Benefits of Webmaster Retainers

I heard your webmaster was hit by a bus last night.

Your good old website is about to undergo a transformation and so are you. I just got the news that your webmaster was hit by a bus and is no longer with us. You know that sinking feeling when you “get the news” that someone close to you is gone? Well what if it is your webmaster? What if s/he is no longer able to function for you? What if you can no longer update your web site? What if you don’t have access to your own server? What if you don’t know the user ID and password to log into your own website cpanel? What if you don’t know the user ID and password to the FTP server? What if you don’t have the user ID and password to the database? OK that is a whole set of problems right there, just getting access to the web site….but it gets worse….a lot worse.

We just realized that we do have a 6 month old back up of the web site on a local desktop and we can restore in another hosting environment, we are feeling like we might be back in control, but oh crap I just did a whois look up on Network Solutions and my webmaster is the technical and the ADMIN for my domain and now they are dead? (No it is more like I AM DEAD). Their office is not returning calls and I don’t have access to either my DNS (DNS is that thing that says your website name like or my website. Guess what? You are about to enter a new world of time sink! I mean you have no idea how much time you are about to spend if you want this web site back and under your control. And what if you have it integrated with any e-commerce or back end fulfillment systems, you are doubly screwed.

Have you ever tried to transfer a domain between two different parties? It can be one of the most time consuming projects you take in your business career, and that is if you have full cooperation from the other party (the webmaster). Now imagine this scenario, your webmaster is dead, not returning any more calls, you do not have access to your web site, your DNS, your pricing, your e-mail (oh yeah that e-mail thing, have you ever had to deal with MX)? When your MX goes haywire your mail goes haywire and they are all interconnected.

Later in the day we also find out the webmaster also had the company Twitter and Facebook and Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools passwords as well. So now we have several more things we need to go after in our time sink. “Boy, I wish my webmaster never walked in front of that bus!”

Why do I bring these scenarios up? Because as a website consultant at SpeechRep Media, Inc. on a regular basis as I help small businesses with their website development I find myself asking owners of businesses for the keys to their businesses for user ID’s and passwords, hosting access, database access, FTP access, DNS access, social media access, analytics access etc and almost always none of them have the critical information to their business that they need. They are locked out of their own business.

So the action items point of this article is to get these items in a spreadsheet and password protect it and put it on a memory stick in a safe deposit box, and change the passwords regularly or monthly. Do it now while you have the full cooperation of your team and you have access to everyone. Imagine if your webmaster relationship goes sour (which is a much more likely scenario than being hit by a bus) or your web developers and you might have a dispute over money or business issues or anything else of contention they basically own you and your business until you say “uncle.” Yes you can sue them, yes you can get all the stuff back, but it is going to take a whole lot of time, your time. Why not take an hour or two out this week or next and get all of this organized, you will thank yourself that you did.

But wait one more little thing. Don’t just go and collect this information and hope that it works, test it and make sure you can log into everything. And don’t forget to record the URL’s as well.

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