How and why you should take control of your website?
Too often I have come across people who are being held ransom by their service provider. Often it is about more money, content timing, cost of changes, etc.
The worst part is that it has cost you many hours and many pounds and dollars to create and maintain your online presence and you are now being held ransom because you don’t control the mechanics to take your website back from your service provider.
How does this happen? Easily, as business people we are often short of time and subsequently don’t want to worry about the technicalities of the website process and therefore we forget about the legalities of owning a website. We are often also taught to delegate things we don’t understand (rightly so in many cases) but this is as important as being able to move your credit facilities to another institution if the current one does not perform.
In order to understand what you need to protect and own your website you need to understand what is involved in getting a website working on the Internet. A good analogy is house ownership – you require a lawyer, a banker and a realtor to help you buy a property but none of them own the property (well technically the bank does if you don’t pay) and if you decide you want to change any of them you usually can. This should be your approach with your website – especially if it is a corporate one.
So what is involved in setting up a website?
Firstly you require a domain name – this is the www.yourcompany.com or yourcompany.com that is your address for the website and email on the Internet. It is known as a domain name. You need to ensure that you own this domain name and that you can access the DNS (Domain Name System) records for it.
The easiest way to do that is to buy the domain name yourself and pay for it yourself. There are many providers where you can buy a domain name only e.g. domaincheap.com
Once you have a domain name you need to point that domain to a machine on the Internet where your website will live. That is generally what the DNS setting are about. Machines are uniquely identified by an Internet Protocol Address (IP Address). Normally a hosting provider will supply you with an IP address that points to a real or virtual machine. On this machine your website will reside and be served to the world. Your email will also be sent to this machine and you will need to collect it from here or just access it.
Websites are really just code that present content (text, pictures, videos, etc) to someone who is accessing it via a web browser. Unless you have some very complex requirements (you wouldn’t be reading this article if you were one of those people) you can use some very standard Content Management Systems to deliver your content to the world. WordPress and Joomla are but 2 examples of very popular, free and open-source web content management systems.
You need to have access to your website installation so you can add content, make changes and do whatever you feel is necessary to keep your web content fresh and relevant. Do not rely on someone else to have all the know-how. You may want to pay someone to manage it but you definitely do not want them to be the only administrator – you want the ability to block any user from your system – including an administrator.
This all sounds very technical but it is just about ensuring ownership of the domain name and access to the hosting service and the actual website. Making sure those three things are under your control will ensure that you can change website providers at will.
If you currently don’t have control of these things then figure out how you can get control. Have the domain name transferred into your name – ensure you have the ability to change the DNS and ensure nobody else can lock you out. This is the most important bit – if you can change the IP address you can create a new website anywhere else you choose – whether your current hosting provider likes it or not.
In order to not lose your data and content it is important that you have some backup of your website under your control and that you can access the website personally. Even if you do pay someone to look after it and even if you have a great service contract with them – always assume they can disappear without trace – you would need to be able to get access to the website back-end without being dependent on anyone.
Understanding this once, acting on it every time and keeping a good record of how you created that website will ensure you have control and ultimately freedom to do with your website as you please.