Did you know that your domain can be the central hub of many essential IT services? Even the smallest businesses and organizations can utilize advanced services and tools, such as Google Apps for Business, on the cheap.
I Don’t Understand IT Stuff, So I Just Hire Someone To Handle It All
For the owners, managers and professionals of many small businesses and organizations, IT services are confusing and intimidating. In the roughly 20 years since the mainstream adoption of the Internet in America, many average users feel comfortable surfing the internet, utilizing free email services like Yahoo! Mail, Gmail and Outlook.com, and using other services like Skype, Apple iTunes and Netflix. However, if the average user were asked how configure and administer email accounts for 5-10 employees through a company domain, many would be immediately lost.
Understand A Little
Unfortunately, some Internet companies and consultants have taken advantage of this confusion, signing businesses and organizations up for expensive hosting services with limited functionality and sometimes unnecessary contracts. By understanding just a few core concepts of how Internet domains operate, most owners and managers can feel more comfortable adding or changing IT services and shopping around for better deals on the IT services they depend on to successfully operate.
I Thought My Domain Was Just For My Website?
When it comes to the online identity of a business, nothing is more important than a Second-Level Domain (SLD). This term may already be confusing because it is the proper term of what a majority of Internet users simply refer to as “domains”. A Top-Level Domain (TLD) refers to the portion of a domain that comes after the period, such as “com”, “net”, “org” or “biz”. The portion of the domain known as the SLD is what comes before the period – this is the part that makes your domain unique. No one else can register your SLD at the same time as you, and when you have properly utilized your unique domain’s potential it becomes the literal foundation of your business on the Internet.
Keep Domains Registered
Unfortunately, many small businesses and organizations do not realize the importance of their domain and they neglect to keep their domain registration maintained. Worse, some hand over complete control of their domain to a third-party; this can lead to unscrupulous third-parties actually registering the domain in their name, rather than the name of the business or organization. This is akin to a business handing the deed to an office building over to a general contractor and allowing him to register it in his name! Some businesses and organizations experience dire consequences, such as losing control of their domain and even having to register a new one, which can lead to brand confusion, lost sales and wasted Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Retaining control of your domain is relatively simple. First, ensure that your business or organization is properly listed as the “registrants” of your domain. This can be accomplished by doing a WHOIS search for your domain record. Simply enter in your domain and the WHOIS service will display the parties listed as the registrant, administrator and technical contact for the domain. If you have hired a third-party to administer your domain or IT services, it is proper for that individual or organization to be listed as the administrator and/or technical contact, but not as the registrant. Next, check the contact information listed in the domain record. If any of this information is wrong or out of date, it is essential that it be updated and/or corrected as quickly as possible. Finally, make sure that you have access to your user account at the domain registrar. If a third-party is managing the domain for you, make sure they are willing to provide you with the username and password for this account.
Control Over IT
Once you have verified that your domain is properly registered to your organization and that you have access to your domain account, you now have control over the IT products and services used by your business or organization through your domain. Many small business owners and managers are unaware that services such as web hosting, email and administrator tools do not have to be provided by the same company that handles the domain registration – through the use of CNAME records, or records at the registrant that route control over the domain services, you can customize the products and services used by your employees and even your customers.
If you are primarily a small to medium-sized organization and your domain will only be used by your employees (for instance, you are not providing email or web hosting services to your customers), Google provides a complete “all-in-one” package of products and services at a very reasonable price through Google Apps for Business. For $5 a month or $50 a year per user, your business or organization can utilize all of Google’s services using your domain – for instance, your employees’ email addresses will end in your domain, as opposed to the standard “gmail.com” issued to standard Google users. Your employees will not be subject to Google advertisements and the online storage for emails and files, through both Gmail and Google Drive, is expanded to 25 gigabytes per user. Finally, the designated administrator of your Google Apps services will have broad control over the user accounts and the products and services used by your employees.
Many Different Services
If Google Apps for Business is not the right fit for your business, there are a wide range other service providers that your business or organization can use, ranging from free services such as Microsoft’s Outlook.com all the way to advanced and expensive cloud-based products and services that would allow your business or organization to provide Internet services to your customers.