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Protecting your investment

Your website is an investment. If you don't do it right the first time, you could need to get the law involved in a long drawn out process later down the line. Please follow these important pointers to protect you and your investment.

1. Always purchase your own domain name. Purchase it from a separate company than your web hosting company. Whenever possible, purchase it directly from a well known and reputable registrar. While a company like Network Solutions may charge $35 per year for a domain name, they are highly reputable as a registrar company and they were actually the first domain name registrar. This kind of reputation and full control over your domain name, may be worth the extra $25/year for domain name registration. If you need a list of registrars see: List of ICANN accredited registrars. ICANN is the agency that accredits registrars.
DO NOT leave the purchase of the domain name up to your webmaster, web designer, or web developer. The name of the registering party is the listed owner of the domain name. A registrar or a hosting company can not legally just change the name on a domain name and they try to stay out of disputes. If the person listed as the owner will not willingly turn the domain name over to you or you can no longer reach them, then you will need to file legal paperwork to prove that you are the rightful owner of the domain name and hope that the domain name does not expire during the process.

2. Do NOT provide your webmaster, web designer, or web developer with your security question or main password to either your domain name account or your web hosting account. Create an FTP account for them to use so they don't have access to the root of your hosting account. Your hosting company should be able to show you how to do this.
If changes need to be made to your account configuration for the site that was created to work, they should be able to walk you through how to make the changes. It may be frustrating and time consuming at first, but you want to ensure that your investment is protected. Sometimes web site owners will have a disagreement about the way the site should look and what they receive as well as the price. Be fair to the person who put the time and effort into creating the site for you, but realize that sometimes people don't take kindly to being fired and may retaliate by creating havoc with your web hosting. Many people are ethical webmasters and would never think of doing such a thing, but it does happen so protect yourself.

3. Be picky about who you work with and read any contracts carefully. Some web designers write into the contract that the work created belongs to them and you are actually renting the website content from them rather than fully purchasing all rights to it. They may encrypt the code so that the system requires an encryption key to make changes to the site. They may require a monthly maintenance fee to allow you to continue to use the website. They may have objects or images in the website link to something not on your hosting system but on theirs so they can take them down should the contract end. There are plenty of ways to ensure that you can not continue to use the website if you cut ties with them.

4. Always keep a backup copy of your website. Most hosting companies write into their terms of service, that they are not responsible for lost data or content. It is up to you to protect your data. KEEP A BACK UP! Put it on a CD, keep it on your own computer, keep it on a remote-site back up system, but KEEP A BACKUP COPY!

5. Protect your website name and discourage copy-cat sites that would capitalize on your investment by registering domain names that are similar to yours. If you have the chance to buy the .net, .com, .biz, .org and common misspellings of your domain name, do so.

6. Make sure you know who your registrar is and know when your domain name expires. Once you have a domain name, other registrar companies will send you mail stating that your domain name is about to expire- CHECK WHO IS SENDING THAT TO YOU. Some people automatically send these companies money fearing that if they don't their domain name will expire. Usually what ends up happening is the customer does not realize that this is a different company that is unable to renew the domain name unless the customer actually goes through a domain name transfer process. The actual registrar will later in the year send the same customer the correct information that their domain name will expire soon unless they renew. The confused customer, thinking they have already paid to renew the domain name either doesn't believe the notice, pay attention to the notice, or has to spend time on the phone trying to get this straightened out. Sometimes the customer never receives the email from the registrar and their domain name expires.