Just as you would ensure your rights and access to the physical property related to your business, it’s important to also maintain control over your digital assets. A digital asset is simply information that is stored digitally. We most commonly think of digital assets as data files, media files, and other business information. While these are important to protect also, businesses often forget about access to components of their website and other sales and marketing platforms. When you give total control of these essential business tools to someone else (an employee or marketing firm), you put yourself at great risk financially, and also set yourself up for serious headaches if you have to try to regain access.
Many business owners don’t really want to get involved with their digital presence and hire people to manage these functions for them. Or they turn the whole task over to an employee. While this approach can be a great solution to accomplish having a consistent and successful online presence, it’s important that you still have access to all of these vital elements of your business. Make sure your accounts list your email as the owner. Look, things change in people’s lives, relationships fall apart, people move to the Bahamas. If the people who have the access information to all your digital accounts disappear – will you be able to go on smoothly? Perhaps you will miss the help and have to search for another subcontractor, but if you have all the login information to all your digital accounts, the transition will be a whole lot easier!
# 1 – Recently, my husband placed an order from a reputable automotive company. He didn’t hear back from them with any order confirmation and shipping information, so he gave them a call. They were happy that he did because apparently the e-commerce website company they were using went out of business and didn’t notify them. Consequently, order emails had stopped going out. Unfortunately the web company they used was also the owner of their website domain, making correcting the situation even more difficult for them to resolve.
#2 – Once we worked with a company that had a disgruntled employee that took control over their website. We had to login to the database and change all the passwords immediately before this person caused serious damage. While we were able to correct the issue, it was a frightening moment for the company. If they had not known of our services, the resentful employee could have caused serious damage to their website and their reputation.
#3 – We had another client who hired an “IT professional” to help set up their network, their staff emails and calendars, and their scheduling software. This person was doing this part-time and seemed never available to help answer questions or correct issues. As our client became more dissatisfied with their customer service, the subcontractor developed more of an attitude and basically stonewalled them from gaining access (to their own accounts!). They could not make important changes, or be able to work with someone else to help them. This situation took months, many letters for their attorney, a lot of expense, and tons of staff time and energy to resolve.
#4 – A very common story (that we get a call about at least once a month) is one where a company’s web developer registers the domain for a company as part of doing their website management, then decides to take their life in another direction and suddenly disappears. The company doesn’t have access to their domain, their web hosting (many times they often don’t even know where it is hosted), or the login to the website’s administrator dashboard. This is a terrible situation for a company. Another web company can help to get you back up and running, but it can often cost a lot more and it can be a time consuming process. In some cases, the company has to use a different domain name which isn’t ideal for branding or SEO. If the other website is still up (because they didn’t have access to take it over) it is very confusing for customers. This common scenario creates a ton of headaches (and heartaches sometimes), believe that!
You always want to own your own domain name. This is the URL address to your website. If possible, set up 2-factor authentication with the domain registrar (the business that handles the reservation of your domain name, such as GoDaddy or Regiser.com) so you know if someone logs into your account.
Set a calendar reminder to login and check all of your domains periodically. If your contact information is incorrect it is possible ICANN (the organization that administers domain names) can remove ownership of your domain due to incorrect or faulty information. ICANN sends out emails annually, asking people to confirm their contact information. You should respond to these emails and do your due diligence to check your account. If your contact information is incorrect, you probably aren’t receiving these emails so your website URL could expire without you knowing! Again, the contact email should be your own so that you always have access if necessary.
Ensure that your credit card number associated with your domain registration account (and any other critical business accounts with software and apps) is up-to-date. We highly recommend you do autopay so you don’t miss out on a renewal. We’ve had clients miss their renewal of their domain name for their business website and then lose access to their URL.
This is definitely NOT something you will want your web developer or designer to have access to. If you need help setting it up, make sure to change the password once it’s complete so only you can access your card data and charge settings.
If you are using one of the large e-commerce platforms on your website such as Shopify, Etsy or BigCommerce, they will have access to your accounts so make sure to check periodically to ensure they have been taking the proper amounts out of your account.
Once there was an Etsy issue that caused them to drastically overcharge for shipping labels. This was all due to a decimal point error. Stuff happens, so keep a close eye on your business charge accounts for accuracy.
If you have employees login and handle things on your website, be sure to give them their own unique login. Also only give them the privileges they need (like editing copy but not full admin privileges). This ensures they won’t accidentally make an unwanted change, and they also can’t take your website hostage should they become unhappy.
If nothing else, at least know where your website is hosted and what the login credentials are. Your web hosting company holds the greatest access to your website. The hosting company houses your website and has all the files to your website. If they should go out of business, you could lose your website! If you need to make a change, you have that information to give to the next company you work with.
It is very important to choose a reputable hosting company. Many people are sold on the inexpensive ones. This is one of those cases where you get what you pay for. Cheapo web hosting means no backup, no customer service, and no consistent upkeep of your site for things such as software and security updates. Your hosting company should back up your site to a third party location, not to the same server where your site is housed. You never want your website or access to your files threatened; you need to have trust in your hosting company.
Before you hire a website designer or developer, whomever is going to create or update your website, be sure to screen them. Look at their BBB rating and business ratings on the web (Google Reviews, Facebook reviews). When we have businesses come from other companies that they were dissatisfied with, you often see these issues reflected on the better business bureau or other online rating comments.
You may have a friend or cousin who moonlights as a web developer, or your coworker has a teenager who is “fantastic with technical stuff” that you are considering hiring to help you with your website. While this may sound like a big cost savings, this tactic, more often than not, doesn’t go well. This business is challenging! Technology and the internet change every day. When it isn’t someone’s actual job, they may not really know what to do for a professional business site, and their priorities are not developing websites. It can be a very frustrating and costly experience, and it’s terrible to ruin a relationship over something like that.
We know it’s no fun to think ahead about what can go wrong, and almost everyone wants to avoid confusing technical stuff. However, if you have a plan to secure your digital assets, and make a point to remain in control in the future, it will save a lot of money and difficulties in the future.
Really hate this technical stuff? Unsure on how to proceed? Reach out to us – we are happy to help however we can!