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Hosting Horror Stories (Part 1)

It’s like location… location… location… When it comes to websites, it really pays to know where and how to host.

At present, I am in the process of helping a client recover 3 domain names from their previous webmaster/service provider. The nightmare it has been for them to get anything going with their site is a tail of caution I feel is worth sharing.

The client hired a developer sometime 3 years ago. The guy was local, and I’m assuming affordable. The developer made use of other systems of code (in this particular case os commerce) and a template engine, most likely to save both time and money. From the clients perspective, this was a good thing, for it meant that the client was not locked into a single developer. Normally, I would agree, but the client missed the bigger issue.

See the developer setup EVERYTHING for them. He purchased the domain name. He attached it to his hosting account. Now in some cases, this is acceptable. For example, at JR, we are both host and developer (meaning we use our own servers). There can’t be a separate of parties when this is the case. However, we make every effort to provide the clients with access to their code, and access to their account information.

This developer didn’t do that.

A year or two passes, and the developer both moves out of state and grows with new business. So much so, that it doesn’t seem he has the time for the little guy anymore. The client wishes to have some changes made, and the developer is unwilling to make them.. So naturally, they want to switch developers. Nothing wrong with that.

Hmm, but wait… There were no passwords to the code. No access to the name servers on the domain. In fact, no access to the domain at all.

Here’s where it gets fun. Normally, even if worse comes to worse… You can easily take control of your site back if you can simply get control of the domain name. In most cases, that simply means a phone call to the registrar stating your identity and offering some sort of proof that you are the one who “owns” the domain (normally done via fax). This works with groups like Godaddy in most cases.

In this particular case, the domains were with 1and1.com. A company that has a rather disappointing record with the bbb (http://www.dc.bbb.org/report.html?national=Y&compid=1040770) not to mention quite a few blog posts about it that aren’t so nice (http://www.brainfuel.tv/1and1-hosting-cancellation). I have also had trouble with them in the past transferring a domain that I had purchased through them.

So this is where it has become such an annoying game… 1and1 not being responsive about who “owns” the domain, and not being willing to answer our replies, force legal action against the original provider to get the needed data with 1and1. You can guess how long that took. Then once we had the data, we still had to arrange for the transfer to take place, and that alone has taken roughly a week with 1and1, following the exact procedure were supposed to.

There’s a lot more to this story as well, in fact, much of it is still going on. As it turns out, this client isn’t the only one that is aggravated both with 1and1 as well as this developer, and because of how these people are finding me, I keep getting wrapped up in it. It’s not so much a problem as much as it is a minor inconvenience.

In any case, I wanted to suggest a few recommendations regarding developers and hosting:

  • If at all possible, own your domain yourself. – It’s not difficult to open a domain account with someone like Godaddy. In fact it’s gotten so simple, that I can generally get through the domain purchase process in less than 5 minutes. Owning your domain means that you pay cost (saving you money), and it also means you have FULL CONTROL over your name servers.

    In an effort of full disclosure: JR has not enforce this suggestion on it’s own clients, but we are working towards it, as we become our own registrar (which would then allow them to transfer away from us all they want without needing to talk to me).

  • If your developer ISN’T running their own machines, get your own hosting – I say this because of this: developers come and go. If they open up a reseller account (which many do) and then get out of the business, your account will be tied to there’s through this reseller. This can create havoc. Remove the middle man. It’s almost always worth just getting your own hosting account, even if it’s with the same provider they already are using.
  • Know your host – I suggest reading Part 2 (coming tomorrow)
  • Get a copy of your site – Make sure you get a copy of your site in working order. This is good practice just for backup reasons, but can also come in handy if a developer leaves and you can’t get access to your code.
  • Get your usernames and passwords, and save them! – So many people lose this information and it’s a pain to recover. Make sure you keep (and get) your FTP information, Control Panel Information, and any other information your host may provide.

That’s just some of my advice I guess from doing this awhile. JR is always working towards protecting or customers more and more, and I want to get into that more in our next post. Until then, enjoy the post.