Joni Mitchell Never Lies: Got Your Website ‘Til It’s Gone

During my time working for a web hosting provider, I have come to understand the scale of ignorance regarding businesses and how they regard their web presence.

Once upon a time, having a website was a novelty.   Then it became an advantage.  Nowadays it is an absolute necessity for serious business owners of all types and sizes.  Even your little one-person side business needs a website.  Why?  Because when people see your ad or your business card, they are going to skip straight past the phone number most of the time and look for a website URL and email address.  If it’s not there, they will give you the Corporate Blank Stare™.

So given the importance of having a web presence to promote, it amazes me how many people let this lapse.  Companies and business owners that NEED their site because it’s THE source of their income have no excuses at all for neglecting this aspect of their business.  Yet, on a somewhat regular basis, I get calls from folks who’s business has been crippled for various reasons related to web negligence that could have been avoided.

With this in mind, here is my take on some of the typical scenarios that I come across.  

Own Your Website!

Just because you aren’t tech savvy doesn’t mean you should throw all business sense away when it comes to your company’s tech properties.  Yes, your website and domain are PROPERTIES.  Treat them as such!

I can’t tell you how many times a business owner pays some Kid to set up their website and lets him set everything up in their name.  Kid gets fired, takes off for college, or leaves for whatever reason.  Then eventually…. OH NO, OUR SITE IS DOWN!  OUR EMAIL IS DOWN!  Well, Kid isn’t gonna pay the bill for web hosting that he’s not paid to handle anymore.  Kid  may even delete the contents of your site our of pure spite.  The folks running the business are completely clueless… they don’t know how the site was built, who’s hosting it, or anything else about it.  They call in to folks like myself thinking that we can just hand it back to them  because their name is on the website, but have no official means to verify ownership because everything is in Kid’s name.

Guess what – Kid owns your domain and hosting plan.  You are at Kid’s mercy, and if you don’t have contact with Kid anymore or you are not on good terms with Kid, then Kid has you by the digital balls. Take Kid to court if you like, but your web services may be down the entire time.  Or, start over with a new site and a new domain…. but if you’ve already established yourself wit the previous domain and site, that will be a tough reset for you.  New ads, new business cards, new email addresses, and so on.

If at all possible, no single person should have complete control of your company’s website details, especially if it’s critical to your business’ operation.  Even if only one person’s name goes on the account, keep record of the verification methods for the account so if personnel  changes take place, your website doesn’t walk out the door with them.  The bottom line is:

  • Know who your domain registrar and your hosting provider(s) are.
  • Keep your contact information up to date on all accounts.
  • Know your account details and login information
  • Know how to verify your identity/authority in case you need to make changes to the accounts.

Keeping this information available can save you a LOT of frustration!

Pay Your Bills

As with any other service out there, if you don’t pay your bills for the things pertaining to your website, then your account(s) will be suspended.  Pretty simple, right?  Well you might be amazed and amused  at how many people become angry wit their hosting provider because they didn’t bother to keep up with when payments were due. Times are tough for everyone so paying for website stuff can seem somewhat trivial in the scheme of things, but if your business relies on your web presence, that makes it more of a priority. Here’s how you can stay ahead of things:

  • Know who your domain registrar is, when it expires, and how much it will cost to renew it.
  • Know who your hosting provider is, what the billing cycle is, and how much the payments are.
  • Request a due date extension if needed.  Companies like mine will do our best to help, but if we see a regular habit of needing extensions, we’ll start saying no.
  • If your due dates fall on a day that is difficult to manage in relation to when you have money available during the month, request a billing cycle change to a different due date.

For your business, your web presence shouldn’t be treated like a side payment.  Include it in your budget and handle it accordingly.

Know the Basics of How Websites Work

When you buy a car, you don’t have to be a mechanic in order to operate and maintain it…. but smart owners will make sure to know the basics to ensure that the car continue to run properly.  You know need to know how to change the oil, but you at least need to know that it needs to be changed, how often, and where you can take it to get it down.

This same principle applies to your web services.  You don’t need to be developer to own a website, but you should know some basic principles.  What is a domain?  What is a web hosting service?  How do the two tie in to each other?

Here are a few videos to help give you a basic understanding of how these things work:

That info may have gone right over your head, but it’s good to watch them once so you can at least get a high level understanding.  A good owner of any product or service take time, even if it’s just a little, to learn a little something about what they own.

It’s fine to leave the details to the pros, but be responsible and take account of your web properties!

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