Today, most businesspeople have a presence on the Internet, but many are unaware of the risks associated with having such a presence. I want to share with you a very serious business risk that we have identified during our visits to small and not so small businesses.
The one situation that really prompted me to write this article is the following: Like many others, one businessperson had a web domain registered and a website designed for his small business a few years ago.
During the past year, their business turnover experienced a dramatic decline which they could not really explain nor attribute the decline to just the current economic downturn. Then, a few customers complained that they couldn’t find their website on the web.
On learning this, they themselves tried to browse their website, but like their customers, they couldn't find it.
So, like most typical businessmen, what they did was to contact their web developer and IT guy, which told them that there was a small glitch with their "password", and their site should be up and running shortly. He also promised to pop in and explain to them what was happening and why.
But although he made various appointments, he never actually turned up for any of the appointments. All well, if that was the end of this story.
The businessperson shared with us his concern, and once we got back to the office, I decided to research what was happening with their site, so that we could advise him on the correct course of action. I was horrified and here is why: I "Googled" their web domain and got a Google note saying "Oops! Google could not find www.(their web site name).com" This got me thinking and it raised alarm bells!
So I did a search to see if their domain was still valid. To my horror, I found that their domain had expired a few months earlier, and not only had they lost their domain name; they had also lost a very expensive web site.
The registration for their domain had expired and the hosting service had lapsed. That being said, it meant that all the external and internal links to their website were now effectively obsolete. ... and that was the real reason as to why neither they, nor their customers could not find the website!
Then, I did a bit more of research in Lagos, and found that most business owners don't really know how to instruct their web designers and web hosts. In addition I also found that many web domains are not really owned by the business it is representing, or by the business owners. They are instead owned by the web developers or by others, often unrelated to the rightful owners own businesses. I also found out that some website designing and hosting services, while offering a convenient one-stop shop service, are in fact locking you in without you even being aware of it, and have in fact taken control of your web domain, and in certain cases, even your own website content.
Based on the above findings I have to ask: If placing all your eggs in one basket, in the form of one-stop shop website design, maintenance & hosting, is really the best option for you?
In my humble opinion, it is most definitely not! And why not? Because, it is a good business practice to keep all of the “online” elements of your business separate, but at the same time under your direct control. This is just a sound business risk management practice!
When you are setting out to establish a new venture on the web, I agree, it appears to be a daunting task. The terminology is complex and confusing and there are multiple aspects to consider – domain registration, website hosting, website design, maintenance, search engine optimization (SEO), etc.
There is also the temptation to take the easy option out, by selecting a provider that offers you a one-stop shop service - where someone else takes care of all the complicated items that you don’t understand. That way, not only do you get an all-inclusive bill per month, but also someone to take care of all the hassle. But with that, comes a major risk.
A Website design provider that proclaims that it does everything rarely looks after your own specific individual needs and the multitude of tasks that this requires, unlike a carefully selected group of specialists in their own field of expertise.
While it is not uncommon to find providers that that are really good at both Website Design and Website Management, when it comes to Web Hosting, here it is best to stay with the providers that do just that.
They host Web services. This is a very specialized field and most of these companies offer a fairly good service, but the best ones do only that - host Web Services!
Your website needs to run on a very reliable hosting service, which is available 24/7 and can handle all loads the Internet can throw at it. Your clients need to have constant access to your website, in other words, your site needs to be available at least 99.99% of the time.
This demand for high availability does not just apply to the piece of hardware in the datacentre your site is running on, it covers the whole spectrum of datacentre infrastructure. Reliability of power supply, the sufficient storage of on-site diesel to run the back-up generators in the event of an extended power outage, multiple redundancies in communications networks into the datacentre, to mention but a few.
I know this is all very complicated and scary. But there is a reasonably simple logical solution to all of this whilst at the same time you can minimize your risk. But at the same time you need to be aware of what the potential risks are, to identify them and then manage them.