We have had two cases in as many days where a customer has called and inquired about why, when they enter their URL, some other website appears. This is almost always a sickening experience because, in both of our two most recent cases, the customer registered their domain name with another company. So, what happened?
It's really quite simple. Either the customer did not receive a notification that their domain name was up for renewal or they received the notification and did not pay attention to it or do anything about it. They may have falsely assumed, "Sitemason takes care of my website so this is not my responsibility." While we DO register and renew domain names for customers, this is not always something that we are asked to do. Maybe the web designer or the customer owned that domain name long before the site was built on Sitemason. The other problem that could have occurred is that the registration information on file with the Registrar (i.e. GoDaddy) contained an invalid email address or rarely-used address. GoDaddy likely sent multiple invoices and warnings but to a bad address so no one knew before it was too late. Whatever the case, we will not know if your domain name is lost if it is not registered by us!
Presumably, the customer either failed or was unable to heed the warnings that inevitably accompany the multiple notices (all via email) asking for payment and, eventually, the domain name is released back into the wild where anyone, ANYONE, can register it and launch a new site. This almost always spells the end for the old site. All of this because of an overlooked detail related to an annual cost of about $20-$30.
What can you do to prevent this?
1. Know where your domain name is registered. Most popular ones are GoDaddy and Network Solutions and they are known as the registrar in this example.
2. Keep the domain name registrar informed of your most current contact information. You will need to remember your login credentials (username and password) to do this.
3.Know when your domain name expires and keep it paid current! Put it in your calendar! Use a permanent marker and record it on the waistband of your underpants. Something!
4. If you move your site, do NOT assume that your domain name was moved along with it. It may be that the web designer or whoever is in charge of relocating your site simply instructed to point the domain name servers to another server that houses the new website.
5. If you are moving your site TO Sitemason and would like for us to relocate your domain name to our account with Network Solutions (also a registrar), we will do our best to work with you and your web master to do just that. This kind of activity requires everyone's cooperation but, as inexpensive as a domain name is, losing the domain name can be VERY costly and frustrating so pay attention when we tell you what we need to make that happen.
6. If you depart from your dear friends at Sitemason, first of all, please don't leave us! We don't want to lose a customer. However, if you must, please make sure that whoever is in charge of your site transfers the domain name. We only handle domain names as a courtesy to our beloved hosting customers, preferably of the Sitemason CMS kind. Our passion and "raison d'etre" are for providing a secure, robust, supported platform on which developers and designers can build amazingly cool websites. To ask us to take care of your domain name after you leave is like moving out and asking us to keep your pet parakeet. Sorry, but you need to take everything with you if you don't want to build on us.
7. If the worst possible situation occurs and your site is with Sitemason, at least your site is not gone. The next step is likely to consider registering a new domain name and starting the process of letting the world know where your site now resides.
If you ever have any questions about best practices, be sure to check out our ever-growing forum. Supported users can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And......let's be careful out there!