Who has control of your website asset?

Stressed out man in front of computer. Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash
Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Halloween is being marked this month, so it’s timely to share some of my own scary stories about businesses and their websites.

The stories may not have ghosts or vampires, but ought to give some great lessons about how to ensure the investment in your website is not lost through technical ignorance or a “set and forget” attitude.

How much do you know about your website and your presence on the internet?  If my experience of clients recently is anything to go by there is a lot the average person doesn’t know and, although I do websites and updates for people, there’s much I don’t know either.  It has been obvious to me recently that business people’s ignorance about their online investments can prove costly.  

The following are just some examples of how people I know have been caught and also some suggestions for how you can help protect and take control of your online asset.

Don’t ignore website registration renewals:

A friend woke up one day to a call from Google informing them their website was soliciting money and was covered in an Asian language.  I initially thought the site had been hacked but, alas, the domain registration had just not been renewed on time (just one day late) and so another person had registered it and had a site operating from it.  The only solution was to remove all references online linking the local business to that website address … and, of course, registration of another site. They will now need to have their site rebuilt from scratch.  The original had been built by them.

The lesson – make sure you know when your domain name and your web hosting is up for renewal and RENEW IT IMMEDIATELY.  

The friend was receiving the emails about the renewals … but what about if you aren’t receiving the notifications, then you might need to check out our next section.

Who controls your domain name?:

A client wanted to transfer their website to another operator as they were unhappy with their current provider.

Delays resulted when it was discovered that the registration details for the website had not been kept up to date.  The web service provider had changed hands and had failed to update the registration details to reflect a new registrant and support contact.

Many people don’t know who owns and therefore controls their domain, yet they can often have thousands of dollars invested in their website and, for some businesses, the website is the only way they do business.

If you have a business take a moment to carry out a check of your domain registration.

Follow this link https://whois.auda.org.au/ if your domain ends in “.au” or https://www.whois.com/whois/ if it is just “.com” or another suffix.

Follow the instructions on the relevant site:

On this example below of my own website you can see everything is registered to me.  For you, it should at least show you or one of your entities as the REGISTRANT.  Ideally the contact name and details for the Registrant should be yours (or you should know the person listed and that they are an authorised registrant).  Ensure your Tech Contact Name and Email are also accurate.

These details can take time, and sometimes money, to get changed if they’re not correct so act now if you see some anomalies.

You can also find out which company your domain name is registered with by visiting https://www.webregistrar.com.au/.

Keep a relationship with web provider:

It’s too easy to have a website set up and then leave it untouched for months or even years.  Problems arise if the web provider (1) sells the business to someone else and you do not know who to contact if there is a problem; (2) goes bust and you lose all your online investment.

I was recently called upon to help rescue a local business when their website developer had become uncontactable or unable to assist them.  Their site had been either hacked or their website developer had failed to keep accounts up to date, including forwarding accounts to the business whose website was being hosted.  Imagine their horror when they clicked on their domain only to see words like “Account suspended. Contact your administrator for accounting and security issue.” Not only did this cast aspersions on the business, but they no longer had an online shop window.

The lesson here is to ensure you program regular contact with your website host/developer, even if it’s simply an email to touch base or a phone call.  At least you will know you can contact someone in case of a problem.

Today’s business solution action list:

  • Check who has control of your domain name
  • Note in your diary when registration expires
  • Record who the host company is
  • Make contact with your web service provider to ensure you have a relationship with them.

Contact CJ’s Business Solutions today on 0435 432 203 or email cj@cjsbusinesssolutions.com.au if you need help to take control of your website.

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