We have been in the web business for a long time.
A very long time.
Personally, I started working on websites more than 20 years ago — wow, how time flies!
When all this web-gloriousness started, Network Solutions (NS) was the be-all and end-all of web registrars. Clients with whom I worked felt warm fuzzies when they registered that shiny, brand-new URL with NS, and rightfully so! NS was the Top-Level Domain (TLD) registrar, granting exclusive access to domain registration all the way back in 1992! [Source]
I remember this reputation of being solid and straightforward persisting throughout the early 2000s. Alas, it seems that era is over. There are still many clients who choose NS as their registrar because they are attached to this idea that NS is a premiere registrar. Well folks, I can tell you from a developer’s perspective — NS has jumped the shark. Big time.
Let’s get a little technical for a moment. DNS means Domain Name System, and it controls how someone gets to a website from their own computer. For example, I open up Google Chrome, type in “www.google.com” and voila! — my browser takes me there. To make this work seamlessly, in the background, my computer contacts my ISP’s (internet service provider’s) DNS server to ask to just what IP (internet protocol, like 126.96.36.199) address “www.google.com” points.
If my ISP’s DNS server does not know the IP address to which URL should resolve, it contacts another DNS server, which contacts another DNS server and, if necessary, that server contacts a TLD registrar. The buck stops there — at the TLD.
Network Solutions is a TLD, but nowadays there are many others — hundreds, in fact!
What happens if the TLD with you registered your URL with has decided to stop telling people where to go?
Well, that address I typed into my browser goes… nowhere. It “times out.” Enter Network Solutions.
I had a client recently who had a domain registered with this company. Somehow, their renewal deadline was overlooked — NS did not send out an email warning or any other communication letting the client know that the domain was close to expiring.
After expiration, NS pointed the client’s URL to their own IP address, which contained a bunch of ads. To compound the situation, NS also deleted all the Name Server information, which tells the browser where to send the traffic.
To use the example above, when I enter “www.google.com,” the DNS gives the IP address of a name server at Google which handles the request internally. Obviously, Google has about a kajillion servers, so there needs to be one point of entry: the name server.
In this case, NS pointed everything related to the client’s domain to their own servers, deleting the client information in the process. This is unheard of. At a minimum, the registrar should maintain all the information in stasis until the customer pays the bill, right?
Well, apparently not this time. Thankfully, having many years of experience with DNS, I knew immediately what NS had done.
But would you, dear reader, have known what happened or what to do next?
I didn’t mean this to be a hit piece against NS, but I felt a responsibility to caution anyone out there researching a registrar that NS is decidedly not the best choice. Don’t just take my word for it — see for yourself.
The next time you take on a project, make sure to partner up with a company who has many years of experience dealing with different registrars — buyer beware.
A quick-and-easy solution? Use Godaddy. It’s cheap. They provide unlimited and robust DNS configuration which supports all the newer TXT entries that are required to reduce spam. I am certainly not a fan of their hosting (or any of their other services, for that matter), but their registration is top-notch and propagates extremely fast when changes are made (within minutes, usually).
Otherwise, find a professional you trust and follow their advice for a long-term solution.