What would you do if your website vanished?

What would you do if you woke up one morning and your website was gone? It happened last week to one of our Insider Programme members, a major electronics company, who found their site had been replaced by a “holding page” with some adverts for cars on it. We were able to help them track down the problem immediately, but it raised two serious issues:

1. Do you have a copy of your website, in case it really has “gone”?
This didn’t turn out to be something our friends had to worry about, but it is something everyone should consider. If you use a content management system, whoever set it up should have included a backup system (but do you know if that’s true, and would you know where it is and what to do with it?). If your site is just a series of web pages, you’ll need to make your own copy on a regular basis. Don’t trust the website host. You can do this simply by downloading the site using FTP, or by grabbing the whole site (I use Sitesucker on the Mac).

2. Do you have a system in place to ensure the site is paid for and its registration is kept up?
Web hosting and site registration is cheap. That’s great, but the other side of the coin is that the organisations involved don’t have much incentive to chase the bills. If you accidentally stop paying the web host, the easiest way for them to bring this to your attention is to switch you off. Domain name registration is an even trickier thing to maintain. Your domain name is probably registered on a renewable two-, five- or ten-yearly basis, and again, don’t expect more than the odd email to remind you that the renewal is due. I’m always torn between registering for the shortest possible period, so I can actually make a note in a diary to re-register, or the longest possible one (usually ten years), so it’ll rarely be an issue. There are SEO arguments for going for the latter. But do you even know who’s responsible for registering your .com or .co.uk name, and when it’s due? You can look up .co.uk registration information for free at Nominet, or for other extensions at sites like DomainTools. If the information isn’t all correct, now’s the time to sort it out, or the renewal reminder in 2016 might be going to someone who retired several years ago.

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