The story usually goes like this: “We hired someone to do a web site for us. The web master registered mydomain.com, created a site and set up hosting. After a few years we lost contact with the web master and now we don’t know how to manage our domain and move the site. We paid upfront for x years.” Clearly this isn’t a good situation and there are a lot of issues packed into one paragraph.
The most important one is, who really owns your dotcom? Is it you? Many people are unpleasantly surprised when they learn that a domain name they paid for was NOT registered in their name at all, but rather in the name of the person they paid to register it for them. This may seem trivial to some, but bear in mind that your direct control over the domain name you paid for, as well as your legal rights regarding it, are essentially non-existent if you are not listed as the official registrant and/or administrative contact in the domain record.
Handing over control and legal ownership of your domain means letting someone else choose your registrar, letting someone else decide how much you pay for your domain each year, and letting someone else be the gatekeeper of all communications to your domain. It also means having to go through that same someone if and when you decide to take your website somewhere else. In a situation that cannot be resolved you might even have to register a new domain and start all over.
To find out who owns your dotcom you can look up your record on the “whois” database found on a number of domain registrars’ web sites, like godaddy.com or networksolutions.com. If you paid for it and aren’t listed as its legal owner, contact the owner of record and insist that the domain be put in your name as soon as possible. Get and maintain control of your own domain name now to avoid undue hassles later!