Regain Control of Your Domain Name: A Step-by-Step Guide

by | Jun 14, 2024 | Alstra Technical Blog

At Alstra Solutions, we believe in empowering our clients by ensuring they have full control over their domain names. Unlike some companies that retain control over their clients’ domains to lock them into their services, we stand by the principle that the domain name belongs to you, the rightful owner.

Unfortunately, some web development providers engage in bad practices, such as marking up domain prices or being reluctant to release control back to the client. This guide aims to help clients who are facing difficulties regaining control of their domain names from a previous web development provider.

What is a Domain?

A domain name is a unique address used to access a website. It serves as an easy-to-remember identifier that directs users to the IP address where your website is hosted. For example, “alstra.ca” is our domain name.

What is a Domain Registry?

A domain registry is an organization responsible for managing the database of domain names within a specific top-level domain (TLD). For instance, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority) manages the .ca TLD, while Verisign manages the .com TLD. These registries ensure the availability and uniqueness of domain names within their TLDs.

What is a Domain Registrar?

A domain registrar is a company accredited by a domain registry to sell domain names to the public. Registrars are responsible for maintaining the records of domain name ownership and providing access to domain management tools. For Canadian clients, we recommend Porkbun for .ca domains and Cloudflare for .com domains due to their affordable pricing and transparent practices.

Risks of Letting Your Web Developer Control Your Domain

Allowing your web developer to control your domain can lead to several risks:

  • Domain Expiration: If your developer fails to renew your domain, your website could go offline, affecting your business.
  • DNS Manipulation: Your developer could alter DNS records without your knowledge, disrupting your website’s functionality.
  • Ownership Disputes: From the registry’s perspective, the domain is owned by your developer, not you.
  • Inaccurate Information: If the developer provides incorrect information, the registry might suspend your domain.

Best Practices for Domain Ownership

Your business should directly register its domain with an accredited registrar. For .ca domains, you can register directly with Porkbun, an accredited registrar by CIRA. The process is straightforward:

  1. Register the domain directly with a registrar, ensuring you are the sole owner of the account.
  2. Provide temporary access to your web developer to manage DNS records on your behalf.
  3. Ensure you pay the registrar directly without any intermediaries.

How to Tell If You Have Full Control of Your Domain

Access to your web developer’s hosting panel, such as cPanel, does not equate to full control over your domain name. Web hosting and DNS management are separate from domain registrar accounts. You should be the primary account owner with a registrar accredited by the registry.

Steps to Regain Control of Your Domain

  1. Register an Account with a Registrar: Choose a registrar like Porkbun or Cloudflare.
  2. Request an Auth/EPP Code: Ask your web developer or the current domain owner for the authorization code required for domain transfer.
  3. Initiate a Domain Transfer: Log into your new registrar account and submit the domain name and EPP code to initiate the transfer. This process can take a few hours to a few days, depending on speed and data accuracy.
  4. Confirm Transfer Completion: Once the transfer is complete, the domain will be under your control in your registrar account.

What If the Previous Owner Refuses to Release Access?

If your web developer refuses to provide the Auth/EPP code, the central registry considers the developer the registrant. Here are steps to take:

  • Check the Contract: Review any agreements with your developer to determine your rights.
  • Dispute with the Registry: If your domain is a .ca, you can raise a dispute with CIRA if the domain name matches your registered business name. Note that this process can be lengthy and is not guaranteed to be successful.

Conclusion

Regaining control of your domain is crucial for maintaining the independence and security of your online presence. By understanding the roles of domain registries and registrars, and following best practices, you can ensure that your business retains rightful ownership and management of its domain names. For more guidance on domain management and other digital solutions, visit Alstra Solutions.

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