Over the years we’ve come across a few horror stories where businesses lose access to their own websites and are forced to pay someone to get back in.

All because they didn’t have control over their website hosting.

Many people we’ve talked to have no idea who controls their website hosting or their domain name, they simply leave it all to an external web guy to deal with. Which is fine, until he disappears.

A website might have your name, your products, contact details and even a giant picture of your face on it, but that doesn’t mean you actually own it.

It’s like if someone moved into your house, threw your stuff outside and changed the locks – it would be theft. But if you gave that person ownership and now they won’t let you back inside, you’re the one who’s trespassing.

Recently a well-known Australian hosting company went into liquidation and all its customers lost access to the back-end of their websites, and were told they could only gain access if they paid a large amount of money.

This wasn’t a shady web developer operating from their parent’s basement either, it was a company with major clients all over the world.

We had to help one of their former customers re-create their site without any access to the back-end, and ended up re-creating the entire website using only the front-end.

I’m not saying businesses should do everything themselves, it’s actually smart to have an outside provider take care of the technical and time consuming details – but just make sure you have overall control. This means keeping a copy of all passwords and login details, and a backup of all content and information on the site.

Before you hand anything over, do your research.

Just like a dodgy roommate, if you don’t look into them, you won’t find out who they really are until down the track when the house is trashed and your fridge and tv are missing.

Choose to retain control of your domain name and hosting, or if you do want a third-party to host your site, ensure there’s a contract and clear policies in place outlining what happens if the business disappears or you want to switch hosts.

It’s also good business practice to keep your domain name and hosting separate, as it gets a lot harder to switch providers if they can hold your url for ransom.

Hosting can sometimes be an afterthought but a bad host can be damaging.

When it comes down to it, a website is more than a contact page, it’s a key resource to connect with customers, so make sure the site with your name on it is actually yours.

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