WOLFBITES - Issue 30

Think extortion and blackmail have nothing to
do with website development? Think again

Photo of web hacker to warn small business owners of the danger they face without the help and support of a Toronto ad agency that specializes in helping small business companies with web marketing, web advertising and social media advertising.
Fired web developers are not above striking back at past clients by refusing to release website domain and hosting information until they are paid a fee. In effect, they hold your website hostage. But there is a way to protect yourself – and as a public service, we will explain the entire process.

Most first-time buyers of web development services know little or nothing about the process. That's why they hire a web developer. But there are two steps in the web development process that should never, ever be left to your web developer. The first is the purchase of your website domain. This must be done by you, not your web developer. That way you have direct access to your website under any circumstances. You can even fire your web developer and hire another one.

The situation is very different if your web developer owns the domain. Now it's your web developer who calls the shots – even after you have fired that person. Your ability to modify your website could be severely restricted. You may even wake up one morning and find your website is offline and it will stay offline until you make a payment (ransom) to the web developer, who will make up any excuse to justify the payment. A favorite tactic is to claim that the original price you paid was a "deal" and you must now pay the difference between the deal price and the "real" price. Don't laugh. This is exactly what is happening right now with one of our clients.

Having a signed contract could be enough to protect your interests, provided that it is prepared by a lawyer who understands the difference between a domain and host (Do you know the difference?). If you have no contract or a flawed contract, you could consider legal action, but that may end up being more expensive than paying the ransom. Worse still, there is no guarantee you will win, especially if you unknowingly signed a contract that favors the web developer.

It's also important that you (not your web developer) arrange and purchase the hosting of your website from a hosting provider. There are many in Canada and the U.S. and in most cases the cost (less than $20 per month for most companies) is minimal and the hosting company will guide you the process.

If you hire us, we will recommend a domain and hosting arrangement. We will even provide a step-by-step guide on how to get both. But the actual purchase will be made by you. Did you get the same courtesy from your current web developer? If not, you need to tell (not ask) your web developer to transfer the ownership of your domain and hosting to your business. If you are working with an ethical web developer, there should be no issues. If not, watch out. It is going to be nasty.

Wolfgang Franke is President & Creative Director of Words at Work Advertising & Marketing, a full service communications company established in 1988. Our growing list of valued clients are found throughout our local market, Markham and the Greater Toronto area, across Canada in cities such as London, Ontario, and Edmonton, Alberta, and an expanding list of international locations ranging from The Big Apple in New York to Kanturk, Ireland.

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19 Lockridge Avenue, Unionville, Ontario, Canada L3R 7S6
Telephone: 905-940-6610     Toll-Free Outside Toronto: 1-877-940-6610

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