Image of Small Business Website on Laptop Screen

Small Business Website Advice – Access

Marius Melinskas Business Takeaway

Image of Small Business Website on Laptop ScreenKeep a spare key to your website – ensure you have access and control over your hosting and domain(s).

What important security and control considerations are there for a small business website?

Ensuring you can retain access is key and often overlooked…

When you set up a new business it is easy to get carried away and lose site of the basics. This blog will provide you with a brief guide on how to retain access and possibly avoid expensive fees to regain access at a later date!

A website is comprised of three major parts:

1. Domain Name (like povas.co.uk) – you can buy domain names by opening a free account at many providers of such services: names.co.uk, godaddy.com and many, many more.

2. Website Hosting – this is the data storage repository that will hold your website files (content) and normally provided by a company that sold you the domain name, but sometimes it is worth shopping around for a better deal. Your hosting may be provided by the consultant or people who built your site for you…

3. The Website Content – I’ll do another blog on this in the future!

If you have ‘the master keys’ to all three parts in your pocket you should be fine, but if you never had them or have lost them then you might be in trouble…

Small Business Website Control Checklist

1. Do you own your domain name? – in other words do you have a username and password that allows you to login to a control panel and make changes to Domain Name Service (DNS) records.

2. Do you have domain control panel top level access that cannot be revoked by another account administrator?

3. Do you own the website hosting? – in other words do you have credentials that will allow you to access the server where your website is stored, via any of the following methods: SSH, FTP or web-based Control Panel. Yet again, the imperative point is, can someone else revoke the access if you have one.

4. Do you have a copy of the files of your website? – regardless of whether you created your website or someone else helped you.

You answered “NO” to any of the above (or even not sure) READ ON…

Now, a few common scenarios that will enforce the importance of YES answers to all of the above questions…

Scenario 1 – lost website builder

When creating your website – you ask around, fight your way through a load of acronyms and eventually decide to use a friend, a friend of a friend or some other ‘expert’ to help you build it and make it live. Of course, you have concentrated on the design, user experience and speed and the website goes live – Happy Days! Time goes by, you need to make some changes. You try to contact the person who helped you… no answer. You keep trying & eventually you track him down. It transpires that his circumstances have changed and the details to access your website content are with other people. After some more phone calls you manage track them down, who after some time manage to find your details and now are ready to help you out. But it becomes apparent that this will cost you way more than the guy who helped you initially. And all is good if you can track anyone down!

Otherwise, you will be forced to find another person who will charge you to sort out your situation, but the solution will not be neat and will disrupt your business and your online presence, as without access to the domain name you will have to acquire a new one and start from scratch with any online ‘reputation’ you have, including with search engines!

So, what to do? Be very clear with the person who helps you that you will need access to the domain (the Keys to avoid getting locked out!). The ideal scenario is to choose a company that sells domain names, open an account with them and give access to person who helps you so, he can buy the desired domain name for you, but you retain control.

Scenario 2 – lost website host

You’ve been really smart at the beginning and sorted out the domain name yourself and you have had a person build the website for you on a development site and it is now ready to go live. However, it is suggested to place the website on servers your website designer or agency own, and as you trust them, you agree, without asking for unhindered access to it.

Then the unthinkable happens; one day your website is unreachable. You quickly call the designer and (in the worst-case scenario) you get no answer or a completely unhelpful response. Being a resourceful business owner, you find someone who can help, you give him access to the domain name control panel and he manages to redirect the domain name to a new server and now is asking you for the website backup so he can restore it to the new hosting location.

It dawns on you that your answer to our question 4 was a “yes” and you find an archived copy of the website – Phew! But the realisation hits you, the changes have been made since the backup was made and you now will have to recreate them from memory whilst paying for your new consultant’s time to add the changes in!

So, what to do? Always insist on having a full access (or a full ownership, if at all possible) to the hosting environment. The cost of trying to regain access to the website content on a restricted server will  always be higher than owning your own hosting space, unless of course you find a person who will help you for free, but just imagine the stress and hassle…

A Final Piece of Advice…

It is imperative that you touch base with whoever manages your website at least twice a year. Ask them to archive the content and send it to you in whatever form, or if your website is highly dynamic and changes regularly, then obtain a backup copy after each change is made.

There are many other smaller aspects of Small Business Website Management that will be covered in future blogs, but it is vital for any business to answer these four questions, document them and stick to your backup routine to have a relatively easy way out if disaster strikes.

For any comments or if you have a question, please email us at info@povas.co.uk.