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Lost keys - controlling your digital assets

How to find and control access to your website assets

Far too often we get a case where a business owner doesn't know where their website is located, how to access their hosting space, is not the registered legal assignee for their domain name - therefore having no real access or control of their own digital assets. In this article, we show you how to check if you control your digital assets - and what to do if you're not in complete control.

How to check the legal assignee (owner) of a domain nameBusiness domain registration records

Inexperienced web agencies sometimes register domains in their own names rather than the business owner name or the company name. Every time a domain is registered, the legal assignee of the domain is recorded and can be checked via the WHOIS (pronounced as the phrase who is) lookup service. There are many websites where you can check these records, we prefer Blacknight's Who Owns It service. Simply enter your domain name and check the corresponding details in the record returned.

If your company name or your personal name are not the official assignee, you will need to contact the official assignee and have them authorise the registrar to transfer the domain into your name so that you have the correct level of 'ownership' and control over your domain assets. In addition to being the official assignee, you will want to have access to control the domain in order to use it for your website, subdomains and email addresses.

Access to manage your domain

Domain registrars tend to have control panels or other management software you can log into and make changes to your domain. You can often find the registrar name on the WHOIS record as described in the last section. Once you know that you can request access details for your account in order to control your domain name. When you have access to your domain control panel, you can typically manage DNS records for email, websites, subdomains and similar services.

Access to manage your hosting

Your hosting is the actual space on a server where the database, scripts and other files for your website software are installed. All of the major hosting companies are also domain registrars, so it's common that your domain and hosting are controlled within the same control panel as described above but its not always the case. Within the control panel you can usually see details of the services you are signed up for, so you should look for a hosting service listed as well as whatever domains you have registered with that company. If you don't have access to this control panel, contact the company and see if you do have an account with them or contact your web development company for details.

Once you have access to your hosting control panel, you can typically also manage databases, FTP access, CRON services, server level backups and many more hosting related services.

The log in areas for common hosting companies are listed below, however some hosting companies also allow you to login by adding 'cpanel' to the end of your domain name, e.g. http://www.example.com/cpanel

Checking your email provider detailsAccess to manage your email

Email can be a little more tricky. Your domain and/or hosting company may also be supplying you with email services, usually managed in the same control panel as everything else. However, email is also commonly supplied via 3rd party services such as your IT support company or large email providers such as Google Business Email service or Microsoft Outlook Web Access service either hosted in the cloud, on your own premises or within a serviced building where you rent office space. Somewhat similar to a WHOIS lookup, we can check the MX server record at www.mxtoolbox.com to see what company is providing mail server services to emails on your domain. For our domain name you can see Google servers listed because we use the Google Business email service. To login and manage email addresses, forwarders and users Google Business email customers can log into the Google Apps Console for other services, contact the provider that the lookup shows you.

Access to your Content Management System

Default Joomla administrator login areaMost modern websites are running some type of Content Management System software configured to handle the needs of your business whether that is an online shop application, subscriptions website, membership website system, or blogging platform. These types of web-based applications also tend to have access control levels to manage accounts and permission levels. Ideally, you should have an account with limited permissions used for everyday content updates and management as well as a full-permissions 'super-administrator' account for top-level access when needed. Contact your web development company if you don't have access to update your website

The log-in areas for common website application software are listed below, however some websites also protect or alter this as an extra security measure, so it may be customized in your instance.

  • Joomla: Add "/administrator" to the website address, e.g. http://www.example.com/administrator
  • Wordpress: Add "/wp-login.php" to the website address, e.g. http://www.example.com/wp-login.php
  • Magento: Add "/admin" to the website address, e.g. http://www.example.com/admin
  • Prestashop: Add "/admin" to the website address, e.g. http://www.example.com/admin
  • Drupal: Add "/admin" to the website address, e.g. http://www.example.com/admin 

Control over your digital assets

As a business owner you're unlikely to want to work directly with domains, hosting and even email management once they are configured and running as expected however with each of the above access credentials secured, you now have control over your website assets and can act quickly should an issue arise. You certainly should have regular access to your website software system to perform content updates as well as a full-permissions account for full control.

If you need assistance to track down and regain control over any of the items mentioned in this blog post, get in touch and we'll be happy to assist.

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