Small businesses are in danger of losing their websites

SMEs are taking worryingly little interest in how their websites are controlled.

In a story I recently wrote, three-quarters admitted to not having registered their domain names, while two-thirds said they did not have the contact details or passwords for their provider, and more than half were unable to independently make changes to their sites.

While there are obvious reasons why smaller businesses may want to employ an outside specialist to build and maintain their website, it is crucial that they do not lose complete control.

Thomas Parry, spokesperson for the Forum of Private Businesses, said: “A website is a major marketing asset, but due to lack of time or knowledge companies are less likely to undertake an accurate risk assessment on their website. Not maintaining control could have serious implications if their external website specialist goes into administration or cannot be contacted.”   

Alastair Revell, managing consultant at Revell Research Systems, agreed that it is imperative for SMEs to register their domains in their own name. “Few realise that losing control of their domain not only means potentially losing their website, but also their email. In the worst-case scenario, it can also lead to a protracted dispute about who has the right to the domain,” he said.

The importance of having an online presence is something most small businesses are aware of – as it enables them to compete with larger competitors on a relatively even playing field, and get their message out to a world-wide audience. But while the majority of small businesses can’t absorb the cost of having a dedicated IT person to create and maintain their site, failing to take any interest in it is also something they can ill afford.

Five top tips to stay online

  • Have a contingency plan in place that allows you to switch providers easily and without affecting the business
  • Make sure domain names are registered under that of the business owner
  • Ensure you have passwords to quickly publish amendments to your site
  • Renew the domain name every couple of years so that it doesn’t expire
  • Keep a backup of the website, so if the ISP goes out of business you can get quickly get back online

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