You’ve had a website for years, built by a firm with a great reputation, and the results did not disappoint you. For a monthly fee, they took care of everything and you had a great relationship for years. But then something happened. Maybe you missed a payment due to a glitch with your payment system and they shut down your site. Or maybe they raised their rates, and you found someone else that could do the same work for half the price. So you call them and tell them you want to switch your site to someone else. They wish you luck and bill you $500 for a deactivation fee or hold your site hostage until you pay out the rest of your contract term. Sound crazy? It happens a lot more than you think.
Knowing is Half the Battle:
Many businesses lack the in-house expertise to manage their website, so it’s common to outsource it. Unfortunately, many business owners also lack the full understanding of how websites work and who owns what. In fact, many businesses are simply leasing their site. Now, most web designers are very good about this – over 90% of the sites we’ve switched over to other services had no issues. But we’ve worked on several where it cost up to $1500 for a client to switch. And there were even some cases where the client just built a new site rather than deal with getting their original site back. In one case, the owner of the domain name had passed away, which made things very messy.
Your website, like any other important part of your business, is something you need to understand. There are three basic parts of your website that you need to be aware of ownership for. They are:
- The content of your site (the images and text that make up your website).
- Your hosting (the space you rent on a server to host your website 24/7).
- Your domain name(s). (ex: jvf.com)
Who Owns Your Content?
You should own the content of your site, but check your contract with your web designer to ensure that there’s no clause that gives them ownership.
Images can be the tricky area – they may own the rights to use certain stock photos that they’ve put on your site and may refuse to allow you to continue to use them if you switch over. Or, if they created the images themselves, they may own the copyright. So again, check your contract to ensure that they don’t reserve ownership of any text or images.
Who Owns Your Hosting?
Unless you have a climate-controlled computer room with a server hooked up to a dedicated line, you’re probably using a hosting provider. It’s okay to pay a hosting provider, and it’s easy (there are rare exceptions) to pick up and move your site to a new host (it’s like moving to a new cell phone). I’ve had four different hosting providers over the years for this site (I first set it up in 1998).
As long as you own your domain name, it’s very easy to point it to another hosting service.
Who Owns Your Domain Name?
Your domain name is like your street address – it’s the primary part of the URL that people type in their browser or that Google uses to display search results. In my case, it’s jvf.com.
Your domain name gets registered in yearly increments (you can register up to 10 years at a time). If you fail to renew your domain name, someone else can pick it up and build a new site on it.
Many firms that build websites take care of everything for you. They register the domain name on your behalf, set up hosting, and build your site for one fee. This is a great convenience because you’re not making payments to three separate companies, which cuts down on paperwork.
The problem occurs when they register themselves as the owner of the domain name. What that means is that they pay the registration fee and therefore control where that domain name points. So if there’s an issue and they refuse to, or are unable to, update the domain name to point to your new site, there can be problems.
How to Find Who Owns Your Domain Name:
If you’re getting a bill for your domain name each year, then you most likely own it. The bill would come from GoDaddy or another domain name registrar and would typically be between $5 – $20.
If you’re not sure, you can try a domain name search on a service such as Network Solutions. A lot of this information is hidden to reduce spam calls and emails, so it may take some effort to locate the details. If that’s the case, you can always check with your hosting provider and/or the person who set up your website. If you need help, you can always reach out to us and we can help you.
Understanding who owns which pieces of your online presence can prevent colossal headaches when you need to change things. A review of the contracts and payments associated with your website can help get you clarity on what you own and what others might own.
Please reach out to us if you have questions about who owns the different parts of your online presence. We’ll do a free evaluation and help you regain control of your website.