As the proud owner of your domain name, there are a number of administrative tasks you may want and/or need to perform relating to the maintenance and use of your name.
Since all Registrars have slightly different procedures and interfaces for carrying out administrative tasks on the domain names you own, the focus of this section is on helping you to understand what you can do and why you would do it. For specifics on how to perform administrative tasks on your name, you’ll need to see the support section of your Registrar’s website.
Before a domain name can be used for a website, information needs to be supplied explaining how to link the domain name with the IP address of the website.
The domain nameservers take care of this linking or association process. They essentially translate your domain name from a string of text into a series of numbers that a computer can understand.
Every time you change the IP address for your website (this happens most frequently when you change web hosting providers, but there can be other cases in which you need to change IP address) you need to change the DNS information for your domain name.
Each domain name must have at least two nameservers associated with it – the Primary and Secondary nameservers. Sometimes, additional nameservers can also be associated with a domain name. When a domain lookup (i.e. someone accesses your domain) is carried out, the primary nameserver is consulted first. If the primary nameserver can’t be reached (because of technical problems or if it is offline) then the secondary nameserver is contacted, and so on.
A DNS entry will look something like this:
Primary nameserver: ns1.nameserver.com
Secondary nameserver: ns2.nameserver.com
Your web hosting company or parking service will provide you with the nameservers appropriate to the services it offers. Once you have your nameserver information, you can log into your Registrar’s control panel and update the nameserver settings for your domain name.
Once you update your nameserver settings, you can check that your changes have been reflected in your domain name record using a whois lookup tool. After 24 hours or so, you should see the new entry at the bottom of your domain name whois record.
It’s important to remember that nameserver settings take time to propagate. The changes you make might take time to fan out or ‘propagate’ across the internet. Sometimes one person might be able to see the nameserver change fairly quickly, while another may take much longer.
In other words, even though you change the nameserver settings on a domain name, it can take at least 48 hours and in some cases as long as 72 hours or more before everyone on the Internet sees the new record associated with your domain name (and hence sees the site it is linked to).
This means that if you change web hosts and change your nameserver settings at the same time, you will see your traffic drop almost to zero for the first 24 hours, and then recover to about 50-60% of its normal level after 48 hours before gradually coming back to normal over the following days. You can avoid this delay by leaving your website up at your old web host for at least 72 hours to make sure that your nameservers have fully propagated.
It’s important to note that your Registrar does not have control over the propagation delay as it’s the result of how the DNS system functions. Unfortunately, angry emails to tech support won’t help. The only cure for DNS resolution problems once you’ve made a change (as long as you’re sure the change has been recorded by your Registrar) is to wait until the change filters through to all corners of the Internet.
If you want to test the IP address associated with your domain name (or indeed, any domain name) you can simply type the IP address into your browser instead of typing in the domain name.
You may wish to change the Technical or Billing contacts associated with a domain name. The Technical contact is usually the person who will receive copies of email notifications issued to document changes to your domain name record, such as a change of nameservers or a change to the contact details (this varies slightly from Registrar to Registrar). The Billing contact is the person or entity to which the domain name renewal invoice will go.
Most Registrars will let you change this information fairly easily through their domain name control panel as Technical and Billing contacts do not exert control over a domain name. Control rests with the Admin contact, which is the subject of the next section.
The Admin contact is the person or entity entrusted with the ability to make significant changes to a domain name such as transferring ownership of that domain name to a different party. As such, many Registrars implement additional security steps when processing Admin contact change requests. These may range from requiring a response to a confirmation email to requiring a fax on company letterhead to an official change instruction notarized by a lawyer.
If your Registrar has particularly complex rules surrounding making changes in the Admin contact record, you may find it simpler to move the domain name to a different Registrar, and make the required changes during the transfer.
Although this administrative operation is rarely required, there may be circumstances in which you wish to delete a domain name registration entirely.
Domain name registration deletions are always irreversible. Once you give the final instruction to proceed with the deletion, the domain name will no longer be yours!
It’s also worth noting that you cannot get a refund for the remaining term of a domain name registration when you delete a domain name – that money is lost for good.
Since domain name deletions are so rarely required (and so final), your Registrar may not have an automated process in place to handle them. In that case, you will have to contact their support department with your deletion request. You may also have to fill out paperwork or sign a waiver document releasing them from responsibility once your name has been deleted.
Domain name deletions can take weeks or months to process. If you REALLY need a domain name deleted urgently, you may have to pay an additional fee to expedite the deletion – check with your Registrar for details.
What happens to your domain name when it is deleted will depend on the Registrar. Some will release it into the pool of available domain names almost immediately, while others may hold on to it for weeks or months before making it available for others to re-register. Still others may put it out for sale until the registered time runs out.
When you purchase a domain name, what you’re actually purchasing is a series of rights associated with that name, for a finite and defined period of time (typically 1 – 10 years). You’ll be able to use the domain name for a web site, simply keep it in reserve for future use, or transfer control over it to a third party (i.e. sell or lease the domain name).
Once the registration period of that domain name runs out, you either have to pay a renewal fee or relinquish control over the domain name. If you do not renew a domain, it will become available for anyone to re-register.
Most Registrars send you an email invoice shortly before it is time to pay the renewal fee. Some Registrars even send multiple reminder emails leading up to the actual expiration of your domain. Do not be alarmed if you receive a “Notice of Expiration” several months before you believe your domain should expire – your Registrar may just be giving you a few extra months to plan your payment.
Some Registrars let you pay the renewal fee even after the official renewal date has come and gone, during an additional ‘grace period‘. Since this varies from Registrar to Registrar and is not an official practice, you’re much better off paying to renew your domain name before it actually expires.
Many Registrars deal with their customers entirely electronically, to the point that you’ll never receive any paper documentation from them. Therefore, you must ensure that the email address (or addresses) associated with your domain names are reachable at all times, since email is likely the only way you’ll receive a renewal invoice. If you lose a domain because you changed your email address but didn’t update you domain contact information, you Registrar will most likely be unable to assist you since their Terms of Service will almost certainly include a provision requiring functional email contacts (both for this scenario and for general legal reasons).
If you do somehow miss the renewal date of your domain name, you may still be able to get the name back. For instance, .com domain names have a grace period where the Registrant can still pay a renewal fee. After the grace period is over, the domain name enters the redemption period. During this period, you can pay a larger fee to get the name back. If this has happened to you, it is important to check with your Registrar immediately to see what options are available to you.
Now let’s get into how to choose the right TLD to use for your specific purposes.