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Tech Savvy: Maintain Control of Your Domain

 

In this article I want to focus on something that is often forgotten by businesses but is critical to their identity. What I am referring to is your internet domain name. For many businesses your website and email are tied to this name so it is critical that you (the business owner) understand what a domain name is and how to maintain control of it. I see 2-3 cases every year where a business has lost control of their domain and it has wreaked havoc on their company.

First let’s talk a bit about how domain names work. Nijemtech.com is my company domain name. It is registered with an international organization that ensures that no one else in the world can get that same name. This domain registration must be renewed every few years and it will expire if it is not renewed. A domain name makes it easy for people to find your or your company on the internet. When you type www.nijemtech.com in to your web browser, your computer asks your DNS (Domain Name Server) for the IP address for www.nijemtech.com. The IP address is a special number that allows computers to “find” one another across the Internet. Without domain names, we would have to remember all these strange numbers like 232.43.156.12 to get to a web site on the internet!

OK, so now that you know a little bit about domain names, let’s talk about maintaining control of it. Here’s what I frequently see happening when a customer loses control of their domain. At some point in the past a business decides (smartly) to register a domain name for the company or they decide that they want a web site for the business. They pay to have a website built for their company. Part of the process for developing a web site involves registering and domain name for the business. Usually the web developer will register the company’s new domain name and then they build and launch the web site. The company will pay a fee for the web site development and then some sort of annual/monthly fee for web hosting and domain hosting (these are two different things). The web developer effectively has control of the company’s domain name and the company really has no idea regarding how to access the domain registration information or the web server etc. Initially this does not present a problem. The company is happy, the web developer is happy and it is business as usual. A year or two down the road, perhaps the web developer no longer wants to be in the web development business. Or maybe they stop doing freelance work and move to work full time with a large company. Or perhaps the company wants to refresh their web site but wants to use a different web development person/company for the redesign. Everyone one of these examples is based on a real-world example that I have experienced in the last few years. You domain is critical to your business, your identity and your brand. You MUST NOT cede control of it to a 3rd party.

This does not mean you cannot out-source work to a web developer or other technology specialist. What is DOES mean is that you should have the login information for the Domain Registry service/Web Hosting service where your domain “lives”. This way you can grant your web developer access to your domain, but you still retain control. Contrast this scenario with what I commonly see where an outside contractor created your domain, registered your domain (using their contact information) and knows all of the administrative login information for your domain (and you don’t know this information). Some web developers will push back if you ask them to register the domain using your account vs. theirs because it is easier for them to have all of the domains they work on tied to their one account. The reality is that you are paying them to do a job, and they should do it according to your wishes. Maintaining control of your domain MUST be insisted upon when you work with a web developer or other technology specialist.

If you don't have a domain and would like to get one, simply go to Godaddy.com and create an account and register your domain. This is a good idea even if you have no plans to build a website right now. More than likely you will want a web presence in the future and if you wait to register your domain you may find it has already been taken. Also, once you have a domain, you can simply use it for email services. It looks professional to have an email address like This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it vs This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . The first step is getting that domain registered. Annual fees for domain hosting are usually less than $20/year(excluding web hosting) so there is no reason NOT to do it. If you have a domain, but you don’t know where it’s hosted or how to login and administer it then you need to get in touch with the person who currently has this information and get that domain transferred over to an account that you control.

If this sounds like a problem your business faces but you are not quite sure how to fix it, you can always call us at NijemTech (229) 269-4151.

 

Tech Savvy: Be Prepared

 

In the last few months, several of my business customers have endured heart-stopping moments when they arrived at their office. Imagine walking in to your business and discovering that your server or your main computer is dead or stolen or malfunctioning so severely that it is not useable.

 

How will you serve your customers? Will your employees still be able to function

properly in their roles?

 

Like it or not, this scenario will happen to EVERYONE. All computers and eventually die, or malfunction. The question is “Are you prepared for this event?” “Will your business be able to survive for a week without your primary server or data?”

 

If your answer is “It won’t be fun, be we can survive” then perhaps you are OK with your current computer system setup. If your answer is “My business will be severely impacted/stopped if our internet/server/data drive goes down” then you need to assess your current computing environment for ways to make your systems more resilient.

 

Computers and computer networks are complex things. There are many “moving parts” and often if even one of those parts fails, the whole system can come crashing down. The good news is that will a little analysis and planning NOW (before things go bad) you can put some safeguards in place for when the bad stuff happens.

 

Take data backups for example. Is someone regularly TESTING your backups to make sure they are valid and accurate? You cannot rely on your backup software’s report that everything is OK. You should verify that your data has actually been backed up properly. The best way to do this is to restore a random sampling of files from your backups every quarter. This will accomplish two things. It will ensure that your IT staff is getting hands on practice restoring data and it will verify that your data is safely backed up. It is 1-2 hours of effort every 3 months. A small price to pay for data assurance.

 

Backups are only 1 small piece of the puzzle. What if your server totally fails? Even with expedited shipping it will take 3-4 days to get a new server on site. Then all of your data has to be restored on to the new server. This process can take a day for large system. After the data has been restored, it is likely that configuration changes will need to be made to get the new server fully handling the old server’s tasks. Guess what? We just spent 5-6 business days getting that new server on line and running. How well was your business functioning during this time? If your business would have been crippled, perhaps you should invest now in a second, smaller fail over server. This is a computer that can serve other useful purposes while the primary server is healthy, but in the event your primary server dies, this backup server can be rapidly re-configured to handle essential business functions for a week or two while the primary server is restored or replaced.

 

What about internet connectivity? Is an internet connection vital to your company? If so you should have multiple connections to the internet using different connection methods. For my local Valdosta customers this typically means 1 DSL connection from AT&T and 1 internet connection from MediaCom Business. One of these connections can be your primary line to the internet. The other should be a low cost backup connection in case your primary fails. You can even get an internet firewall that will automatically sense when one connection is down and begin rerouting your connections over the other line.

 

Every business is different. There is no “One size fits all” answer to properly mitigating IT risks for your company. But you need to seriously consider my advice in this article. Seek the help of your IT professional to investigate your current computing environment and ask him or her to help your make sure your backside is properly covered.

 

Of course, you can always call us at NijemTech (229) 269-4151. We would be glad to provide a free assessment of your current set up and make sure you are properly configured to handle the inevitable failure that awaits your computers and networks.

 

Tech Savvy: Lost and Found

 

Recently I discovered a piece of software that can help you find your computer or phone if it is lost or stolen. The software is called Prey and it can be downloaded for FREE from http://www.preyproject.com. It works on Apple computers, Microsoft Windows PC’s, Linux computers and Android phones. They are currently working on an app for the iPhone.

 

The way it works is pretty neat. You create an account on their website and then download and install the software on your computers. The free version allows you to install the program on a maximum of 3 devices. If you need to install it on more than 3 devices, they have several paid subscription plans to choose from based on the number of devices you wish to protect.

 

Once you have created your account and installed the software, you don’t need to do anything else….until you lose possession of your device. If your Prey-protected device goes missing then you log in to their website with your account and you mark your device as missing. The next time your computer or phone has an internet connection it will “check-in” with the Prey server. When the device checks-in, the Prey server gathers many pieces of information to help you location the computer and emails that information to you as a report.

 

For example, if you have a laptop with a built-in web cam, Prey will silently turn on the web camera and include pictures from it in the report so you can see who is at the keyboard of your precious laptop. Prey will also send information about near by WiFi/Wireless network access points. This is useful because you can use this information to determine an approximate Lattitude and Longitude based on which WiFi networks your computer can “see”.

 

Prey also allows you to trigger a loud alarm noise on the missing device which would be helpful to possibly scare the thief away from your machine or possibly help you figure out where in the house you might have dropped your phone. There are other options as well.

 

Prey also runs “silently” in the background on your computer so that a thief would not be able to tell that it is even installed and working on the machine. About the only way the thief could get around Prey would be to completely erase the hard drive on the computer and re-install the operating system. Since this is not a very simple of quick thing to do, I suspect most thieves would not go to the trouble to do it.

 

As I said at the beginning of this article, they have not release a version for the iPhone yet, but they are working on it. In the meantime, you can use the “Find my iPhone” service from Apple to help keep track of your iPhone/iPod Touch or iPad. It’s pretty simple to set up and as of a few months ago, Apple has made it FREE for certain devices(iPhone 4, iPod Touch 4 and iPad). I will let you do the “Googling” to find out how to set that up. Think of it as a fun homework assignment. I will even give you a hint…search Google for “find my iphone free”

 

Tech Savvy: Dealing with Digital Pictures

Most people today have a digital camera. They are wonderful and offer many advantages when compared to traditional film cameras. In this article I would like to offer advice on how you can better manage all of those digital photographs produced by the camera.

Read more: Tech Savvy: Dealing with Digital Pictures