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Don’t Let This Happen To You!

Lost Website

My new client (who is also a great friend and successful personal injury attorney – we’ll call him “Max”) relies on his website for nearly all of his cases. But what just happened may have cost him thousands of dollars. Maybe even millions!

It all started when we were out the other night with another one of our good friends. Max and I had been discussing his website over the past few weeks and how we needed to upgrade it to WordPress and make it responsive (mobile friendly). I looked at the site a few times recently, but still had questions for the original designer (because Max didn’t really know anything about his site).

So Max tried to get in touch with the guy who designed his site 4 years ago. Max had been paying him $35/month for hosting and maintenance (which also included building the actual site – yep, for $35/month!), although he rarely added or changed any content.

After a few tries, Max got an email from the guy which said this:

“I am no longer in business. I can get you the files you need for your website so that you can get someone else to host it for you. However, I would have to recreate your site in order to convert it into a shareable file, and this would cost $400. I just wanted you to know this and decide if that is something you would like me to do.

I sent out an email to all my clients one month ago informing them of this, I sincerely apologize if you did not receive it. Please let me know what you would like to do, and your card stopped being charged as of Jan 1st.”

Max never got the email, and it was a complete surprise when we looked at his site and saw this:

Account Suspended - Don't Let this Happen to You

I thought it must just be MY phone…but then Max looked and saw the same page…and then our friend looked and…you guessed it…the same page!

Max and I both frantically emailed the guy asking him to send me the files or put the site back up (so I can at least grab all of the content and take some screen shots), and then I could rebuild the site behind the scenes…and Max could continue to put dinner on the table!

All we kept getting from the guy was this: “I can recreate the site for you for $400.”

And all I kept asking was this: “Can’t you just send me the files?”

In the end, Max decided he’d rather have me recreate the site for him (thankfully, he has all the content in Word documents from 4 years ago). So, I immediately added his domain name to his current web hosting account he has for another domain and changed the nameservers on his domain account (which tells the domain who the new host is).

Next steps: Install WordPress, create strong passwords, install all the right plugins to keep the site safe, secure and backed up, and design a brand new, responsive website. And the best part – he will know exactly what type of site he has, who is hosting it, and how to update it himself (or he can hire me to do it for him).

WHEW! Everything WILL be ok. Life WILL go on. Max WILL have a new website and more control over his own baby!

Lessons Learned:

  • Know your web designer/developer (Yep, on a personal level…not just their first name and that they live far, far away. Don’t trust a stranger with your baby!)
  • Know what type of website you have (static HTML site built in a software program like DreamWeaver or Muse…or a CMS like WordPress, Squarespace, Joomla, Drupal, Wix, etc.)
  • Know where your domain is “parked” (in other words, where your domain name was purchased – i.e. GoDaddy, Register.com, or your web host)
  • Know where your site is hosted (and preferably, purchase it yourself and with a reputable company. Your web designer/developer should guide you as to what and where to purchase but then have you put your account in your name so you are in control.)
  • Have proper plugins installed and kept up to date at all times (security plugins like WordFence, backup plugins like Backup Buddy, etc.)
  • Ask questions early on…and whenever another one comes up. Knowledge is power people!

What happened to Max is actually really bad. He lost his entire site and will likely lose some business from it. Plus, we had to spend quite a bit of time fixing this situation…and that doesn’t even include the actual website redesign that’s about to happen. Please take the lessons mentioned above very seriously – especially if your website is a crucial part of your business.

Has anything like this ever happened to you or someone you know? Tell me about it in the comments.

And more importantly – Do you know the basics about your own website/host/domain? If not, your homework is to go find out right now. NOW…go…PLEASE!

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10 comments… add one

  • Gregg Harrison January 30, 2015

    What a great post and article. Very very informative !!!!!

    • Stefani Harris January 30, 2015

      Thanks so much, Gregg! Glad to help people protect themselves and their business!

  • Laura G. Jones January 30, 2015

    Wow, that is scary! Now I’m glad I handle all of my own website stuff. There are so many horror stories like this out there, it’s so important to make sure you’re not placing your entire faith into someone you don’t know or can’t trust. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Stefani Harris January 30, 2015

      I agree wholeheartedly, Laura! It is SO scary! It’s having someone house-sit for you. You wouldn’t have just anyone do it. You’d want to know and trust them before handing them the keys. 🙂

  • Janet January 30, 2015

    Excellent point! I MATTERS who you entrust your precious info (website) to!

  • Alexis January 31, 2015

    Great article and advice! Glad you were there to save the day for him! 🙂

  • David January 31, 2015

    Horrific! Max is so fortunate to have a web knowledgable friend like you!

  • HP February 17, 2015

    You saved Max! So proud of you and all the knowledge you have, too!

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