What happened to avalance.co.za and how it could help you.

At first this story may seem out of place on a website promoting an amusement park, but as you read further it is actually a story all about this website and it may actually be a story that could save you a lot of heartache in the future.

If you own a business and you have a domain associated with it then this story is for you.

When we first start a business we take so much care ensuring that our shareholding and company registration etc are all correctly documented. We make sure that our agreements are secured in the correct names so that we can’t have the rug pulled out from under our feet. A website is often an afterthought and something that you hand over to “professionals” but, be careful what you hand over. When you take your car to a mechanic, you rely on his abilities to repair your car but you don’t register your car in his name while he works on it. That is precisely what most of us do when we enlist the services of a web developer.

From firsthand experience and a full month of intense ‘web education’ we are confident that we can give meaningful advice on how to protect what you own on the web, because when its gone you will feel it. Don’t put off making these changes, do it now while your relationship with your web developer is rosy, much like divorce, you need to have everything in place while everyone is loving and willing.

When we took over the old Avalanche premises we inherited their website and the www.avalanche.co.za domain which we purchased from the previous owner, or did we? We handed over money but in terms of the actual domain, it remained where it was, with a company called Webskill (www.webskill.co.za) run by Chris Stevens. They seemed as capable as any other web developers so we had no cause to change or question. Assurances were given that relationship building was foremost in their minds etc, etc.

Now, this is the first red flag. Your domain is exactly that, yours and should be in your sole control. The registrar is much like the deeds office. They hold the record that that domain belongs to you. Here is where it gets interesting. The “.co.za” registrar is fairly old fashioned in their practices and does not have the facility to allow you to renew your domain automatically with a credit card. This small fact is often used by web developers such as Webskill as a reason to sign your domain over to them so they can look after all the ‘complicated computer’ stuff. Don’t do it. You can move your domain to an independent registrar such as Go Daddy where it will be kept in an account that is controlled by you.

The fact that the domain is kept by Go Daddy has no bearing on where your website is built or hosted. All you have to do is point that domain to where your site is built and hosted. You can give access to your developer to set all that pointing stuff up, but you have control if you ever need to lock them out. After all, “Webskill” hijacked the Avalanche.co.za and theSlope.co.za domain over a difference in opinion regarding a COVID-19 discount. Never say never!

This is the most important step. If you have a fall-out with your “Webskill” they have the ability to turn off your site, which is inconvenient, but not fatal. You can contact with a new developer, get a temporary site up in a rush and point your domain at that new site.

The next step to taking control is hosting your site on your own sever. Again, it is a question of control, not web development ability, that you are trying to achieve, so don’t be put off by this seeming complicated, it isn’t.

We approached a shared hosting company in Cape Town called Telasera, www.telasera.com. I chose them because you can pick up the phone and call them without all the emailing. It is important to mention that they are not a website developing company only a server provider. For R199/month we have enough space to host 10 website’s like this one, so it not expensive.

Now you have server space with a company that are solely responsible to you, able to give you independent and unbiased information on your site from someone who is on your side.

Finally we get back to your website developer. They can now be given access to the server to install your website on your server. This now puts you in a position that the information on the server belongs to you even though they have access. In the event of a fallout, it would be considered theft if they were to take your site down, much like a builder removing you building if you didn’t pay him. This is not permitted within SA law. All you would have to do is employ a new builder, but while that is happening your site works as normal.

So, you now have a domain that you control at Go Daddy and a website on a server that you own. You may still have no idea what is going on within the code of your website, but you have the most important thing, ownership and control.

Your developer will push back, they all do. Citing things like ‘paid for modules’ and keeping everything in one place. But stick to your guns, ask the server support guy at Telasera, who is on your side, to confirm what your web developer is pushing back on. Even if you do have to pay for a module or two, it will be yours and add to your independence.

I hope that this helps you to avoid an Avalanche ‘Webskilll’ moment.

I will be posting more detailed instructions and screen shots on how to get set-up on Godaddy and Telesera at www.webskil.co.za 🙂 –“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” (Sir Walter Scott, 1808)



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