Imagine this scenario. You've invested the time and money to have a great website that generates revenue for your business. Your domain name has become your brand online and it's a valuable asset. Then one morning, you log on to find your web site address now goes to a parked page (a placeholder page when a domain is inactive). Your website is gone and potential customers are left to find another business to fulfill their needs. Could this happen to you? We find that some small business owners don't realize they may have left their domain name (their online brand) unprotected. Here are 3 simple precautions to make sure your online brand is secure: First, make sure your domain is actually registered in your name. This sounds straight forward, but it's trickier than it seems. For example, when business owners hire a local web designer to create their website, that person often registers the site's address (domain name) as part of their services. The problem arises when this designer registers the domain in their own name. The same thing sometimes occurs with company employees -- they will register the domain in their own personal name. The individual who registers that domain name has the right to that domain (unless you have a trademark on the name -- in which case there are avenues you can pursue to get your name back.) If the employee leaves (or worse yet, goes to work for a competitor) they may have the right to take that domain name with them if the domain is registered in their name. Likewise, if your local web designer is the registrant on the domain they have control over the content and even the renewal of that domain name. If you decide to stop working with them, it could be possible for the web designer to take your content down. The key take away here -- make sure you are the registrant for your domain. Don't assume. Second, if you're not sure who the registrant on your domain is, find out. This is easy to check. You can look it up in the WhoIs database. If your name is not listed as the Registrant Contact, be sure to have whoever is listed call the registrar and change the contact information to yours right away. Third, make sure your contact information stays up-to-date with your registrar. If you move locations, change telephone numbers or change email addresses -- be sure to let your registrar know of the change. Often domains are registered for multi-year terms -- so you may not have heard from your registrar in a while but when it's time to renew your domain you won't receive renewal notices if your contact info is not up-to-date. This means your domain name might expire without your realizing it. Normally, domains have expiration grace periods during which the site will be taken down and the registration will be held. But after that timeframe, the domain will go back on the market and could be purchased by another party. If this happens your domain name could be lost for good. Then all the time and money you've spent building up brand equity in your domain name goes down the drain in an instant - you wouldn't want that to happen. In today's online world, your domain can be one of your business' most valuable assets -- so make sure to protect it! With just a little effort, you can be sure your domain continues working for your business for years to come. * * * * * About the Author: Wendy Kennedy is the creator and editor of the Register.com Learning Center (an online resource site for small businesses). Wendy has also served as a consultant with over ten years of experience developing marketing and awareness programs with small businesses and entrepreneurs.