Having come across 2 recent occasions in quick succession of potential customers asking specific questions about who actually owns their website and domain as they had heard and experienced stories of web designers disappearing leaving them with no access to their domain or website we thought we'd provide some details on how you can take some steps to protect yourself from this situation. One recent customer also advised of approaching a web design company for a quote to create them a new website, the quote came in too high so they approached us via a recommendation and when we looked into it, the previous company had actually purchased the domain names they wanted and now wont return their calls nor agree to see them. They are effectively holding the domains to ransom!
When a domain is registered you need to make sure that it is registered to you or your business - ask your web designer to make sure they do this or register it yourself then let them have access to publish your website. You should also confirm with your web designer that you will actually own the website that they create and that you can move the website to someone else or your own hosting if you wish. Don't just accept their word for it, ask for details on how you can transfer your website both for your own peace of mind and to cover the web designer 'hit by a bus' scenario. Any decent business minded person will understand that you need to protect your business and should not have a problem with this. It is (or should be) your website and your business hence you need to be 100% sure you do not put yourself at risk of being left stranded.
If your web designer does disappear you can use the following resources to move the domain:
Also, you must ensure you ask your web developer to clarify what would happen if you wanted to transfer your website or they were hit by that proverbial bus. The best case scenario would be that you hold one of their website backups so you could put the site live again either yourself or by asking another web designer to do it on your behalf. If your web designer is unwilling to provide a copy then you have to question their intentions and whether you actually do 'own' the website.
We hope you never have to come across this scenario and never need this information but please make sure you at least consider it so that you can reduce the risk if you ever did need to transfer your website.
Writing this post has identified that we need to address some of these issues with some of our customers and provide them details of our 'hit by a bus' action plan. Our Business Catalyst customers are already covered as they can request Adobe transfer their website to another Adobe Business Catalyst Partner. As part of our Customer Service, we will be contacting our existing customers to provide them with specific instructions to ensure they have instructions on what to do.