Website Ownership 101: Make Sure You Own It
I got call today from a friend. "I have a question about my website. You remember that guy I was dating a while back? he set up my website for me, but then we broke up and now ..." I could predict the rest of the conversation like I was reading a script. It's a lesson that many people learn the hard way. Do yourself a favor. Read this and learn it the easy way.
Look. I get it. I really, really do. You’re really good at what you do, but when it comes to technical stuff, perhaps your eyes roll back in your head and you start foaming at the mouth. No judgement here! Ask me do what you do and I may have the same reaction.
Still, there are a handful of thing that every website owner needs to control – and know how to delegate the right way.
Your Domain Name Account
Is your (or your company’s) legal name and address listed as the registrant (aka the legal owner) on your domain name? If not, you don’t own it. When you buy/register a domain name, the “registrar” (think GoDaddy, eNom, Google Domains, etc) becomes the official record-keeper for two things:
- Who owns the domain name – and who can act on their behalf
- Which DNS (Domain Name System) servers determine the web/email/other servers that will handle your domain’s Internet traffic.
Now, let’s assume that #2 is meaningless to you. You go to your tech-savvy person and … give them your username and password? Tempting, but DON’T TO IT!!! Most registrars provide some kind of mechanism for delegating technical controls to another user – with their own username and password. Not only does this let you retain control over your domain name, but it lets you revoke access, and depending on the registrar, track who did what. If relationships go wrong, that’s important.
Even if your registrar doesn’t provide delegation features, your tech person can setup “DNS tables” in another account/service, provide you with DNS server names, and then you can tell your registrar to use those. (It’s easier than it sounds.)
The technical people can handle all the technical details, but you (or your company) retains control of your domain name. They could still cause problems, but they can’t cut you out altogether.
Your Hosting Account
An account with a hosting provider lets you control the files, images, databases, etc., that make up your website. Many registrars offer this as an additional service, and some even do a decent job at it. Other hosting providers make this is their primary focus. Either way, you want to own your hosting account. And just as with your domain account, delegate access to others as needed.
Even if you don’t actually do anything with it, you want to be the one who decides who does.
Your Website CMS Account
These days, most websites are run out of some type of CMS (Content Management System). In most cases, it will be WordPress. Whatever CMS powers your website, it will have a way of setting up different users. Be sure that you have a username/password to your CMS that is either an Administrator or (if your CMS differentiates) an Owner – one that can create/delete users. Obviously, if you don’t understand how the CMS works, you shouldn’t use your access to start pushing buttons and flipping switches while calling over your shoulder, “What does this one do?”
But you will want to know how to add and delete users.
What If All This Makes Me A Bit Crazy?
(or I just don’t have time!)
There are those people out there for whom even this is too much. Too much to figure out, too much time, etc. If it just makes more sense to turn it over to someone else, pay a professional who isn’t involved in the little (or big) dramas in your life, and will be in your corner if things get rocky.
As you might have guessed, this is one of the things we do at ThinkByDesign, Inc. We understand how all the little pieces fit together, and if you ever decide that you want to do it yourself, or turn it over to someone else, we don’t believe in holding you hostage. If it turns out that the grass really is greener on the other side, we’ll want to learn what they did to make their grass so green. If it isn’t, we’d much rather welcome back a friend. Life is just better for everyone that way.
And if all you need is a bit of coaching and direction, we’ve got you covered there, too.