Don’t Let Your Website Get Taken Hostage

“Hiring a web partner is an important decision.  When choosing the team that will handle your web presence,  you should ask yourself three things: Are they honest? Are they easily accessible? Do they really care about your business?” – Gail Randolph

After 23 years of web presence, one of the most popular websites in the world (according to Alexa.com) is in danger of “closing its doors”. David Mikkelson, founder of the fact-checking Snopes.com said his site has been taken “hostage” by its hired web developer, leaving his team with no access to the website. Unable to make changes, place ads or receive revenue from existing ads, Snopes.com launched a GoFundMe, “SaveSnopes” asking for $500,000 to stay in business. (update: the GoFundMe has exceeded this amount)

Advertising is the only revenue stream for Snopes.com and without it they are unable to pay their staff, legal fees and operate. So, could this hostage situation been avoided? You betcha!

How can you guarantee your website stays in your control and you don’t end up in a hostage situation? Here are the Four Lessons to  Learn from Snopes.com Being Taken Hostage:

1. OWN IT

You should OWN your both your domain name and website. Your domain name is your address on the internet. It controls access to your website and your email addresses. Your domain name is the key piece in staying in control of your website.

READ MORE: WHAT’S A DOMAIN NAME?

When you register your domain with KartHost™, it is registered in your name (or any name that you desire). You own it plain and simple. Unfortunately, there are companies out there who designate themselves at the domain registrar, aka owner, and lead you to believe you have control as the “domain administrator”. While that title sounds fancy, only the domain registrar/owner has ultimate access, controlling website updates, changes, ads etc…. And as you can see with Snopes.com, they can literally hold your website and revenue stream hostage at any time.

Similarly, if you decide to hire a web developer, website designer, etc… read the fine print. Make sure you are the 100% owner of your website, including design, coding and content. Occasionally some contracts will designate the web developer  as the website owner, since they designed the website, they will assume they own it. If you see this in  your contract, run!

2. MAINTAIN CONTROL

The next thing you should own is your web hosting account. If your domain name is your address, think of your web hosting as your house. It stores all your possessions – all your text, files and content that make up your website – and displays it to visitors.

You should  have access to every piece of your website puzzle, including logins to your control panel, website files, and content management system (like WordPress). This is one of the reasons we love WordPress – it gives you complete control of your website.

READ MORE: WHAT IS A WEB HOST, AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?

From there you should provide your web host, and other vendors, with separate usernames and passwords. You can provide them with top level access allowing your host to set up and maintain your site, but this way you won’t end up like Snopes.com – your site can’t be taken hostage.

3. KNOW YOUR WEB TEAM

Do your research when it comes to your web team. You should know who will be working on your site. Ask for references and read reviews. Make sure you feel comfortable giving them your personal information.

“Hiring a web partner is an important decision.  When choosing the team that will handle your web presence,  you should ask yourself three things: Are they honest? Are they easily accessible? Do they really care about your business?” – Gail Randolph

4. PROTECT YOURSELF 

That lengthy, overwhelming fine print that says “terms and conditions” – do yourself a favor and read it. Snopes.com is facing a dreaded, long legal battle with their web developer because they don’t agree on what the termination of services meant in their contract. By reading the terms before ending a relationship with your web team (or before a problem arises) you can safeguard your digital assets.

Amber Brown

I studied Journalism at Texas A&M, c/o 2005, where I wrote for the college newspaper, as well as the for the College of Architecture's various publications. Upon graduation, I owned a direct sales company and, as the author of my own webpage, press releases and overall public relations, I continuously realized the importance of building my company's brand and web presence. While I'm still learning the technical side of email, website building and web hosting, I have partnered with KartHost in order to bring Roy and Gail's extensive knowledge directly to you, making the information as relatable as possible.

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