November is National WHOIS Awareness Month

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A very common thing we run into as Web site designers and Web/e-mail hosts is incorrect WHOIS contact data causing unnecessary and easily avoidable downtime. The aim of this blog post is to explain the different parts of a WHOIS record, why WHOIS records are important and how to resolve these issues before they affect business critical services.

What is a WHOIS Record?

Every domain name (YourName.com) has something called a WHOIS record. The WHOIS record contains:

  1. Where the domain name is registered

    Every domain name must be registered to a domain registrar. Common registrars are GoDaddy and Network Solutions as well as point2point. The analogy I often use is you have to get a phone number from a phone company and you must pay to have a account with a phone company to keep that phone number.

    Why this is important:
    To make changes to any of the below information you must contact the registrar listed in the WHOIS. The majority of the time the registrar will only work with the person listed in the WHOIS as the registrant. You can transfer your domain name from one registrant to another but it requires that your contact information is up to date. Many times you can reset the login credentials for your domain name if your information is listed in the WHOIS data.

  2. When the domain was initially registered and when it will expire.

    The WHOIS record will also show when the domain name was initially registered and when it will next expire.

    Why this is important:
     This information is very important if you do not have access to your domain name since it will soon be available to the public if it expires and is not renewed shortly after the expiration. Once a domain name expires, the nameservers are automatically changed by the registrant to the default nameservers of the registrant . This will immediately disable both the Web site and e-mail services setup for that domain. Any e-mail sent to e-mail addresses after expiration will bounce back and will not be retrievable even after the domain is renewed.

  3. The Registrant, Admin, Technical contact information

    In my opinion, the registrant is the most important information in the WHOIS record since this is the information that ICANN (the governing body of domain names) uses to determine who is the owner of the domain name. The administrative and technical contacts information is also very important. It is imperative that this information remain up to date and accurate since you will usually not be able to reset login credentials to renew the domain name or to make any other changes, such as pointing the Web site/e-mail to a different server.

    Why this is important:
    This information says who actually owns the domain name. Often times this information is incorrect due to a company registering the domain on your behalf but not actually putting your contact information in. If that company then goes out of business your domain name will continue forth registered in their name. When it comes time to make any changes to the Web site or renew the domain name, this process can be hindered if you do not have access to the registrar and the WHOIS data is out of date or completely incorrect.

    This is somewhat more of a concern in cities like New Orleans that are always under the threat of hurricanes and businesses not recovering after particularly bad storms.

  4. Nameservers that the domain is pointed at

    The WHOIS record will also show the nameservers that the domain is pointed at. This information tells the Internet that the domain is hosted by this web host. This determines also where that domain name’s e-mail is routed through as well.

    Why this is important:
    If the nameservers are changed you are basically telling the Internet that your web site and e-mail are now hosted elsewhere. It can take up to 48 hours for these nameservers to propagate, so any changes made can not be immediately tested when accuracy is a priority. As stated above, when a domain name expires, the nameservers are changed to the default nameservers, resulting in e-mail and web site downtime.

Are you concerned yet? You should be. To check your whois data head on over to Whois.Net and enter in your domain name. If you don’t see your organization’s contact information we recommend you reach out to whoever is listed there and inquire on correcting this info.

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