The story you have read is a beautiful Cinderella story, a silver lining on the angry gray cloud which was Katrina. Because of this experience I am very vigilant in protecting my customers and even people who are not my customers. There are a few easy steps to see if you are vulnerable to a situation like this.
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. So many times I’ve found that business owners set up their domain registration when starting their organization and are only reminded about it when the domain expires.
I encourage everyone to do what is called a WHOIS lookup which will tell you where your domain is registered and also will show you who technically owns your domain name.
Many web hosts, including the one that I pulled from the waters of Katrina, register the domain name in their name instead of the customers. This doesn’t cause a problem until their servers are under 7 feet of water and you cannot access your domain to point it to a server that isn’t soaked.
I see this issue on almost a weekly basis. Many times the IT company or web company has registered the domain name in their name and not due to the company wanting to lock you out of your domain name but that it’s easier for them to just register it in their name and not the customers.
A WHOIS lookup can be preformed at whois.icann.org/en and clicking WHOIS Lookup under Tools. This will tell you where the domain is registered, who is listed as the Administrative contact, where the web site is hosted and when it’s going to expire.
Once a domain name expires the Web site will display a “coming soon” or “wish to purchase” page and all e-mail connectivity will cease. Knowing when your domain expires is a must to avoid basic business connectivity.
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 web site. It might cost you but it’s worth it once a year to ask them to restore to a backup to confirm they can.
Step 3: Local backups of email and web site
To absolutely guarantee survivability the first step is to make sure nothing is stored in a 3rd party. You can’t trust anyone with your data except yourself. It’s literally the only way to sleep well at night. Ask your web host how to download mission critical data to your own network and store it on jump drives in safety deposit boxes. It’s the absolute final solution to situations like Hurricane Katrina and if this data is important then it needs to be secured. When you take this responsibility on you know that it can’t be lost which helps you sleep at night.