If you own a website, I urge you to take a few moments to read this cautionary tale.
I got a disturbing email from a longtime client this morning. Sadly, he lost his website after being online for eight years. One day his beautiful (and expensive) website was there; the next, some spammer had taken up shop. The domain name is now owned by someone else.
He called to find out if his website was still “out there somewhere.” I contacted his web host to see if his account is still in good standing–if his files are still on the server, it means that not all is lost. We’re still waiting to hear back.
His domain name registrar offered to contact the new owner (for a non-refundable fee) and negotiate a sell-back (which we predict will be incredibly expensive). Or, he can buy a new domain name from a “squatter” (someone who buys up domain names to sell for a profit). The most feasible option that will work for his business is in the $2,000 range. You don’t want to ever find yourself in this easily preventable situation.
If you own your own self-hosted website, there are three basic components and you want to make sure you keep them safe.
1. Your Domain Name
2. Your Web Host
3. Your Website Files (HTML/database/content)
I won’t go into too much detail on what these things are because one of my colleagues wrote it so well: How to Break Up With Your Website (And How To Get It Back!)
How to Keep Them Safe:
1. Make sure you have complete ownership of your website & your accounts are in good standing
Don’t let your web designer, your neighbor or your teenage nephew set up your accounts for you. This is your business, you wouldn’t let any of these people sign a lease for your storefront in the mall, would you? Put the accounts in your name and make sure your contact and payment information is up-to-date. When your accounts are not in good standing, as will happen when a credit card expires, you should get an email or a phone call from them to nudge you into updating your account information. But if they don’t know how to reach you, you may be out of luck.
Think of your domain registrar and web host as landlords for your business, only difference is, they won’t knock on your door to ask for rent money if you’re past due. They’ll just remove your furniture and inventory let somebody else move in. It’s your responsibility to makes sure your accounts are in good standing and that is easy enough to do.
Keep a record of who your web host and registrar is, their support contact information, and all of your username/password login details for these accounts. This is the key to your storefront, keep it in a safe place.
2. Make sure you have a backup of your website files — your design and all of your content.
Even if you work with a web designer, don’t assume they’ll have a backup of your site if something goes wrong (which could take the form of an expired account, a compromise by hackers/ spammers, etc.). Own your website, be in control — make sure you have a full backup of your design as well as any databases used and content added. If you’re using WordPress, see Steve’s article on backups.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave us a comment. Stay safe out there, everybody!