Website management - 5 ways to avoid a congress websites type debacle
27th January 2015

website_securityWas quite amused when I came across this article in Medianama. http://www.medianama.com/2015/01/223-delhi-congress-websites-go-offline-as-admin-leaves-party/ Apparently their? erstwhile webmaster feeling offended at not getting a party ticket decided to unanimously stop the congress party website. Not only was it embarrassing for the party but it also highlighted the party's poor digital management skills. However they are not the only ones in such a sad state, most of India's corporate and business websites are in similar conditions. They are either managed by 'friends' or by shady web hosting cos that might not exist a year from today. So here are five ways in which a company can secure their websites with some good management.

1. Hire a professional website maintenance or management firm.

I don't understand why Indian businesses have a propensity to give web related work to friends and acquaintances instead to proper professional firms. Some go to ruthless web hosting firms which offer the lowest rate and then become hostage to their demands. This is a poor way to treat a valuable marketing resource and also your intellectual property (a website is also a form of IP). A professional firm with a good contract will provide excellent service through a CRM system and will follow proper procedure and due diligence. In case things don't workout they will ensure a proper handover and will not do something as stupid as in the case of the congress sites. An important caveat is to have a strong agreement in place which outlines the steps to take in any contingency and also allocates? the responsibilities and liabilities of both parties in an enforceable manner.

2. Separate your domains from your hosting or maintenance.

Domains are precious commodities and very valuable IP. Ideally you should register and maintain them with a single vendor and only have the domains there nothing else. Domains can be easily pointed to any hosting resource so keeping them with another party will not affect your website or mails in any way. In case something happens to your site the domains can simply be pointed to a backup server or to a neutral 'under construction' page.

3. You should have a backup of your website at all times.

Smart clients always ask us for a backup of their site and we are happy to oblige them. In case things turn sour with a vendor or with anyone 'managing' your website, you can give the copy to another vendor to handle ahead. Even though you may not be able to restore or use it yourself, just having the files is important. I am very surprised at how many times companies lose their sites as they don't have a viable backup to restore. It's also important to ensure that the backup is maintained up-to-date and is not missing any critical component (such as database records etc.)

4. Don't ignore the warning signs. Act fast and control the situation before it flares up.

As of writing this the congress sites are still down. Although it might appear sudden to the congress brass, this problem was probably simmering for a while and was swept under the carpet. Many times the warning signs are clear such as the hosting company asking for more money or complaining that their bills are not being paid on time. Such issues are flagged for later and then forgotten till they flare up. Then its last-minute negotiations with the hosting cos. or service provider to mend fences or switch to others. Its better to keep it under control long before a confrontation is required.

5. Passing the baton between executives in the company.

I have seen a lot of website related information getting dropped as employees leave and new ones join. There is no communication between the incoming and outgoing executives with regards to site hosting details. The new person is forced to go through old company records to track down the details. At some places it's so bad that they do not even know where the domain is actually registered or who is hosting it. It would be comical if it wasn't so dangerous. Your website in the wrong hands can be disastrous for a company. My suggestion would be to create a proper file (physical or virtual) which archives all the hosting / domain/ details as well as the correspondence between the company and service providers so that any new joiner can pick up easily where the other left off. In today's world your website is increasingly an important part of your company's image. Losing it senselessly due to negligence is unforgivable. The congress websites debacle is a good wake up call for putting in place good website management practises.

Cheers,

Ron

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