) as well as a backup.  You can enter either the server’s domain name (ns1.domain.com) or the actual IP address if you know it.  The nameserver information needs to be set to whoever is hosting the domain.  Web hosting companies will provide nameserver information in the FAQ typically.

Hosting Options

This option will be only be available in a Domain Registry control panel if the nameserver information is still set to point to the domain registrar.  This option allows the user to control what the world will see.

Parked:  Used when you’re not actively using your domain or building content and not ready to make it go live yet.

Redirected (with Frames aka Domain masking):  Sends the user to another location when they type the domain name.  The address is the address bar is your domain name but a different domain name is actually loaded.  It’s sometimes called with frames or domain masking because it creates a “frame” around the actual website and masks to most users where they are actually visiting.

Redirected (with no Frames):  Sends the user to a different website but doesn’t mask where he has been redirected to.  For example, if you type www.chevy.com, you are redirected to www.chevrolet.com and that is loaded in the address bar.  www.chevy.com is an alias for the company’s main website.  Sometimes companies will buy variations of a domain name and redirect them to their main site.

For Sale:  Some domain registries allow you to select this option so that when a user types your domain, they get a for sale sign letting them know you’re willing to sell them the domain.  Some companies charge thousands of dollars for popular domain names.

E-mail Forwarding: There is much to say about this topic so I made it a separate web page under setting up domain e-mail.

Transfer Security

Domain registrars allow you to set tight security for your domain to prevent domain thieves from transferring domains to themselves.  Registry settings allow you to automatically reject all transfer requests.  Default setting should be high security to prevent the transfer and set back to normal only when you are in the process of changing registrars (which is rare).  When managing your domain, this is one of the most important security steps you can take.  Don’t neglect this.

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