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Don't Be Held Hostage by a Password

"I need FTP access" or "Do you have a copy of the working files on CD?" or "In order for us to transfer your website to our servers, we will need to change the DNS, do you have your account information?"

These are questions I usually have to ask a new client who has an existing website. Usually the response I receive is not the desired one. In fact a great many business owners / managers do not have a clue what I am talking about. I wouldn't expect them to, but it would avoid a headache and some extra time spent if they had this information on file somewhere. I have had projects held up for lengthy periods of time just waiting for an elusive login account name and password.

Most companies today either have a website or they are thinking about having one built. I thought I would offer a few pointers on keeping things tidy. A common occurrence in my industry is having clients jump ship from one web developer / marketing company to another. This usually happens when a company outgrows the capabilities of the developer or the developer closes up shop on them. Unfortunately, not all relationships of this sort end on good terms.

About half of my new clients experience problems with the transition from their old developer to us. Here are a few basics that can help save you time, money and aggravation.

Domain Registration: A domain name is the name used in a website address to identify a particular website and its web pages. It is usually (but not always) in the form "yourcompany.com". You can register a domain name for around ten dollars. There are many online companies who offer domain name registration, and most web developers will do this for you to save you the trouble, but beware – this is not the absolute safest way to go.

First off, your domain belongs to you. You should register it, not your web developer. Use your email address, company address and phone number. This is a simple process. It can be done at Enom.com, Godaddy.com, networksolutions.com and several other places. You can list your developer as the technical contact for your domain, but that's not really necessary. This domain registration account is the key to your website. Don't give the key away before you even get started. If you need help registering your domain, give us a call.

In order to set up your website or your email on your developer's servers (or on any web hosting service that you or your developer decide to use), you will need to provide the addresses of some name servers. Your developer can provide you with the addresses of the domain name servers that they use, and you can log in to your domain registration account and enter them there. Again, give us a call if you need help.

If you don't have the domain registration account login info, or you are not listed as the person who registered (owns) the domain, then your domain could be held hostage by your web developer if things go wrong. If your developer can't or won't help you out when you part ways, neither can we (at least not very easily). There are ways to resolve disputes, but why deal with that when it can be avoided? Best advice: register the domain yourself and keep the account login information somewhere safe.

Website Hosting: A hosting service provides a server for your website to be accessed from. Some web developers own and operate their own servers, but many outsource this to a third party. Most hosting services charge a monthly fee. The fee ranges from ten dollars for basic service to seventy five dollars or more, depending upon the server software that your website requires, the amount of storage it uses, and the amount of bandwidth it consumes.

Its important for you to know that not every hosting company or web developer offers the same server software. When changing hosts, you will need to know if the new host can support the technology that your developer used to build the website. Knowing which company hosts your website and email will again avoid a potential problem when it comes time to move it.

FTP Information: File Transfer Protocol, essentially means nothing to you, the client, however, it does mean something to your new developer. FTP login information is required to access the files that make up your website. Typically, these files are transferred by FTP to your new hosting server, or to your new developer. You may never need to personally use FTP access but we recommend that you keep the current FTP account login information in a safe place and available in case you do, or in case your new developer needs this information. The important items to keep are the "FTP host", "username" and "password".

Working Files: Working files are the files that web developers and graphic designers create when they build your images or web pages. These files are the raw files that their software uses to produce the web pages. We recommend that you ask for your working files and website files to be copied onto a CD for you to keep in a safe place. Any credible developer / designer should have no problem providing these files to you. You paid for them, and they belong to you. Having these files in your possession can save you time and expense down the road. Finally, you should know who all the third parties involved in your marketing campaign are. Not all marketing firms or developers provide this information without asking. So ask.

For example, if you have press printing done, you wouldn't want to pay for a different printer to create another $600 worth of plates for a duplicate brochure run just because you changed from one marketing firm to another and you don't know who the first printer was. It sounds silly for someone to hold this information back, but it happens – more often than you'd think.

This goes for everything else in your campaign – hosting services, programmers, photographers, etc. Maintain a file containing all of this information in a safe place. Rest assured that doing this will save time, money and the inevitable headache of being held hostage because you don't have the information you need.

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