I'm regularly surprised at how disrespectfully numerous business owners treat their domain name registrations. Losing your domain name can ruin your day, but it happens incessantly. Don't let it happen to you! In this instance experience can be an atrociously unkind teacher, so simply trust me on this: Never register your domain name year to year. Your domain name is an important company holding, and should be treated as such. Domain name registrations are very inexpensive. Protect your domain. Don't just register it for a year at a time.
A lot of us don't treat our domain with the reverence it deserves. We ignore emails from our registrar, and sometimes even un-subscribe to them altogether. It's really no surprise that each year thousands of people find themselves in the same boat. If you should inadvertently let your domain name expire you will soon face some, if not all, of the following challenges:
People out there want your domain name. For the price of a one year registration, about $10, they will have bought all the hard work you've put into your site. They'll have your search engine listing and they'll have all your traffic. Your domain is quite a bargain! Sound bad? Well try this on for size; they'll be able to intercept any email sent to the domain and map your website address to a porn or gambling site. There are a lot of domain squatters out there, and one of them may very well have an order pending for your domain. The only way to know for sure is to let your domain expire.
Don't think that just because you're domain is obscure or specific you're protected from hijackers. Unfortunately that doesn't matter, the domain has value to these guys even if they can't resell it. More often than not they'll use it to link to SEO clients, so don't be surprised if they start directing your clients to some really sleazy sites. There are a lot of ways they can make money off your domain even if they don't resell it.
If a hijacker gets your name it's going to the highest bidder. If there are no other bidders expect to pay $500-$1000 to get it back. Be polite and professional with the squatter. A lot of these bottom feeders think of themselves as businessmen, and once they take over the domain they hold all the cards. Hijacking a domain by squatting on it when it expires is completely legal. If the hijacker walks away from the table he's only out about ten bucks, but you're out your domain.
Getting Your Domain Back Is a Hassle
Once you've lost your domain you could spend hours trying to get it back.
You may decide to get a new domain rather than pay for the old one, but if you're trying to avoid paying off a squatter be warned that this decision may have significant consequences. As a rule domain hijackers are jerks. They can be pretty vindictive in their attempts to get you to buy back your domain name. They'll map your domain to porn sites, gambling sites, or landing pages that loudly announce "This Website Is Closed Because the Owner Doesn't Pay His Bills".
Website and Email Interruptions
Your website will go down shortly after your domain expires.
Another real problem is that your email is going to go down, and it's going to stay down until you can get control of your domain and map the DNS. This will take at least a few hours, and if there are challenges it might be a lot longer than that. This is enough to hurt any business, but for many it's enough to shut you down altogether.
Who hasn't had their email go down for a few hours at some point? You already know how frustrating that is. Think about this for a moment. Imagine how much worse it would have been if it had gone down for an entire day! How about a whole weekend or longer? I've seen people loose access to their domain names for more than a week dealing with squatters. How angry will you be with yourself when you realize it's all your own fault?
Many domains have a grace period that allows you to reclaim your domain name up to 30 days after it expires. Needless to say this is a good solution, but there's a price for this level of security. If you let your domain name expire it will cost you about eighty bucks to get it back.
You don't need to fear your renewal date, though. With everything else you have to worry about why add your domain renewal to your list?
You don't need to renew your registration every year. As a minimum go for 5 years, but it would be ideal to get 10 years. Domain names are low-priced. Why take the chances of losing it evermore when almost all registrars offer a discounted rate for multi-year registrations anyway?