Keeping Control of your Online Identity


For both business and personal use, people sign up for many services online. Keeping control of these "virtual" assets can be very important. With things like your web site address and email address appearing on virtually all of your marketing materials, losing access to those accounts can be devastating.

Domain Names

First and foremost, you need to make sure you have control of your domain name. When you register, or someone else registers it for you, you need to make sure that it is in your name and under your control. You should use an independent registrar, like Network Solutions, to keep an account registered in your name and with you holding the username and password. This way if you want to part ways with your web developer or a hosting provider it is up to you and you can change over to someone else at your convenience. The "registrant" is the person who owns the domain name. If someone has it registered in their name, they can choose to not give it to you or charge you a fee to return it. Many unscrupulous companies engage in the practice of holding people’s domain names hostage. You need to be listed as the registered owner of the domain and also have yourself listed as the Administrative contact. While explaining how a domain name transfer works is beyond the scope of this article, just know that you want it registered to you, with current contact information and also make sure that the administrative contact email address is an address you control.

Also, don’t forget to renew! Mark it on your yearly calendar in case you miss or ignore the email reminder.

Email Addresses

For business use, you and your employees should be using email at your business domain name. Your address should be something like This is important for branding purposes as it appears professional, indicates the company you own or work for and clearly shows that you are a representative of that organization. Many people use different email services, like Gmail from Google, Hotmail or one of countless other providers. If you use one of these other addresses it is important to make sure that you have full control of the account.

Consider that you have an employee which has an email address at your domain name. They use their business email address for all things work related. If that employee decides to leave or is terminated, you can forward their business email address to your account or to the employee that is replacing them. That way when an existing client tries to contact your company using that address you still receive their messages. If they used a personal email account, you may never know the client was trying to reach your business.

Keeping track of Accounts and Passwords

In this age of everything being done online it is important to keep track of where you create accounts and the passwords associated with those accounts. You should keep a record of every account you create and the associated password and other information. By keeping track of everything you minimize the issues you can have when an account is compromised or you can’t find your password.

Far too many people use the same password for every account. You should use a different password for each and every account. If one of your accounts becomes compromised, all of a sudden that person can then access every account using the same password. Maybe you log on to Facebook while at a friends house or using some kind of public computer, like at a library. If that machine is compromised someone could have your username and password. Then they could see the email address your Facebook account is registered to, then they could log in to your email account. Once in your email account they can see all of the other emails you have received from different services and then go in and access those accounts. It can quickly spiral out of control. By using a different password for each account you are minimizing your exposure in the event of your password getting out in the open. Is the convenience of using the same password everywhere worth the risk?

When setting up accounts with reputable sites, like your bank, a credit rating company, google or even many online shopping sites you are requested to set up security questions and answers. You should record your answers to these security questions where you store your passwords so if you ever lose your password or someone else changes it, you can recover your account. Since many of the questions are generic in nature like "What is your mother’s maiden name?" it can be recommended to make up a different answer for each service. It is not that hard to find out the maiden name of someone if you are trying to improperly access their account and you can use that information to change their password. Make sure that all of your accounts also point to the correct email address.

Gmail, for example and used here due to it’s popularity, has a number of different options for account recovery. If you never set up the questions and you find yourself unable to access your account, you are in trouble as there is no customer support phone number to call. By making sure you fill out the information for password recovery and security questions you are helping to make things easier if there ever is a problem with one of your accounts.


Many businesses are on Facebook. Done properly, a Facebook business page is a created by a Facebook business account registered to an email address the company owner controls. Often, friends or clients will set up a Facebook business page for you. In the event that your relationship with them turns sour, you may lose access to your account. Make sure that you are an administrator of your Facebook business page and that anyone you give administrative privileges to is trustworthy.


When you register a LinkedIn account it is tied to an email address. Many people make the mistake of registering their LinkedIn account to a business email address. If you decide to change careers you want to take your LinkedIn contacts with you. If your account is registered to a business email account that is no longer functional, as you no longer work there, that can pose a problem in the event you should lose your password. Unless the LinkedIn account is being established for a business, make sure to link it to an email account you will have access to even if you are no longer an employee. If you happen to lose or quit your job, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to find another one.


The purpose of this article is to get you thinking about the value of various online "properties" to you and your business. Your domain name is probably the most important part of your online identity. Make sure you have control over it and remember to renew it yearly. Care should be taken to keep track of your passwords and security questions for the various sites you sign up for. If a site offers password recovery options, make sure you take advantage of them and that you choose secure questions and answers. Anything online that represents your business should be under your control.

About the author

Bob Lindquist is an expert consultant with extensive experience building web sites, databases and performing internet marketing work for his clients.  He has over 20 years of experience working with clients from a wide variety of industries along with a degree in Computer Science.  Bob is a professional member of the Association for Computing Machinery.

In his free time, Bob is a volunteer Firefighter / EMT and has served on the boards of several not-for-profit groups.

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