Is Your Website at Risk? 5 Things You Must Know or Risk Losing Everything

Do you have full control over your most important online asset – your website?

5 Things every site owner must know or risk losing everything

If you don’t your webmaster might be holding you hostage (and you don’t even know it)!

Nothing pisses me off more than when a new client comes to me and their previous web person has held them hostage.     They don’t have their login information and even if they did, their access is extremely limited. Their website is not running optimally and often their requests for help or updates go unheeded for weeks.

Think this is an over exaggeration?

I regularly get new clients who are in this exact situation. I’ve had a handful of them this year alone.

I personally consider this sort of behavior from web professionals to be unethical. If it were up to me it would be illegal.

Seriously – can you kidnap someone’s child without repercussions?

No. (thank goodness)

A business owner’s website is like one of their children.

To be frank, holding someone’s website is one way to retain customers (you have a captivated audience of those you keep in the dark tied up in chains). But, seriously people, try retaining them the old fashioned way – with good service.

How to Protect Yourself from Having Your Website Held Hostage

Business owners come in all shapes and sizes when it comes to tech savviness. Even if technology is not your thing, you deserve to know the state of your website assets and have full ownership of and access to them.

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Remember as the CEO of your business, you can always delegate a task but you can never abdicate responsibility for it.

Here’s what you need to ask your webmaster TODAY (not tomorrow, not someday when you “get around to it”). Any web professional worth their salt will gladly answer these questions without feeling threatened if you tell them you are upgrading your understanding of your business and getting your processes and documentation in order. If he or she gets extremely defensive, you have your first indicator that red flags are coming. (If you need a handy checklist with these questions and room to document – get the web essentials checklist below.)


  • Where is my site hosted? In whose name is the hosting account?
  • Where are my domain(s) registered? In whose name are they registered?
  • What is my login information for:
    • My domain registrar?
    • Accessing my website to edit it (example: WordPress dashboard)?
    • My hosting account?
    • The cPanel (control panel) of my hosting account?
    • FTP access?
  • Where is my email database managed? (Examples: MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, etc.) And What is my login information for it?
  • How often is my site backed up? Where are the backups stored?

What answers did you get?

The only acceptable answers are: “In your name” and “Here is your login/access information”.

Anything else is a red flag.

All your accounts should be registered in your name/the name of your business. Anything else puts you at risk because you don’t actually own your site or site assets!

Now you might be thinking, “but my web person tells me that she will take care of everything for me.” That is fine…I do that for my own clients.


And here’s the


I register everything in my client’s name with their contact information and give my clients all of their login information once we launch a site. I answer any question they might have timely, fully, and in Plain English (no geek speak).

Anyone who makes technology seem so mysterious and magical and tells you something to the effect that “you shouldn’t worry your pretty little head about it” is being a jerk and doing you a disservice. Leave this abusive relationship now.

Why Web Professionals Do Bad Things

You might be wondering, “Why would my web person do this in the first place?”

I find website hostage situations happen for one of three reasons.

The webmaster has dark motives

Unfortunately as in any profession, there are some people who simply do not have your best interests at heart. They do what will serve them best with zero to little regard for the business owner.   It’s all about profits, not people.

Fortunately this group is in the minority.

The webmaster doesn’t know better

As the web has become more ubiquitous, more people have entered the profession. Many of them do not have deep knowledge of the implications of what they are doing. Back when I started doing websites (hello 1995!), I had to know the nitty-gritty behind the scenes of how everything worked because that was the only choice. Now technology is much more robust and easier to use. That is a wonderful thing. However, it brings with it a generation of a subset of web professionals who have surface knowledge and make choices based on what someone told them or they randomly found on Google.

An example of this is buying one reseller account on one shared hosting account and divvying it up to all of their clients. Seems like a great profit center for them, but in reality what that means is that you as a client get only a sliver of an already shared pie of hosting space and bandwidth which means poor performance and risky security and extremely limited access to your site.

I recently had a client come to me and her prior web person had her panties all in a twist when I requested cPanel access. She yelled, “I can’t give you access to that or I’d give you access to all my client’s websites!”   That is the moment at which I told my client to run for the hills. No wonder her site was slow and we had access to so little! This web professional basically put all her client sites on one account. Think of it like subletting your apartment to 50 people. The line for the bathroom would be interminably LONG.

Now, was this web person’s motives evil? Probably not. She was likely new to the profession, learned a few things about WordPress in a helter skelter way and had no idea the implications of her choices. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.

The webmaster is super-busy and does what is convenient

This category will probably not balk at your questions, but they might not be proactive in communicating with you. He or she might be a great technician but is very busy and sets up shop in a way that makes it convenient to manage multiple sites and make some ongoing money on the side (the whole point of reseller accounts or selling hosting to clients). There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but if you find that you don’t get satisfactory answers to your questions, it might be time to have a heart to heart conversation with them. If you are still not satisfied, it could be time to part ways.

The Bottom Line Impact of Inadequate Ownership of Your Website

So what problems do I see business owners just like you experience from bad situations like this?

The implications range from annoying to catastrophic. Here’s a sampling of specific problems I have helped clients navigate:

  • They find out they don’t own their domain names and lose them (bye bye marketing and SEO).
  • They don’t own their websites and therefore cannot move them to a new web firm (bye bye content, graphics, and SEO).
  • The software on which the site was built was proprietary so they had to redo their website from scratch (happens with both high-end custom content management systems and most commonly with free/low cost services like GoDaddy Website Tonight, Wix, etc.).
  • Extracting themselves from high-cost, restrictive website contracts with large companies that basically replicate the same website for all their clients (across one industry).
  • Sites hacked due to security holes.
  • Reconstruct sites due to no known good backups when something breaks.
  • Navigating legal action due to the use of stock photos/clip art they didn’t own.

Think it can’t happen to you? It happens more often than you might think.


Websites are not rocket science or brain surgery. Empower yourself by asking the right questions and choosing someone who will honestly partner with you for your success.

Get a Checklist of Your Website Essentials & Keep it Safe!

Need More Help?

Not happy with the answers (or attitude) your current web person gave you to the questions you asked? Contact me and let’s talk about setting your site up in a way that serves your best interests.

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