Decrease Your Vulnerability to Website & Email Disasters

Photo of Revel Cafe and Bar plate of food
Revel Cafe & Bar!
March 25, 2019
JB's Fuel Dock photo
JB’s Fuel Dock – Relaxing Bar & Restaurant on the NOLA Lakefront
April 4, 2019
New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina

The post-Katrina website and email recovery was the largest and longest effort of my entire career. I doubt I’ll ever see a similar situation. How do you decrease your vulnerability to a situation like the one my New Orleans clients experienced during Katrina? Here are a few steps:

Step 1: Who is my domain registrar, who is my administrative contact, and when do I need to renew?

Many people are unsure where their domain name is registered. I’ve found that business owners tend set up their domain registration when starting their organization and are only reminded of it when the domain expires.

I encourage everyone to do what is called a WHOIS look-up, which tells you where your domain is registered. It also shows you who technically owns your domain name.

Many web hosts, including the one that I resuscitated from the waters of Katrina, register the domain name in their name instead of the customer’s. This doesn’t cause a problem until their servers are under seven feet of water and you cannot access your domain and point it to a server that isn’t soaked.

I see this issue on an almost weekly basis. Many times the IT company or web company has registered the domain name in their name. This is not because they intend to lock you out of your own domain name, but because it’s easier for them to handle daily operations when the domain is registered to them.

A WHOIS lookup can be performed at whois.icann.org/en. Click on “WHOIS Lookup” under the Tools tab. This will tell you where the domain is registered, who is listed as the administrative contact, where the website is hosted and when it will expire.

Once a domain name expires, the website will display a “coming soon” or “wish to purchase” page, and all email connectivity from the website ot the customer will cease. Knowing when your domain expires is a must to maintain basic business connectivity and avoid sudden disconnection.

Step 2: Does my web host have survivability?

This is pretty much impossible for a client to figure out until it’s too late. Every web host will assure you that they are making daily backups, but it’s difficult to test your web host without asking them to restore the website. It might cost you a bit, but it’s worth it to ask them once a year to restore to a backup and confirm that they’ve done so.

Step 3: Local backups of email and website

To absolutely guarantee survivability, the first step is to make sure nothing is stored in a third party. You can’t trust anyone with your data except yourself. It’s the only way to sleep well at night. Ask your web host how to download mission data critical to your network and store it on jump drives. But the jump drives in safety deposit boxes. It’s the absolute final solution to situations like Hurricane Katrina. If your data is important, then it needs to be secured.

We’ll be posting segments of my book The Digital Recovery of Post Katrina New Orleans here in this blog. You’ll out find more about what happened and how it led to steps like these. For now, keep your websites and email safe.
– Michael Fredrick

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