Who’s Taking Care of Your Website?
Probably not this guy.
We have discovered, however, that many of our new clients have no idea who takes care of their websites. This picture seems to capture how they feel about the situation.
Let’s break it down. There are really only a few options:
- You have a webmaster. Either there is someone in your organization who has official responsibility for the website, or you pay someone. Occasionally we find an organization (usually a non-profit) that has a volunteer webmaster. This person makes changes at your website, deals with problems when they occur, and generally takes care of things. “Webmaster” is very fluid, though. Sometimes it means that they take care of everything because it’s their job. Sometimes they take care of everything and charge you by the hour. Sometimes it just means they are technically in charge of the site and they don’t actually do anything.
- You have a web host. A web host is not the same as a webmaster. We have a terrific web host, and they look after us if our sites go down (i.e., disappear from the web for some reason, most recently because the site was in the Google Doodle and had way too much traffic) or we break them or something. They don’t usually make changes to our site, but they would if we needed help. In our experience, mass market web hosts just keep the servers running and don’t offer much in the way of service — some will do backups, but often if you have a problem you’re out of luck. Check your contract.
- You have a department or an agency. Sometimes your IT department is theoretically in charge of the website and sometimes you have a web firm that takes care of you. Again, the specific care you get varies. If it’s your IT department or your art department, you shouldn’t expect them to optimize your site for search. If it’s a web firm, they may or may not take care of things like your web site being offline.
- You may take care of your own website. If you’re a DIY webmaster, you probably chose to do this either because you enjoy it or because it seemed like a good idea at the time. If it seemed like a good idea at the time, back when you were a tiny start up without too many customers, it may no longer be a good idea. If you love it, you need to watch and work with your own analytics and keep your web tech skills up to date.
- You may have no one taking care of your website. If a company built your website, you signed up for web hosting with a mass market hosting company, and that’s all you know, there is probably no one taking care of your site. The company that built your site doesn’t have responsibility for it after they turn it over to you, unless your contract says they do. This can be a problem. You may or may not have the access you need to make changes. If it breaks, it’s your problem, but you may not have any idea what to do about it. You may have no analytics and therefore have no idea how your website is doing, or you may have analytics installed but not know how to use them.
If you don’t know which of these things is true, there are some steps you can take:
- Try searching for “whois www.yourcompany.com.” This will turn up records for your domain that will tell you where your site is registered and who hosted it. There will also usually be a contact person, who will usually have to give you permission to get into the site. Sometimes this is someone who used to work for your company and no longer does. Get in touch with this person and ask for their cooperation in changing the site to a new contact person.
- Look through your financial records. Sometimes the whois record doesn’t tell us where the website is hosted, and no one remembers the name of the company, let alone the password. Finding out who you pay (or who you paid all those years ago) will give you a hosting company to approach. We’ve found that, when we have a good enough reason, hosting companies are often cooperative about putting us in touch with the right person or allowing a change of contact person. This is also a good way to find the company that built your website, and they may be able to help you.
- Look in your code. Sometimes the company that built the site or made your template will have signed their work and this will help you find someone who can help you.
If you have a webmaster or a web firm, check your contract and make sure that they provide the level of care that you need and want. If you’re not sure anyone is taking care of your website, hunt down the information about hosting and who built it — the older the information is, the less likely you are to get help when and if you need it.