I want to tell you a little story about loss. This story isn’t a one in a million fairy tail type story. It’s as real as it gets and it could happen to you.

So, with that in mind, let me ask you a serious question.

Do you have full access to your website, hosting and domain accounts?

By full access, I mean all the logins (that work) including access to the email address linked to the account and the accounts are in your name.

If not, a word of warning as this story could be a little confronting.

 

Proceed with caution…

 

A couple of months ago I took on a new client. A lovely business owner who was in the midst of a business partnership breakdown. It was messy. I won’t go into detail because that’s not what this story is about.

My client became the sole director of the businesses and retained ownership of the websites and business assets. Or so we thought.

I had access to the websites and hosting via collaborator access and all was ticking along smoothly. Again, so we thought.

(Collaborator access is a great way to give access to your web person so they can fix issues on your website and access the files without having access to your billing details or emails in the account. It adds a safety measure when it comes to your hosting account. The downside is the collaborator has no visibility of the account details incl. upcoming expiries or other account details.)

Fast forward a couple of months and suddenly went offline. No websites, no emails. No sign of website life.

Jumping in to see what was going on, I logged onto my account to access the collaborator access to see the issue. There was no collab access. It was gone.

 

I knew exactly what this meant.

 

Panic temporarily set in for both of us as we realised the website hosting had expired.

But no need to jump off a cliff, an expired hosting account is easy to fix as long as you pay within 14 days of expiry. We simply log into the hosting account and pay the outstanding renewal and back up they come.

Nope. My client could not do this as they realised they did not have access to the hosting account. The logins they had from when the account was initially set up were not working and the former business partner was not contactable. Now the panic really starts to set in.

I said to my client it’s ok, if we can access the domains, we can get the sites back up on a new hosting account as I have backups from the website management agreement. (This is another reason why backups are so important. I know I bang on about backups, but they really do save your life, sanity and business).

 

Enter problem number two.

 

While my client did have access to the domain accounts, the primary domain needed to reinstate the website was locked. The DNS (the settings used to tell a domain where to point to) were locked in the expired hosting account. So we had no access to the domain. The domain also had privacy protection on it, so we could not change the Name Servers in order to regain control of it. (Important Note: It’s a must to have privacy protection on your domains. Obviously in this instance it proved to be a hinderance as we could not access the domain to reinstate my client’s websites. But it’s something I always recommend as it protects your domain from being stolen by hackers. Even if they get access to your account, they can’t do anything with it without you knowing about it. The 2FA kicks in and you get an email or text message to verify the action. All I will say is, make sure you have access to the email or mobile number associated with the domains). Needless to say, in this instance, the 2FA was going to the old business partners contact details that were no longer valid.

 

The solution – albeit not the most ideal one

 

Long story short, after a lot of back and forth, we ended up reinstating the two websites on a new hosting account via the backups. Sadly, one of the websites had to be put onto another domain (we could access the com.au version of the domain) due to the inability to access the primary domain. Even though the domains may appear the same except for the suffixes, to Google and search engines, they might as well be two completely different sites. All reference to the .com domain that had been indexed for years was gone.

In these cases, when you change a primary domain, you would put a redirect on the old primary domain to the new domain. But, as we could not access this either, it was again not possible to do this.

Overall, this has created all sorts of administrative headaches for my client who just wants to run their business.

As for me and my processes, I took it upon myself to add another step in my onboarding process – that is for my clients as much as it is for me. Whilst hosting management isn’t generally part of my website management agreements, I have since added an extra field to my onboarding form to ask: “What is your website hosting expiry date?”.

Because even if I don’t necessarily need to know it, you do! And by knowing this, maybe we can prevent this kind of disaster happening again.

 

So what about you?

 

Now, this isn’t a scenario that is only for those in business partnerships. It can happen to sole traders and, well, anyone. It could happen to you.

If you have had someone set up your accounts for you or create them on your behalf, they may have used their email address.

I see it a lot where web developers or agencies will create an email address for the purpose of creating client accounts.

These email addresses end up becoming lost or tied to the company you were once with. How awkward is it going back after leaving a company only to try and ask them for help to access your accounts again.

Make sure you create your accounts or you know the details to access them. I can’t stress this enough.

 

In Summary…

 

Your business is your asset and it’s vital you know exactly what’s going on at all times. This includes renewals and access to the most important of accounts as well as full access to your website and all other services.

My tips:

  • Always know when your services are due to expire.
  • Always have auto renew set on your hosting accounts and domain accounts.
  • Make sure your payment methods are correct and up to date.
  • Make sure you have access to all your accounts – including the email that the account is created with as this is where your 2FA code will go.
  • Make sure you have Privacy Protect on your domains so you have control over them.

 

Update on my client:

We did manage to get access to the primary domain thanks to the old business partner transferring the details. So the primary domain has been reinstated. This is a very good outcome and most welcomed. But it is also a very fortunate one.