Friday, December 9, 2011

Why we need Domain Name Management Services in Africa

This could be the future soon for the continent of Africa, although I think the state of the DNS industry in Africa so far has not necessitated the emergence of specialized domain management service companies on the continent on a large scale. As a result, some of the continent’s big brands have been victims of cyber squatting with most of their best domains parked while the brands are forced to settle on second rate domains. Think of Kenya Airways and the fact the domain is parked! Then you can imagine the amount of quality traffic that the airline is missing as a result.

Big Companies and corporations such as airlines, hotels, media, manufacturing companies with robust online presence always have very huge domain portfolios. Am not sure this is already the case in Africa. In fact the trend I see is where most companies grab the most available domains, in most cases, .com and proceed with business leaving behind the .net .org and other TLDs to be grabbed by cybersquatters and other miscreants online, even their competitors.

South African companies have been particularly good in enforcing their marks. A good example is the Standard Bank of South Africa which has filed several cases with the South African Institute of Intellectual Property Law (SAIIPL)  to regain some of its domains, and is known for enforcing even its common law trade mark rights on words that include its pay off lines like “Moving Forward” etc.

A common trend in Africa is where one person is assigned the task of administering all the company’s domains, probably in an eCommerce department. For huge companies, small schoolboy mistakes such as forgetting to renew in time can lead to loss of traffic, leads and business. There is also a risk if the person managing the domain portfolio is fired or incapacitated.

Domains become especially important when companies have some significant online orientation.

Often, companies leave this task to an ISP or web designer but this often comes with a risks. Consider for example a brand that owns 100 domain names in its portfolio! Such a company therefore needs to have a sound domain portfolio management  strategy including  a Domains Department under the ecommerce Department that is  involved in domains research, acquisition, negotiations, UDRPs and ADRs, renewals, cross border defensive registrations in countries where the brand has a presence and many other DNS tasks.

This is a lot of work and puts significant strain on the resources of companies. An easier option would be to subcontract a Corporate Domain Portfolio Management Company and do away with the headache of domain issues while concentrating on what’s important.  Don’t think ISPs are right for this kind of task since most ISPs are involved in web design and many other tasks that stretch their resources quite thinly and I don’t believe they can provide dedicated domain management services including research, UDRPs, acquisition , negotiations and online brand protection. In fact, beyond domain registration and nameserver/host record management, many ISPs are clueless about domains and the DNS industry and the various dynamics involved.

A domain portfolio manager will bring all your domains under one roof, thus ensuring centralization and ease of management of your online real estate. Often, companies buy domain names from different registrars and ISPs depending on various dynamics. Centralization is important since it makes it much easier to track everything, know when your domains are expiring, accuracy of  Whois information and so forth.

A professional domain portfolio manager will also give you advice on the trends in the domains industry including coordinating with your eCommerce department  on advice regarding domains, advise on new dynamics line new gTLDs, .XXX , new domain threats in the cyberspace and much more.

Domain portfolio managers also come with additional services such as domain name strategy, domain recovery, domain acquisition, what to do with all the domains. Others include domain policy that ensures your domains are managed in very coordinated manner and spells the obligations of each party very clearly.

Other services include regular domain name audits to ensure the domains are pointed to the right place; that none of your domains has been hijacked or stolen etc. It’s a full package that companies should now consider taking advantage of. Domains are very important company assets that should be managed carefully as they influence and affect your brand image and commercial interests.

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