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The relationship between your IP, web host, and domain registrar can be very confusing, but a website owner must understand the role of each. Most importantly, the web client needs to have access to their domain registrar, or potentially risk the loss of your domain name! The entities are…
Internet Service Provider
The company you pay on a monthly basis to access the Internet from your home or business. These are typically your phone, cable or satellite TV providers.
The company you pay on a monthly or annual basis to store your web site on their server so that anyone can access it by going to your web address (www.yourwebsite.com). They commonly provide your e-mail service as well.
The company you pay every 1, 2, 5, or 10 years for the “yourwebsite.com” web address. The registrar may or may not be your IP or hosting company; often, they are affiliated with one, but you must be sure you have direct access to the registrar regardless of the IP or host.
The registrar also allows you to manage your domain name. If you change web hosts, you or your webmaster will need to update the name server information at the registrar. The name servers, or DNS, direct your domain name to the web host where your pages and files are available.
The domain registrar is commonly overlooked or ignored, but is critical and a potential problem if the site owner does not have control of the domain name.
Web designers and hosts often procure domains on behalf of their clients, but commonly show themselves as the “registrant” (which is the legal domain owner). This is often done as the designer/host must pay for the domain when it is ordered prior to being reimbursed.
But once that bill is paid, it is a good idea for the site owner to ask that they be listed as the registrant. You may also want to have the domain moved to an account you can access and manage in case you change designers or hosts.
We have had a few clients lose their domain names because the legal registrant was a former, freelance designer, employee, or volunteer who has moved on, making it impossible for our client to renew the domain or manage it. Unless you are listed as the domain registrant, it may be difficult or even impossible to establish your claim to that domain name.
We have also seen cases where the domain has expired without the site owner’s knowledge, and another party has registered it.
Having a large company handle your domain registration does not guarantee protection, and may even complicate things further. Some well-known web packages offer domain registration, but it’s handled through a third-party provider that may even be offshore. You may find another party owns the domain, and the offshore registrar will do little or nothing to help you gain control.
All site owners should maintain complete records of their IP, web host, and domain registrar. Your web host and domain registrar accounts will usually have their own, unique user names and passwords that should be safely stored where you can retrieve them quickly.