Where did my website go??

As a small business owner, it is easy to overlook the need for a backup plan. The got-ran-over-by-a-bus plan for the owner and employees needs to be created first (and quickly if you don’t have one!). But an often forgotten area that is also critical to having a back up plan is for your website. What happens if your website crashes? Do you have an automated daily backup of the site?

I have recently seen several (not one – several!) businesses get burned by using “one man show” website companies. As a means of saving money, small to mid-sized businesses will partner with solo developers (freelancers) without placing thought into what happens when the person who holds the key to their entire website closes shop without notice. Here today, gone tomorrow. They’ve got your site and they’ve got your hosting. And now you can’t access or download either one of them.

At Nu expression, within one week in August, we had two companies come to us with this problem. Two separate individual developers decided they couldn’t make it on their own. Quit answering the phones and email. Done, moved on. The problem is, the businesses that were left in their wake now cannot access the hosting companies to retrieve their websites and partner with a more reliable source. When the hosting is no longer being paid by these individuals, the sites will simply disappear.

Our web team is working with these abandoned clients to appeal to the decency of the individual developers to turn over the login credentials or use current technology to copy the site and move the hosting, but neither avenue is a guarantee. One company stands to lose two years of information on a very active site, valued in man hours of close to $100,000. And if the site is shut down, they will be down for weeks while a new site is being built due to its complexities.

Do you want to take the risk with your business? Below are five questions to ask your web developer (whether solo or a team) before you trust them with your website and, potentially, the entire existence of your business.

  1. What hosting company do you partner with? Can you provide me with FTP access?  Google the hosting company and see their reviews. Being willing to share FTP login credentials shows that the company is honest and transparent.
  2. Can I meet you at your office?  Granted, just because someone may work from home doesn’t take away the legitimacy of a business, but placing blind trust in an individual that you don’t know and that doesn’t have a location you can visit is quite risky with the future of your company. So go see where your potential developer works….hopefully it’s not in their mom’s basement.
  3. Can I meet the person that will physically build my website?  The answer to this question will tell you if they are the middle-man and outsourcing the build overseas, a one man show, or part of a team of builders.
  4. Does the web design company have a high quality, current website?  If the company hasn’t invested in building (or rebuilding) their own site within the past 18 months, they aren’t staying current with today’s trends. If they can’t walk the walk, then you need to run!
  5. What do the company’s reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp tell you?  If past clients aren’t sharing their praises, think hard if this is where you want to invest the success of your company.