How to survive online – A guide to keeping your business and brand safe

Clients come to me all the time with no idea where their sites are hosted, who made their logo and even where their domains are registered to. This stuff is all important to your business and should be carefully looked after and here’s why.

A lot of people will consider themselves ‘non technical’ and use this as an excuse to just let other people do the work for them without a clue what is going on. This may be fine for some aspects of your business, but when it comes to ownership of parts of your site and brand it is a big risk to take.

Not everyone in the world of web is a good guy and giving them the opportunity to buy your domain or ‘look after’ key parts of your website is a huge mistake. I have met many clients who have realised that they have been grossly overpaying for work on websites. Then when they came to confront the issue they were left in a hostage negotiation over the entire code base and the domain. Because all of this is such a grey area and would take months if not years to settle legally, many simply walk away leaving their domain and starting a fresh.

This has huge implications for your company though, not only do you not have a website anymore, you also lost your online identity in terms of your web address. Sure, there are tons of options out there for domain addresses but people are used to and trust your current one.  The old site will also not redirect to the new one so you will need to change your website address on all of your business cards, company papers etc.

There is a lot of talk about owning the .com and if you don’t own that then you are leaving a huge vulnerability in your company. This is one step further than that, if you do not purchase the domains and hosting yourself then you leave yourself open to bigger problems later down the line. You have full trust in that person who setup that account, what if they don’t keep up the payments, close the account or leave the country, there is simply no comeback.

So the next thing I hear is, ‘how do I do all of that?’

Its simple, if you are starting out from scratch then you just need to find a web hosting company to setup an account with. There are tons of great ones out there, here is a short list of a few reputable ones with a good level of customer support –

godaddy.com
fasthosts.com
123reg.com
1and1.com

Simply go to one of those sites and search for the domain you wish to purchase, once you find one that is available, you simply step through the checkout and buy it. Hosting is a slightly more complicated one because your site may require a certain feature that your domain company do not offer or it may be much cheaper elsewhere which is often the case. This is fine, but whatever hosting you go with, be sure to have an account setup for you in your name and make sure you are paying for it. Now you have legal rights over all of that content on the site and the domain name. Whoever is developing your website will need access to the domain and hosting, but this something that is unavoidable and you need to trust them to be professional with your account.

If you think this applies to you and you want to try and get ownership over these things then you need to speak to whoever handles your website. You can go about it in a similar way to starting from scratch by setting up an account with a domain registration company. Then you need to give the details to the current owner with the request to transfer it and point the domain back to the website. Also ask for a backup of the site and database (if necessary) to be stored somewhere that is accessible to you and updated on a regular basis.  This will cost you some money to do this and that is fair because it does take time and will need a small amount of configuration to do. But once it is done you are in a much better place.

This same message applies to graphical elements on your website, be sure to always request layered files. At the very least make sure you have a layered version of your logo. This will save a lot of hassle and cost further down the line because often the designer will not have the original files if you can even track them down. You may not be able to use these files yourself, but they are of huge benefit to anyone who has to work on the website or the branding in the future.

As a final note, try to steer clear of some of these instant site building services that register the domain name for you and do all of your hosting. I don’t want to tar them all with the same brush, but from my experience they grossly overcharge for slow hosting and it is a real mission to try and get the domain registered away from them and in to your own name.

I know that is a lot to take in, but trust me it will save you some major headaches further down the line.

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