Websites are getting easier and easier for the average business owner, an employee, or a sister-in-law to create. There are hosting services at every turn that allow you to set up and start running a website using templates that don’t look half bad. Word Press, Facebook, and Google allow you to set up sites or at least pages for free and you can even get your own business domain pointing to some of these sites for a very small fee. I find my most appreciative customers have tried these services first and learned a lot. I would never discourage someone from an educational experience. As a matter of fact, I have provided assistance to more than a few as they run into trouble with little technical things that invariably get in the way of getting things juuust right. But I digress… Here is what you absolutely should understand.
There are situations that can develop over time that start to get in the way of a business owner taking full advantage of free web technology and services. It’s no different than other relationships in our businesses. Changing times bring changing needs. It might be your business becomes successful and you no longer have the time to take care of your website yourself. Or your provider gets sold and suddenly their wonderful service levels become a nightmare of run arounds. Even professional developers, “Helpers” or employees might retire, become ill, or interested in other things. It might be time to start using your website to create a competitive advantage that the standard sites and layouts just don’t facilitate. Whatever the situation, the savvy business owner will want to know three things to ensure your flexibility in the future.
1. Make sure, if you get your own domain name, that it’s really in your name or the name of your business and your email is listed as a contact for any administrative changes. You can check the owner of a domain name by accessing the WhoIs feature at any Registrar service. A registrar can be different from your hosting service and I actually recommend that it should be. My favorite Registrar is Domain Discover. The Whois report is an ugly bunch of stuff, but the OWNER of record is clearly listed. If it’s not you, contact your developer, “helper”, or hosting service that assisted you in obtain the domain name and find out what you do to get it in your name. It’s not a matter of trust, it’s a matter of good business.
2. If you are working with a developer, amateur or not, you should still know who hosts your site and how to access your control panel. Should you become disillusioned with your helper, this is where you lock him or her out so your site is safe from any tampering when you are firing them. So, while you are in the WhoIs record, note also what is listed for Name Servers. This will indicated where your site is actually being hosted. My favorite is KBM Enterprises;-) (i.e., me) I am a value added reseller for Hostek.com. If you don’t want to get a value added service from me, then check out Hostek.com. Any developer is going to have their favorite service. You are best to use the service they recommend, but you should make sure your site is on a separate account and you are the keeper of the account information.
3. If you are going to use one of the signature services provided by a hosting service they will often refer to them as a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS is great for the novice. It let’s you get up and running very quickly without a lot of technical hoo-ha. But if the CMS is proprietary or a customization of some tool like a proprietary Word Press or Dot.Net environment or if you elect to use Google or Facebook, then if you become unhappy and want to move your site, you will likely be starting from scratch. When KBM builds a site for you, the site content and the code is yours and you (or more likely your next chosen professional) can likely take it to any capable hosting service and get it running. If your sister-in-law is going to do the site for you, make sure you specify this as a requirement.
KBM is always happy to lend a hand selecting the right service for your situation. Yes, I provide hosting and I can provide environments that you can build your own website. I would be happy to have you as a customer. Call me and let’s chat about what you need. If your situation is that you want to minimize cost and you think you can do better some place besides KBM, then, if I can’t have you as a customer now, let me at least counsel you, so when you are ready for professional services, both of our lives will be simpler.