As a former Fortune 500 web and application development strategist, I never had the chance to see how the company registered domains or who was handling hosting. We had systems set up, company lawyers who handled property rights and a slew of people responsible for protecting company assets.

When I started my own business to work with small and mid-sized company owners to develop WordPress websites, I could not believe how they were handling one of their most PROTECTED and most VALUABLE company holdings – their company website domain!

The domain name is where a person would type in your company name into the browser to find you. It comes after http or www. Yes, I’m saying it this directly because out here in the web world people new to it don’t know what things are called. It’s like visiting a new planet that has a whole new language.

Many a trusting soul has plunked down their money and bought a website from a company. These companies range from the teenager on the corner to the savvy web design firm. Regardless of who you are working with, you need to follow the following recommendations to ensure your company rights are PROTECTED!

Now, you may be wondering, WHY is this guy making such a BIG DEAL about this? Well, I’ll share a cautionary tale with you as to the EXACT reason I’m making a big deal about this.

This is what happens when you don’t take care of your web registrations. True story.

A gentleman I’ll call Sam had a friend who said he would manage all of Sam’s company websites. At first, like most people, Sam only had one website. His friend bought the URL (the domain name) and registered it. His friend also built the site. His friend also handled the hosting (this is where you park your website on the web so people can access it from the Internet).

Now, the URL was Sam’s company name. The writing, the products, the blog – everything on the website was for Sam’s company. However, guess who owned the website?

That’s right.

Sam’s friend owned the website. Sam’s friend owned the domain. Sam’s friend owned the parking space.

What? You cry. How can this possibly happen?

Well, this is how it happens. And, this is why YOU should never let this happen to YOU.

Think of your website like a car. The car is going to be ‘parked’ in a parking garage called a host. Think of an electronic world that is just streets and streets and streets with parking garages lining the streets. Each of these ‘parking garages’ is called a host. The host allows you to park your car in their garage – for a monthly fee.

When you buy your car (your website), you need three things: You need an address so people can come see your car (this is your company.com or domain name), you need a car (website) and you need a place to park your car (hosting).

Each one of these is OWNED by YOU. You wouldn’t buy a car in the real world by asking someone to go buy it and then set it up for you. Nor should you do this in the Internet world. However, this is what people do every day.

I’ve worked with solopreneurs, small business and also multi-million dollar businesses that handled their websites like this. This is not a matter of someone not being smart. It’s just that people don’t know what they don’t know.

Oh, and Sam? Sam’s friend unexpectedly died. No will. No instructions about Sam’s website domains, hosting or ownership. It’s been years and Sam has had to purchase all new domains, new website and new hosting even though he had already purchased multi-year packs from his friend. Is this a worst-case scenario? Yes, it is, but it could happen to you!

Don’t let that happen!

Here’s what you need to know:

You MUST purchase your domain yourself! You MUST make sure YOU are the owner of your domain name. Your domain name is what comes after http:// or www. We walk through this buying process with new clients, but THEY must actually purchase and enter their information to ensure that THEY are the owner of the domain.

If you allow your web person to OWN your domain name, this is like giving your mechanic your car title. Who own’s the domain? YOU DO.

Once you set up your domain in YOUR name, you will own it. After that, you will need to determine how you will give someone access to this valuable asset.

My typical recommendation is for you to make the changes to the domain (typically DNS) and give the user access to the hosting account only. I would also make sure that you have the individual sign a non-disclosure agreement. If at any time the developer goes away, immediately change the password on the account at your host.

Maintain constant access to your hosting account and ensure YOU know the password.

While this might sound obvious, when it comes to technical items like a website, people don’t want to touch things they don’t understand. They are more than willing to give up their hosting account for someone else to take care of it or set it up. Your hosting account is where you park your car (website). You can’t get to your car without knowing the password to get into the garage. If you give control to your web person and don’t maintain your passwords YOURSELF, your web person could lock you out of your own garage!

Yes, this really does happen. I’ve even had new clients come trying to get help to get a hostile web person to give up rights to their own company account. No one cares about YOUR company hosting account like you do (because this is YOUR company’s asset), so you need to care enough to know the password at all times and to ensure you have access to this information. People get new jobs. People quit designing websites. But, you know whose problem it really is when YOU can’t get in YOUR garage (hosting account)? YOURS!

Here’s what no one is going to tell you. The hosting company can only go by what is on their records. If your web person is the contact on the hosting package, then ONLY that person can get access. What? Even if YOU own the company reflected in the domain name? YES! The hosting company can get into SERIOUS trouble by allowing someone else to access the account.

This is why YOU MUST ensure you maintain the account so YOU can always gain access to your hosting.

When you hire someone to design your website, ensure that YOU own the website when you are finished.

If you are not familiar with the land of designers who own things after YOU have paid them for the design they made for your company, then this is for you. Yes, it is really true. Some design agencies write into their contracts that THEY own YOUR website when they are done?

What?

This falls into the category of who ‘owns’ the art. When a photographer takes a picture of you, who owns the photo? Yes, that’s right. The photographer owns the photo. You simply are paying for a copy of their art! Even when YOU are the primary subject of that art. This is why each time you want a copy, you have to go back to the photographer. Even if you want to use your photo in a book you’ve written, you must credit the photographer and pay the photographer for using his or her art. Who owns design materials when an agency holds the copyright? That’s right. The agency.

However, you can ensure you OWN your car when you buy it. You just need to negotiate this upfront.

I have many cautionary tales of web people who have been hit by buses, who have lost their marbles and run back to corporate America, of trusting business owners who were ‘too busy’ to handle the details and the best advice is to set this up the right way the FIRST TIME. Once you do it, then you’ll know how to do it.

If this article is still too much or your prefer someone else to do it for you, contact us at 424.234.8528 today.