Reminder: is Your Domain Name About to Expire?

Posted at September 6, 2011

It’s any pastor’s worst nightmare, right up there alongside the one where you get up to preach and the entire congregation stands up to exit. Or the one where your church building is foreclosed, and auctioned off to an adult video store.

Yes, it really can be that bad when your church’s domain name expires.

This happened to my own church back in the early 1990′s. We literally woke up one morning and browsed to nameofmychurch.org, only to find an adult content site. Can you imagine anything so awful? It was completely horrifying, and it took over a week to fix.

For those who are new to the terminology, your domain name is simply your “dot com” or “dot org” name. It is what someone types into their Web browser in order to find your Website.

You do not own your domain name. You are merely “leasing” it for a period of time, in exchange for a payment to a domain registrar. Common domain registrars include register.com, networksolutions.com, and godaddy.com.

The domain registrar is rarely the same company who hosts your Website. In other words, your Web host could be providing you normal service, but if your domain name is not set up correctly then people won’t be able to find your site. This initially seems like a “site is down” situation, but in reality it’s a simpler–but potentially more devastating–problem.

Most organizations reserve their domain name for a period of 1 to 3 years. When the expiration date nears, your registrar will probably send you some reminder Emails. But they may not, and they aren’t required to do so. If you ignore those Emails, or fail to check on your domain status, it will expire.  Within a period of hours after expiration, someone else might buy it. If this happens, it can be very difficult to wrest control of your domain name back without large fees or legal procedures.

Often, the person who swoops in to buy your expired domain name is doing so for nefarious reasons (see: cybersquatting).

An Ounce of Prevention Is All You Need

Our advice is simple:

1. Make sure your domain registrar information is accurate. Log in to your domain registrar right now and make sure that someone with a valid Email address is listed as your administrative, billing, or “main” contact. While you’re there, review your domain names and their expiration dates.

2. Run a WHOIS lookup on yourself.  This is a quick way to verify that the publicly-displayed information about your domain owner is correct.  We recommend using this link to run the check, just enter your domain name into the box. (By the way, if you lose your domain and want to know who got it, this tool should be your first tool.)

2. Set a reminder for yourself to check your domain registrar every 6 to 12 months. If you’re the main contact, then the information won’t change without your knowledge. But it’s a good habit to check the account periodically because after all, few of your online properties are more valuable then your domain name!

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