If you have a web site, chances are you hired someone to help you get it launched. If you did, you have three primary components under the umbrella of "a web site." There is your domain name, also known as a "URL" or your web address. There is your web hosting - the space you rent on a server out there somewhere, to put your web site on. And then there is your web site itself, which is a combination of HTML files and images which are uploaded to that web hosting you rent.
The most cautious rule of thumb is that you should have three separate providers - a domain name registrar, a web hosting company, and a web site designer. The reason many web experts believe this is that if you have a problem with one, you still have control over the other two. For example, if your web hosting company causes you problems, you have your web content, and you have access to your domain, and you can easily shut off one hosting account, find another, and move your site. If your web designer goes bad, you can at least change access to your site, move it or provide the information to a new designer. Conversely, if you have all three components in one place, you run the risk of finding yourself without a web site, perhaps temporarily, or worst case, having to start from scratch.
Although I'm personally a believer in keeping it all separate, the majority of business people don't think like that and a great many folks have gone for an "all in one" situation where the hosting, domain and web site are with one provider. Whatever your scenario is, there is one absolutely critical piece of information you should take from this article. You MUST have administrative control over all three components of your web presence: domain, hosting and content. You don't have to DO anything with it - except print out the access information and stash it away. You can rely on someone to manage it all for you, like I do for most of my clients. But if you don't have this information, you don't really own your web site!
Even if you have a wonderful relationship with your service provider, stop and ask yourself the following:
Do you know the name of the domain registration company?
Do you have the username and password to access your domain account?
Are you certain that YOU are listed as the legal owner of the domain?
Do you know where your web site is hosted?
Do you have the "FTP" (this stands for file transfer protocol) username and password to get to your web site on the host server?
A frightening number of new clients come to me without this information, and very often, they've already run into trouble and need help. In some cases, they have had to start all over with a new web site. In one situation, a client almost lost her domain name because the "all in one" company she had paid for a web site had made themselves the legal owners of the domain!
Don't wait until you have a problem - make sure YOU own your web site, right now.
Eileen Parzek is an award winning graphic designer and writer providing digital and print graphic design and web design services. Always found at the intersection of information, creativity and technology, her business, Business Design Studio (http://www.businessdesignstudio.com) helps small businesses make a big impression, increase their reach and grow.