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Pre-Death Planning for Your Website

True story #1

Two weeks ago, Design the Planet was contacted by a government-related entity that needed help big time. They were referred to us from another client who knew we could help. I found myself on the phone with a frantic woman, let’s call her Susan, who works internally for the organization. For years, Susan would contact Ben, her website administrator, when she needed help with their website. He took care of everything related to the organization’s website and email hosting. Ben unfortunately died, leaving Susan and other organizations clueless about any technical information related to their site. Susan didn’t know who hosts the website, where their domain is registered or who controls their email accounts.

At Design the Planet, we take over control of websites and hosting all the time, but, to be honest, this situation had never come up before. I’d never attempted to gain control of a domain name when the owner and maintainer had up and died without a contingency plan. So I contacted Jack with Elliptical Hosting, our resource for hosting and gaining control of domains. This was a new challenge for him as well but he was up for it.

Because Ben had been the contact for all aspects of the domain name, initially we hit a dead end, if you’ll pardon the pun. And to make it even more exciting, three days after her first call, Susan got back in touch with the news that their email and website were totally down. It was renewal time and, naturally, she’s in a panic.

Fortunately, because of the complete shutdown of the email and the website, we were able to track down the small company that hosted it and requested they turn the system back on. “We need to talk to Ben first,” they said. We told them “good luck – get back in touch with us when Ben doesn’t answer the phone.” Finally, after fully understanding the predicament, they agreed to turn the website back on temporarily. We are still working to gain control of the domain name, and are required to send a death certificate and more proof that Susan and her company are the rightful owner. Ah, Ben. Rarely has the loss of a human being been so deeply felt.

 

Website Down

 

True story #2

(Better than the movies)

Lest ye think that Susan’s problem could have been prevented if she’d only gone with a larger hosting company, read on. Only one week after Susan called us with her debacle, a national IT firm (let’s brand them NATCO) called us out of the blue, with a dilemma of their own. NATCO needed us to put one of their client’s websites back up on their server; here’s what happened:

NATCO was hosting with a third party provider and missed a payment. As a result, the hosting provider SHUT DOWN ALL of their websites. NATCO did not have locally stored backups of their own and was solely relying on the hosting provider to keep the backups. Design the Planet was not the only website development company they had to contact. For all we know, NATCO may have had hundreds of websites on the third party host, and now has to spend hours and real money to get all of the websites back. My question: How long have these websites been down? How much business did all these companies lose as a result?

 

So What’s the Lesson Here?

These awful tales inspired me to put together a few TO DOs – a continuation plan for our own website and email systems. You may want to do the same.

  1. Trust your hosting company but check up on them every year. Set a calendar reminder. Don’t just pay the hosting fee and assume it’s taken care of. Check in once per year with your hosting company and find out if any of their services have changed.
  2. Confirm each year that your email address is correct, or someone at your company has access to that email address, so you can receive emails from the address that is with the registrar of domains and with your hosting company.
  3. Occasionally check to make sure your website is up and running properly.
  4. Make sure you have a company, possibly not your hosting company, backing up your website on a daily or weekly basis. If your site is hacked or lost, you can get it back up and running with the current version of the site.
  5. Find out if the hosting company you are using manages their own servers or if they are a re-seller. Re-sellers aren’t all bad BUT you need to find out where your website actually being hosted.

 

You wouldn’t die without leaving some kind of insurance plan for your family. Do a little pre-death planning for your website as well.

Written by Adrienne Folse

Adrienne founded Design the Planet in 1998 with a desire to provide high-end creative resources to Louisiana businesses at reasonable prices. As an award-winning, multi-disciplined designer and brand marketing coordinator, she manages web, print media, interactive, brand identity, and marketing solutions with innovation and flair.

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