This post was updated on January 16, 2019. The updates are in red.
I recently got a call from a local bed and breakfast, who wanted me to work on their website. I asked for log in information, which my client did not have. Her computer was “remembering” her login and password, and she didn’t have the information written down or stored anywhere that she could recall.
We tried repeatedly to contact the people who worked on her website most recently. They did not return our calls or emails for weeks. Their website was actually down.
My new client’s website went down shortly thereafter. She did not know where the domain name was registered. She didn’t know where the website was hosted. Her domain name information was shielded. I was not able to figure out anything to help my client.
It turns out her last company took over domain name registration, hosting, and her website, which was a WordPress site. Now, this company has vanished, and my client’s website (which had been published for many, many years) is down, probably for good. She may have to start completely over.
This is actually a common story.
One of my first goals was to help my client get her hosting and domain name accounts into her own name, so she would have the ultimate control of her business’s internet destiny.
My Professional Recommendations (so you don’t get screwed)
Your Domain Names
I highly recommend having all your domain names sitting in your own account, in one place, with you as the Registrant, Admin, and Tech. I personally use GoDaddy (for domain names only). Domain name registration is their specialty. They are inexpensive. Their user-interface is clear. I honestly do not recommend any of their other services (like hosting or website builders). They are just not reliable (to say the least).
Make sure the email address you have on file at GoDaddy is an email you will be using for the rest of your life – one that you check often. Your GoDaddy notices and bills arrive via email. You do not want to loose a domain name (and possibly a website too) because you did not pay the bill. If you have enabled auto-renew, make sure the credit card you have on file with GD has not expired.
Also, this bill from GoDaddy is the ONLY domain name bill that you need to pay. You WILL get phishing, misleading or fraudulent emails that look really trustworthy, asking you to pay your domain name registration to some other company. You do not need to pay anyone else EVER for your domain names except GoDaddy.
Make sure your password is extremely strong.
Your website should be hosted at a third-party provider. Do NOT host with your web designer. Should you ever need to cut ties with this designer for whatever reason, you will be saving yourself time, money, and maybe even serious conflicts or complications, by simply hosting your site with a neutral provider. See my Hosting recommendations here.
You should control the login and password to this account and make sure backups are regularly performed. Make sure your password is extremely strong. If you have enabled auto-renew, make sure the credit card you have on file with your hosting company has not expired.
Do not sign up for websites built using proprietary software, unless you are willing to be tied to this system (and company) for a long time. I recommend WordPress or HTML websites because anyone can work on these sites with the right skills. They are always being updated. They are easy to customize. You can host them anywhere. They have an infinite variety of features. If you use a proprietary platform and for some reason you outgrow its capabilities, or you have a falling-out with the company/designer, it is VERY likely you will have to design a brand new website somewhere else from scratch. Proprietary website builders/systems simply do not move from one hosting provider to another.
***LOOK at your website regularly.
I have had clients who did not pay their hosting or domain name bills on time for whatever reason. They did not realize their website was down for several months. Once they realized their site lapsed, they were unable to get it reinstated because too much time had gone by. They lost their whole website forever and had to decide to get a new one created from scratch because their backups were gone as well.
Keep track of your accounts in a journal or on a spreadsheet:
- What they are for (hosting, domain name, programs, email, etc…)
- Where they are (GoDaddy, WPEngine, etc…)
- When these accounts expire
- Is recurring billing enabled or do you have to renew manually
- Is billing monthly or yearly
- The email you have on file for each account
- Your logins, passwords and call-in pins
- What credit cards you use to pay the bills on each account
- When those credit cards expire
Review this information regularly to prevent the permanent loss of your website or domain name.
The Worst Things Can Happen
You can loose your domain names that may have been published for years.
Your website can go down forever, with no back-up copy anywhere.
Your email addresses will no longer function.
You will loose your place in the search engines.
You may have to build a new website from scratch using a new domain name.
All the backlinks to your vanished website will have to be changed. (good luck!)
Your revenue will plummet.
Is this a nightmare? YES!
Are You Vulnerable?
So, if you are in a vulnerable situation with your domain names and/or hosting, you may want to do something about it before it’s too late. If you are considering a new online business or website, make sure you start out the right way. Control your accounts. Use very strong passwords. Know who has access. Keep all your logins and passwords in a safe (and accessible) place. Learn how to recognize fake emails. Know when your accounts need to be renewed. Don’t click on links in emails to make payments or change passwords.
Good luck! I hope this post has been helpful. Please share.