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Overprotective Spam Filters Bring Down Las Cruces, N.M., Website

An email notification that the city's domain registration was expiring never made it to the Inbox of city IT staff.

by / September 10, 2013
Flickr/Tom Check

Last month, the domain name for Las Cruces, N.M.’s official website expired, resulting in a temporary shutdown of the site.

When the domain expired, the city received calls to its desktop support team from people having difficulty using city email addresses. External access to the city's website was also unavailable as a result of the expired domain name, explained Scott Marr, Las Cruces IT director.

“It took staff half an hour to an hour to figure out what was going on,” Marr said. “At that point, we got in contact with our registrar, which is Network Solutions, and basically renewed the registration.”
Telephone service was unaffected by the shutdown, according to local media.

Marr said the city was able to get the site back online after a couple of hours once it renewed the domain registration. To avoid similar incidents in the future, the city renewed its domain for a 20-year term.

While the temporary interruption in service was considered a minor incident, Marr said similar issues can be prevented going forward as long as the city takes proper steps.

Under Las Cruces' previous three-year Web domain license agreement, a distribution list was set up to receive notifications from Network Solutions. However, when the company sent a Web domain renewal request, spam filters prevented city staff from receiving it. Marr said Network Solutions has since been white-listed so that notifications from the registrar aren’t blocked by the city’s email spam filters anymore.

Las Cruces set up multiple emails on its distribution list with Network Solutions, instead of creating one point of contact. Marr said problems can arise if a domain registration renewal request is sent to a single email account, particularly if the individual leaves the organization.  

“It’s very difficult to get that changed because Network Solutions and other registrars have processes and procedures in place to make sure other people can’t hijack your domain,” he said. “Make sure the contact information in terms of email is a distribution list rather than an individual mailbox tied to one person so a group of people are receiving the notice.”

Staying On Top of Web Domains

According to PCA Consulting, a company that specializes in Web design and hosting, there are a series of steps organizations can take to ensure they’re on top of their Web domain registrations:

1. Know who your registrar is (who you paid for the right to use the domain).

2. Understand how and when they invoice you.

3.  Keep up with your renewal date – mark it on the calendar you use every day.

4. Don’t lose your user name and password to your domain account.

5. Make sure you are the registrant and not your hosting company or the person who set up your website for you.

6. Make sure the email address on file with the registrar is still active.

7. Keep good records of the length of your domain registration and any other details on your site registration.

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Sarah Rich

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. She wrote for for Government Technology magazine from 2010 through 2013.

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