Your website is the center of your company’s digital footprint. And your website lives at a domain (www.yourcompany.com).
Do you know who owns that domain? If you don’t know the answer to that question, the bad news is that it may not be you.
Keep reading to learn more.
What is a domain name, anyway?
A domain name is literally the thing you type into a browser. For instance, our domain name is www.fatcatstrategies.com. Your domain name is www.YourCompanyNameHere.com. (Well, not literally, but you see our point.)
Over the years, we’ve seen clients struggle to understand the difference between domain name management and web hosting.
We admit. It can be confusing.
Lots of companies offer domain registration and management services, like GoDaddy and Register.com, for example. And many of those companies also offer web hosting. We think that’s where some of the confusion comes from.
It’s entirely possible to register a domain name and “park” it without building a website associated with that new domain name. Or, you can register your domain name and sign up for hosting all at the same time.
If you own a small business, and you don’t personally remember registering your domain name, there’s a chance you may not actually own your domain name.
How can that be?
Let’s say you started your company 8 years ago, and you hired a web design company (or a freelancer) to “set up everything up.” You were busy doing lots of other stuff to get your business up and running. You didn’t have time to dive into the technical details. We get it.
But, if the company (or freelancer) who “set everything up” all those years ago also registered your domain, there’s a chance they registered it in their name, not yours.
Why does that matter? Here’s all the stuff that you can control when you own a domain:
When it expires and whether to renew it
Where & how email is routed
Where & how web traffic is routed
What’s the difference between your domain and your web hosting?
When you purchase a domain, you literally own the rights to that domain name, but you will still need a place to store the files that make up your website. This is where web hosting comes into the picture.
When you purchase “web hosting” you’re literally renting space on a server in some data center somewhere on the planet. (Maybe Kansas?)
Think of web hosting like a storage unit. It’s a place to put stuff. In this instance, digital stuff. It’s where you keep all the files and software associated with your website. And your domain name is just the map that tells the internet how to find your storage unit.
(Hopefully, this metaphor makes sense 🙂
BTW, our favorite hosting company is WPEngine. The company specializes in WordPress hosting and they have awesome support.
But, WPEngine does not offer domain registration or management services. We have lots of clients that purchased their domain name through GoDaddy, but host their website through WPEngine. This is a perfect example of how hosting and domain management are different and can be managed by different companies.
How can you tell if you own your domain?
Go to WHOIS lookup and type in your domain name. Unless the registration records have been made private (which is a topic for a whole other blog post) you should be able to see the name of the owner.
How can you find out who hosts your website?
On the hosting side, it can be a little more complicated to figure out. If you literally don’t know, you’ll have to do some digging and connect with the company that first built your site.
I wish we had a better answer, but for the purposes of this post, that’s the best one we can give right now.
The bottom line
Work with vendors that can explain these things to you and act in your best interest.
We don’t own any of our clients’ domain names, nor do we hold their hosting accounts hostage. If you find yourself in a relationship like that with a digital agency or vendor, get out. Fast.
Lastly, if you still need help and want to work with a company that values education and transparency, call us!