Plain cartoon character in a field of question marks wondering what he might need to know.

What You Need to Know – Internet Services

What You Need to Know!

One of the reasons we started our IT services firm is because there are people who do this work who really don’t have their client’s best interests at heart.

We usually see this most prominently when we start working with a new client. Many of the clients are frightened that the existing IT person has some information that they will withhold in retaliation for choosing a replacement service provider.

Sadly, the fears are not always unjustified. We have had one clear case of retaliatory withholding of information, and two or three that made life unbearable for our client. Unbearable in terms of days without email, website down, files locked, or some other major impact – all due to ego bruising.

The fact is, most folks don’t know what they need to know. They don’t do IT for a living and most of the time they don’t want to. As you can see, sometimes avoiding that knowledge can carry a consequence.

Fortunately for you, dear reader, we are going to share What You Need to Know!

Domain Hosting

What is your domain? Well, for us it is “stewartandson.com”. The word also refers to a security context on some office computer networks. We’re just going to refer right now to the internet domain.

A domain host is who you pay annually (or less frequently) for the use of a domain name for your business. The domain host is CRITICAL for several different reasons. It can control:

  • Website
  • Email
  • Database
  • FTP site
  • Security systems
  • Cameras and DVR’s
  • …and much more.

The domain host is where you can register the locations of these services on the internet. Without it, nobody can send you an email or visit your website.

There are many domain hosts, and some domain hosts are also web hosting (which I’ll talk about next), just to keep things complicated.

However, What You Need to Know is the login information to your domain host. Your IT service provider or web developer might get you signed up but retain that information. You really should have access to it. The accounts should be set up in your name, and you give access to the people that need it.

Many domain hosts actually have this kind of access built in! You can set up your account so you maintain control over the ownership of the domain, and then you can create an account your web developer, IT person, or someone else can use to make any changes (that you authorize of course).

Website (and other) Hosting

Hosting means, in broad terms, a service stored on a server connected to the internet. You might have a web site, blog, file sharing, or an email server. All these are forms of hosting.

Having access to the hosting site is important so you can make changes to the website, add blog posts, or create file sharing or email accounts. As the owner, you need access to choose who accesses and when.

Much like in the case of the domain hosting above, you can set up accounts for your consultants to use in order to help you get your business done. You can create or revoke access as you see fit, and maintain ownership of your critical business services!

Office 365

Office 365 is its own animal and a complicated animal it is.

There are several plans available under this same name which are VERY different from one another.

At its most basic, it is a service which lets you use Microsoft Office programs on your computer for a monthly or annual fee. At the opposite end of the spectrum, it is a hosting package including Microsoft Office programs, website, file sharing, email services, video conferencing, and even more which is billed on a monthly basis.

Regardless of the level of service you have, there’s a login and password at the heart of it. If you don’t control the administrator account for your Office 365, there could be several services which might become unavailable to you.

Microsoft Office 2013 and Newer

Believe it or not, when you buy Microsoft Office today, you don’t get a CD or DVD with the software on it anymore. You get a code.

You take the code, go to a Microsoft website, and enter it in. Then you have to create a Microsoft account so you can register the software. Once registered, you can download the software and install it.

Done, right? Well, not quite.

Let’s say your computer crashes. The hard drive is beyond repair. So you get your code and you can install right? Nope. You need to log in with that account you created. If someone else set it up for you or you don’t have it, you might have to buy another copy!

Make sure you keep that information you used to install software safe.

Resistance!

I will tell you that some of the folks you work with like IT people and web developers might resist your demands for ownership.

They’re going to tell you that keeping you out of these systems will help prevent accidents that will damage your hosting. They might say the service they’re selling you has only one login account and they have to have control of us. Also, they might actually own the hosting equipment which is used for many other clients and that would put others at risk.

Honestly, these are all VERY good reasons to deny access for you. If I’m getting a really good deal on my hosting costs, maybe I need to compromise on this point. I certainly don’t want my web developers’ other clients accessing my website!

So what do you Need to Know here? Make sure you have a contract with the person that includes very clear separation information. Situations that should be covered include:

  • Nonpayment of services – What happens?
  • Hosting company dissolves or is selling.
  • Your consultant (IT person, web developer, etc.) goes out of business, or passes away (if a sole proprietor).
  • You decide to hire someone else to do this work.

What are some solutions to these scenarios? Well I’ll tell you what we do:

  • We use contracts to define the steps to termination and the other points below.
  • We create any hosting accounts using the client’s information, so they can revoke access at any time.
  • This business is a corporation and more than one person is in control of the information. Someone will respond to requests for that information regardless.
  • Our contract includes language stating that upon termination, and settlement of any outstanding invoices, all access documentation is turned over to the client immediately.

Make sure your agreements meet these tests. If they don’t, perhaps a discussion should take place with your provider so you can protect your interests, and they can do the work you need them to do.

Posted in Blog Post.

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