I’m not usually alarmist – but here’s a question. Do you actually own your website? Could, if you wanted, you get a copy of your site, code, database, images etc. on a CD or via a server? If not how do you claim ownership of it – even though you can’t physically access it?
I’ve come across some ‘alternative’ ways of purchasing a website. They mainly revolve around paying a monthly fee, rather than an up-front cost and then any additional annual hosting charges. These methods sounds very good – you get a new website without the initial ‘hit’ of paying for one upfront. However I have yet to see one of these offers where you actually get a website – where you pay monthly and have the website on your servers, or on your computer or given to you to use.
These types of sites tend to be built into systems and software which are the property of your provider. Although they have your company details and branding, the actual code behind the sites are run by software you cannot get a copy of – doing so would breach their Intellectual Property. Therefore you don’t actually own the website, you are essentially leasing the website on a Pay-as-you-go basis.
Imagine if you bought a car, but couldn’t access the engine. Only one mechanic with a magic key could open the lid, work on the car, service it and change parts. Even if you just wanted to fill up the water, imagine if only he or she could do that for you? What happens if the mechanic isn’t available, goes out of business or loses the key?
So why should that matter? Well it doesn’t, until you want to improve and upgrade your site and move it away from your current provider. Bespoke websites are built from the ground up and are created so they can work on any standard hosting platform (of which there are only 2 main types – Linux and Windows). They can be put on a CD (code + database) and given to another company to be worked on, improved and extended. Also key is the database – if you have an ecommerce or dynamic website, the last thing you want is to have to re-input all your orders, customers or products. Any reputable development company can take another’s code and data and use that to create a new site or improve a current site.
If your website is just an extension of your advertising, and you are happy to consider paying monthly a way of leasing space on the web, that’s great. If you consider your website as an investment, as something you have invested time and money into, you should want to have the piece of mind that if you wanted to, you could at any time get a copy of the site and code and do what you wish with it. Do yourself a favour and double check.
By Colin Harris
(all our customers have full CPanel access to their sites, we have no transfer or termination charges and all design and development is 100% the properties of our clients)