Over the course of the last week, we have had 3 clients run into complications with their website because they did not have control of their own domain name. Let me explain.
First of all, no one ever "owns" a domain name, we simply "rent" the domain for a yearly fee, which averages around $10 for a .com address. There are many companies out there that you can rent your domain from, our favorite is Namecheap. You simply create an account, search for your domain name, and if it is available, you purchase it! We suggest buying your domain name for many years at once, rather than just renewing each year. This serves two purposes, it ensures that you own your domain for a length of time and you don't have to think about it each year, but it also makes the search engines happy; if you invest for many years, it shows them that you're in it for the long haul, and they like that.
The potential for danger is if a web company offers to purchase your domain for you, on your behalf.
This may seem all well and good because it is one less thing you have to do, but technically, it is in their account, and if you ever want to switch web companies, getting your name back can be a hassle.
Case in point, last week we had a person referred to us who has been frustrated with the last 3 web companies he has worked with. He currently feels "stuck" because he is working with a new company, but he feels they aren't listening to his needs. He was referred to us by my old boss, and I have talked with him many times now giving him advice and trying to help him make the best of his current situation. The thing that is driving me nuts, is that his old company owns his domain name, and the new company obviously needs it to make his new website live. However, rather than having the client set up his own account to transfer the domain into, the new company was planning to transfer the domain into their account! Thus, this vicious cycle of moving your domain around every time you switch web companies.
The simple solution and the right thing to do as a business owner, create your own account and maintain control over your domain name!
This will create much less confusion if you ever decide to change web companies, and prevent any web company from holding your domain name hostage!