Over the last couple of years, I have come across increasing numbers of friends and small businesses falling into the pitfall of not having full access to their domain name. Not being technically/web development minded, they have generally outsourced all aspects of registering their domain name and web hosting to some freelancer or SME web agency to take care of developing and maintaining their website. While this works fine for the most part, there are a number of potential nightmares that could develop as a result.
I have heard stories from a number of small businesses who have had a terrible time trying to retrieve access to their site to update it because the freelancer or designer they hired no longer answers their calls, or the company that set up their website is no longer in business. They are generally able to finally retrieve access to their domain, but that is after a lot of hassle and often with additional costs incurred. I have also heard of cowboy web designers often charging the client $200+ to release the domain to them. Legally, the the customer does not have a foot to stand on as the domain was bought on the designer’s credit card and the admin details are in their name.
The worst scenarios I have seen have taken place in business partnerships, because when things go wrong there, it gets very messy and almost impossible to amend. If there is a fall-out there, domain-hijacking is a big risk, particularly if the business domain name was originally purchased by the disgruntled partner. Legal action generally kicks in at this point, and this turns into a time-consuming and expensive process which often does not have a happy ending.
Moral of the story: NEVER LET SOMEONE ELSE REGISTER YOUR DOMAIN NAME. When you are doing this, you are essentially giving that person full rights to your domain name. ALWAYS ensure that the domain is purchased with by yourself or in the business context, in the name of the business/business owner.
Registering your own domain is very simple. GoDaddy and Register.com are generally regarded as the main ports of call. I would encourage people to buy a hosting plan with the likes of Hostgator or Bluehost separately. You should take note that many host providers also offer domain registration, I would discourage people from signing on for that. In my work with websites over the past 5 years or so, I have moved away from a couple of host providers as I they weren’t quite meeting all my needs and their customer service wasn’t always top notch. In moving away from them, I was able to easily re-direct my domain to the new hosting plans from my GoDaddy account.
So please, please, please everyone, register your domain yourself. Then go and hand over your website development.