The Domain Name Management Guide
A Domain Name is one of the most important business assets that is also very different from other business assets. It costs just a few dollars per year to renew a domain name, but forget to renew a domain, lose control of it, and it may cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars or more to get it back!
It is important that you keep track of your domain names so that they are always renewed at the proper time.
Domain Name Management also involves things other than keeping track of renewals.
Basics of Domain Name Management
You can use the free Watch My Domains Basic if your domain name inventory is small (less than 20 domains).
Have a large domain name inventory? Find the right solution at the Product Comparison page.
Know Where Your Domains Point to
When you have a domain portfolio containing hundreds or thousands of domains, it is often very difficult to know where each domain points to. You may have changed service providers and forgotten to change the name servers or you may have changed your name servers to the wrong ones and so on.
Keep Track of all the Associated SSL Certificates & Other Records like MX, SPF, DKIM
You may have SSL certificates associated with some of your domain names. It becomes necessary to keep track of the expiry dates of the SSL certificates too.
You may have important TXT records like SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) and DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) in your DNS that are critical to email delivery. You also have to ensure that your MX (mail exchanger) records are setup properly.
Check for Inaccessible Email Addresses in Your Domain Records
The email addresses associated with your domain names are extremely important. If you are unable to receive emails to the registrant email address, you could lose control of your domain name. The Administrator email address is important because it is used to administer the domain account, reset your password and manage the DNS entries. The billing email address receives the domain renewal notices.
Which are the Important Domain Name Records?
Whois Records, Name Servers
The whois records of your domain name has to be accurate and up-to-date. This is important because you could lose the domain name if you use incorrect information in your whois records.
The NS records specify the address of the server that will respond to queries regarding your domain. These have to be accurate for your domain names to be able to serve web pages and accept emails.
DNS Settings, A Records, MX, TXT Records
Once you have specified the proper NS records, you also have to make sure that the named servers respond to queries about your domain. You will need to setup a valid A record (typically an IP address of the computer that will respond as your domain's host)
The MX records specify the email servers that will accept emails for your domain. If you don't want to receive emails for the domain you can leave these blank.
The TXT records typically specify verification data like SPF, DMARC, DKIM. These are important for email delivery and other verification purposes.
Spreadsheets can't do active tracking
You can always create a spreadsheet that contains all the information relating to your domains and monitor that information to make sure that you renew your domains properly. However, it is very difficult to use a spreadsheet to monitor dynamic data that could change at any time.
A server misconfiguration can case your domain to point to a wrong address. This is not a problem if this happens for a domain that has an active, live website. But if you have hundreds or thousands of parked domains, you may not realize the problem till much later.
Using a dedicated Domain Name Management Software
Domain Management Software can Automatically Track Domain Settings
Domain Name Management software can lookup whois records, check DNS, MX and SSL records and make the information available to you immediately. In most cases you will not need to manually enter any data.
This is a tremendous advantage over spreadsheets. You can even have the software send you alerts when something changes or have daily/ weekly/ monthly reports emailed to you.
Desktop Software is Easy to get started with
The desktop versions are easy to get started with. You can start using a Windows / Mac OS X software within a few minutes of downloading and installing the software. Desktop software is also easier to configure and will have fast interfaces.
Web server based solutions are more versatile
The web server versions require a little more initial work to setup and install. If you are not familiar with server installations, you will need to get a technical person to upload the files, specify a database and configure the application.
Once setup, the Web server version does have the advantage of being accessible from anywhere and from any browser enabled device. You are also not limited by the choice of your OS. It will work from Windows, Mac, iPhone, Android Phone, iPads etc.
Another advantage of web server based solutions is that they are "always on" and monitoring things, as opposed to desktop software that run only when your computer is switched on.