Small businesses are at risk of losing control of their websites, due to an over reliance on external web providers.
More than half are unable to independently make changes to their sites, while two-thirds do not have the contact details or passwords for their host provider, and nearly three-quarters have not registered all their domain names under that of the business owner, according to research from internet provider Fasthosts.
Alastair Revell, managing consultant at Revell Research Systems, said, "There is an argument that using external expertise is very valuable to SMEs, especially in areas such as web publishing, where in-house skills are likely to be in very short supply. However, owners and managers must be careful not to lose control."
But few realise that losing control of their domain not only means potentially losing their web site, but also their e-mail. In the worst-case scenario, it can also lead to a protracted dispute about who has the right to the domain, said Revell.
"It is also important that any business can quickly publish amendments to its website. Ultimately, managers must make sure that they are delegating and not abdicating their responsibility to external expertise," he added.
Steve Holford, marketing director of Fasthosts, said: "As external parties can come and go, it is vital that businesses protect themselves from potential disruption, losses and reputation damage that an offline or out-of-date website can cause."
Of the 200 small businesses surveyed, 80% said they did have a facility for switching their website on and off independently.