Secure Websites

Secure Websites

Secure Websites

Lack of security can cause your website to go offline.

(Copyright© 2017 by Larry Gowdy) Lack of security can cause your website to go offline.

Larry Neal Gowdy

Copyright©2017 December 01, 2017 - Updated August 03, 2018

The Top Six Reasons Why a Website Goes Offline

Most website owners likely take-down their websites on purpose, but the following are common causes of websites going offline without the owners' intentions.

[1] The hosting service is down. Some hosting services have good dependability with an up-time of over 99%, but many hosting services are mediocre with up-times of around 90%-95%, which is bad for business websites. And then there are many really bad hosting services that have so many problems that some websites can't stay online more than 50% of the time.

I prefer to use one of two hosting services. One of the hosts has about a 99.99% up-time with the highest speeds known, and the cost is about half of low quality hosts. The second host has a lot of added features — like extensive statistics and automated software installation — and the cost is very cheap, but the speed is not the best. Both hosts are good enough for most any website, but I choose between the two depending on which features the customer needs.

Some big-name hosting services purposefully turn off websites for the purpose of trying to sell the customers more expensive hosting plans. Of the many hosting services that I have tested over the past eighteen years, the two that I use now are the only ones known to be reliable.

[2] The domain name is not renewed. It seems odd, but roughly half of the websites that I am familiar with went offline because the domain owners failed to pay the annual renewal fees. Some of the failures to renew were by accident — the owners simply forgot to pay their bill — but other domains expired because of the owners expecting the domains to remain active without being renewed.

[3] The hosting service is not renewed. Similar to #2, some people forget, and other people think that they can put off payment for months like what they do with their credit cards. Domain and hosting services do not work that way: the expiration date is the expiration date, period.

[4] The website uses a content management system (CMS) that crashes. The crash can be caused by any number of problems ranging from plugins crashing, to server errors, to a failed update. The cost to repair and/or reinstall can be a little expensive depending on whether the site has had regular backups.

[5] The website was hacked. Hackers usually want to keep a hacked website online so that the website can be used to spread malware, but sometimes the malware scripts crash the website itself. Too, competent hosting services regularly scan their servers and isolate accounts that have malware, causing the websites to go offline. Hacked CMSes are the #1 cause.

[6] The hosting server was hacked. It is relatively rare for a good hosting service to get hacked, but sometimes it happens. If the hosting service is competent, it will be able to restore its servers within a few hours. In a worse-case scenario you might need to re-upload your website's files, but I have not yet had to reinstall a website on a good hosting service.

#1 is easily prevented by choosing a good host (not choosing a host because of it being a familiar name or by what the host claims on their pop-up ads). #2 and #3 are easily prevented by paying the annual renewals. #4 and #5 are easily prevented by first choosing a hand-coded website that cannot crash (my websites are hand-coded). #6 is not completely preventable, but you can reduce the normal ~1% risk down to almost zero by choosing a good hosting service.

Looks pretty simple doesn't it? Just make a few good decisions before building a website, and everything else will be easy. After thirty years of my fixing other people's problems, I like easy. ;-)

An Example of Failed Website Security - What Not To Do

A small business paid to have a website created along with a WordPress® blog. The business later wanted to change the blog's theme, but instead of asking the web designer for a price quote, the business thought that it would be cheaper to pay a company located in India to make the changes. Long story short, the blog and hosting logins were given to the company in India. The website was then so severely infested with malware that the site would not load in most browsers. The business contacted the original web designer to 'fix the server problem', and when the web designer found the problems (several files of around 5kb-10kb in size had been modified with malware to around 35kb), the business refused to admit that they had given away the logins to a foreign company. The business paid about four times more to the India company than what an American web designer would have charged, and the business promptly not only lost their website (even the hosting service said it was going to wipe the account because of the malware), the business also quickly folded.

Lessons learned: [a] guard your logins like how you guard your house and car keys (don't give them to strangers), [b] never hire web work from a country like India, [c] ask for several different quotes before making a decision based upon price only, and [d] respect the security that the original web designer coded into the website.

Yes I Build Secure Websites

Over 90% of my web design customers are small business owners who only need a good website that gives company information. I build websites that are stable, require no additional upkeep costs beyond what the customer might request, and the sites do not pose a financial risk of getting hacked. To small business owners, my services are ideal.

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Copyright©2018 by Larry Neal Gowdy. All rights reserved.

Updated August 03, 2018