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If your car is out of gas, do you take it to a mechanic to find out why it isn’t working? You can, but that will be a costly trip. The same is true of web sites; there are many elements that go into making a site functional that have nothing to do with the web developer. Here are some of the most common “web site problems” and how to fix them without calling your web developer:

Expired Domain Name: the domain name (or URL) is the name by which a site is called. It’s usually preceded by ‘www.’ and often coincides with the name of the organization (for example, www.thestonefoundation.com). The domain name is usually the first thing we reserve when planning to develop a site. The domain registrar is the company that 1) reserves the domain name for you, so that it is unique to your site; and 2) points the name to the server where the web site is hosted (the Domain Name System, or DNS). You pay the registrar an annual fee (nowadays, around $10 – $15/year) to reserve the domain name for you, and you can pay in advance for multiple years.

When the paid period is up, your right to exclusive use of the domain expires and it reverts back to the general population of available names. This usually doesn’t happen until after several warnings, but you can miss this if they go to your spam folder, or you have an old email address on file in your contact information. Once this happens, the domain name will no longer point to your web site.

Troubleshooting:

  • if you have an email from your registrar with a warning notice about expiration, click on the link and pay the fee. There is a grace period after expiration where you can have your rights to the domain name reactivated. If you web site has become unavailable during this time, it will generally come back within a few hours once the fee is paid
  • go to your domain registrar (or any registrar, including www.directnic.com, www.godaddy.com, and www.networksolutions.com) and check to see if the domain name is expired. There is usually a link called ‘WHOIS that will tell you who a domain belongs to and when the registration period starts and ends. If your name no longer appears there, you’ve lost it. You will have to reserve the name again (if it is still available) and reset the DNS servers (you should be able to get this info from your web host)
  • KEEP YOUR DOMAIN PASSWORD and if possible, the email that came with it. This will be valuable, particularly if you’re changing web hosts or web developers. Sometimes the domain name and web hosting are managed by the same company, but many times they are not. If they are not, this username and password will NOT be the same as your web hosting information.