Who Owns Your Code


FIRST LET ME START  by saying I hope you have a long and productive relationship with your web development team. The web has become a primary resource for researching a business and investigating products. Having a professional to help keep your information fresh and up to date is critical.


But let's face it, things happen. Your developer may take their business in a different direction or fold up shop entirely. Additionally, you may have creative differences or concerns you are not reaching your target audience. Changing developers can be a challenge, but there are steps you can take now to avoid unexpected complications.

Make sure your name is on the domain registration.    Over the past few years I've assisted several businesses with purchasing a new domain name because when they chose to find a new developer they learned their previous one had purchased and registered the domain under their own name and wouldn't release it. You should control the account where the domain is registered as well as being listed as the administrative contact on the domain record. Having your web developer listed as a technical contact can simplify things during setup, but make sure your email address is associated with the account so you are notified when changes are made or it is time for renewal.

Keep a copy of your site files source code.    Ask your developer for a copy. Once you've paid for the development you should get a copy of the source code. With languages such as PHP you can simply go to where your site is hosted and copy the files as well, but with languages such as ASP.NET some of the files may have been pre-compiled, meaning they have been converted to machine language. Pre-compiled files cannot be edited or updated. It's important that you have a copy of the source code in the event changes are required.

Routinely back up your database.    Many of today's websites are database-driven, meaning much of the page content is stored in a database. This is a great advantage over static web pages as it enables non-programmers to update information via a back-end content management system. Additionally, sites often allow visitors to sign up to receive newsletters and e-commerce sites store product, customer and order information in a database. However if you lose access to your database, much of your site information goes with it. Many hosting companies provide a method for automatically backing up your data on a regular basis, but you may need to set it up. Check to make sure it's enabled.

These steps will help ensure you don't lose control of an online presence you've worked hard to establish.