Have you ever found yourself locked out of your own house? I get locked out ALL. THE. TIME! Sometimes Ceci is putting the baby to sleep and can’t hear me knocking on the door, and sometimes she’s not even home.
Whatever the reason, the result is always major frustration. It makes me late for meetings, wastes precious time, inconveniences my wife, and just generally puts in me in a bad mood.
There are a few options to solve this ongoing annoyance:
- Leave the doors unlocked
- Give the neighbor a key
- OR Make sure I always hold the keys to my own house!
While I have to admit that option #1 is very tempting, it leaves my family and my home vulnerable and unprotected, so that’s out. Option #2 leaves me at the mercy of my neighbor. What if he moves or isn’t home when I need him to open the door for me?
While option #3 is the most work, it is the only way to finally eliminate this annoyance and ensure I have control over the safety and security of my home.
You may not have my penchant for losing your keys, but you’d be surprised how many business owners find themselves in this exact position when it comes to controlling their business’s digital assets!
What are your digital assets? They’re basically the accounts and online real estate that make up your online business presence—things like your Facebook account, website login information, your domain name, your website analytics, and other valuable account information. There are at least 5 that you should keep an eye on.
5 most critical digital assets to protect
- Domain Name
- Google Analytics
- Web Hosting & Website
- Social Media Accounts
Dominate your domain name
First off, what is the Domain Name System?
The DNS helps users find their way around the internet. Every computer on the web has a unique “address” which is usually a complicated and long string of numbers and letters, just like the VINs in cars. These are what we know as IP addresses. These series of numbers may be hard to remember, but the DNS makes using the internet easy by allowing a string of letters to be used instead of the “serial number.” So instead of typing 2001:db8:0:1234:0:567:8:1 or 172.16.254.1 you can just type the name of the website you’re trying to reach.
Now, what does it mean to “register” a domain name?
When you register a domain name, you are inserting an entry into a directory of all domain names and their respective computers on the Internet.
What is a domain name registrar? And how do you get a registrar account?
In layman’s terms, a domain name registrar is a service that allows you to officially register your website’s domain name so that it is unique to you, and no one else can own it. There are a lot of registrars that compete with one another. You can take a look at a listing of these companies in this registrar directory.
Personally, I’d recommend Namecheap. It is “the domain name registrar with the best customer service.” Namecheap is an accredited domain name registrar and web hosting company that has over 2 million customers and nearly 5 million domains under their management. They make registering, hosting, and managing domains easy and affordable.
To get started, you just need to define what you want out of your website and what type of site you are trying to build. Are you looking to set up your own personal website? Do you want to set up a site for your business? Or if you’re a developer, do you want to build a site or web app from scratch?
After you decide on what type of website you want to build, you just have to pick a name. The name of your business is always a good first choice, but if you’re planning on setting up a personal website, you may be able to come up with a new name by thinking about your site and what it’s gonna be about. Is it going to be about photography, auto parts, the gym, a dance studio, pet grooming? One of the many cool things about Namecheap is that they give you amazing domain name suggestions based on what your business is about.
Grabbing a great domain name is the one thing you should do as soon as possible. Disputes over entitlement to a domain-name registration are usually resolved by tedious court litigations between the parties claiming rights to the registration.
Not owning your domain name can be filled with headaches and frustration
Over the years, we’ve helped countless clients regain control of their digital assets. In the last three months alone we’ve had to recover domain names for three separate clients. Their domains had been registered by previous marketing or web design companies, but because our clients didn’t have complete control, it cost them time and money to make these changes to their websites.
Basically, when someone else registers your domain name, they can hold your domain hostage. If you let someone else buy it for you, you should ask to have it transferred to an account you control ASAP. Never let another business buy a domain name on your behalf using their own registrar account.
Unfortunately, this happens more than it should. A business lets someone else buy a domain for them and never asks for it to be transferred to them. If something happens and they want to change services, the original buyer is uncooperative, slowing down their former client and inviting arbitration or a lawsuit.
If you find someone already owns your domain, your online success could be hindered if not permanently damaged. Try to figure out who currently owns the domain name, and whether they have any legitimate use.
There are several legal rights that could help you get the domain name back. Still, keep in mind that sometimes reality kicks in. For example, if a small start-up business tries to get a domain that a Fortune 500 company already owns, the costs of trying to get that specific domain may be excessively expensive. There’s also the possibility that the current owner of the domain simply has a legitimate use that predates your business, which might mean having to go with plan B, your second choice for a domain name.
At 8 Signal, we like to do things differently and place the power in the hands of our clients:
- If our client doesn’t have an account with the registrar, 8 Signal will create it on their behalf using an email address owned and controlled by the client.
- We share the URL, username, and password to every new account with our clients.
- We place the order using the client’s account and payment information.
Are you an administrator on your Google Analytics account?
Google Analytics provides users with a website analysis to help you measure, learn about, and grow your business by turning customer insights into real gains. They not only let you measure sales and conversions, but through analytics, they also give you the data needed to make smart marketing and business decisions.
As you can see, it’s an amazing tool full of useful information, which makes it incredibly valuable. It’s rare for only one person or service provider to manage the digital assets during the lifetime of a company. Unfortunately, sometimes these service providers decide to be noncompliant when their client wants to go in a different direction, and often force businesses and brands to abandon years of historical data and start back from square one.
Recently we worked with a new client in the medical industry who wanted to update their website to a more user-friendly platform. Their previous website provider set up their Google analytics account several years prior, but never gave our client administrative access. Not only did this make it very hard for them to access statistics on their site, but it also meant they didn’t have the access they needed to update their site with a different company.
When their old hosting company heard they’d be moving their site, they refused to share access to the client’s data until the client made a final payment. It’s understandable that many companies have a 30-day notice of cancellation policy, but you never want someone holding valuable data about your business hostage.
To add insult to injury, after releasing the final payment, the web provider deleted our client’s Google analytics account to “make room for new paying clients.”
That’s two years of analytics down the drain.
We’ve walked through this same scenario with many clients…domain names that take months to recover, content that can’t be accessed, websites that can’t be updated, and social media accounts that can’t be accessed.
All of this can be prevented by making sure you hold all the keys to your digital kingdom.
Don’t let this happen to you.
Web hosting and website access
Web hosting is basically a place where people store their websites.
Think of it as your house, the place where you store all your stuff, but instead of storing your furniture, clothes, etc., you store digital files (HTML, documents, music, images, videos, etc).
The term “web host” usually refers to the company that rents their servers to store your website (hence the word host) and connects your site to the internet so that other computers can access the files on your website.
Web hosting is extremely important because it literally allows your business to have an online presence. It’s like your phone service provider: you must have service for people to be able to reach you at your phone number, and at the same time you need the phone service to provide the phone number to you. In the case of web hosting, your “phone number” would be the domain name.
Who’s got your email
Email plays a huge role in modern business. Every single day, millions of emails are sent and received, from business to consumers and suppliers, employees to their managers, and from one coworker to another. An email account could be considered part of record keeping, since messages remain in a user’s inbox unless deliberately deleted, and you can track down a specific message in a matter of seconds with the search option. This creates a virtual “paper trail” that makes it easier to extract important information from your email account.
This can often prove to be more of a curse than a blessing. Corporate espionage is a reality, so what can you do to keep control of your accounts? When keeping tabs on your email security there are at least 3 questions you should ask yourself:
- Who can log into your email account?
- Who can create and delete email accounts with your domain?
- When was the last time you changed your password? Make sure it’s complex and nobody can guess it, but still something that you can easily remember. But more on passwords later.
Social media accounts
How do you run your social networks? These days, it’s hard to find a company that doesn’t have a social media presence, but small businesses beware! Just because everyone uses social media doesn’t make it “cool.” In fact, spending human and financial resources on a social media campaign without a smart strategy could cost you big, drain your resources, and still not get you the ROI you want.
One of the best ways to have a smart social media campaign is to have a unique strategy for any platform you choose to use. For example, use Twitter to share sales and promotions with your followers, and Facebook to share action shots of your products in use and tag friends and followers. This gives users a clear reason to follow you on each network.
Since we’re talking about that, we know that some businesses take it one step further and open multiple accounts that serve different business needs on each network.
Take for example The Walt Disney Company. Because they produce a wide variety of entertainment products, from TV to video games and toys, each targeted to a variety of age groups, it would be difficult to run just one social account for the entire company. Different company divisions have their own branded social presences. Disney is a huge company with an international audience so they approach social media from every possible angle and language.
Another common use for multiple social media presences is customer service, where businesses will have a social media account specifically to address those customer support issues. Sony’s Ask PlayStation on Twitter is one example of this. This system allows Sony to easily address customer concerns related to their PlayStation products without cluttering their primary account feed, or bothering their followers who don’t need that info.
Would your brand benefit from having multiple accounts? To be honest, it’s not an ideal strategy for every business. It takes more time and staff to manage multiple social accounts which makes it more difficult for smaller businesses to pull off. Multiple accounts could lead to customer confusion, especially if they aren’t branded clearly or haven’t been very active.
Make sure you’re not spreading yourself too thin. Building a social media presence takes a lot of time and effort. You have to engage with people continuously, and communicate relevant, informative, and even controversial messages to stand out from an ocean of competition.
It’s hard enough to do this on one social platform, let alone two, three, or five. Smart small businesses are aware of their internal resources and if they are limited, decide to take on one platform at a time.
How to manage passwords
123456 is the most used password of all time. Can you guess what the second most used is? password. No joke. They might be easy to remember, but there’s a reason why they’re the top 2 worst passwords of all time: they are very easy to crack.
You may have one password that you’ve been using since forever and on dozens of other websites. I mean, who can remember each and every different password for every website? Even if you’ve come up with unique passwords for every login and memorized them all, the last thing you want to do is change them and memorizing new ones again, right?
Proper security requires that you use a strong, unique password for every website and that you change them regularly. Don’t worry, you can do it with the help of password managers. With these services you can have a unique, strong password for every secure website you visit or own.
LastPass is one of the best password managers available, if not THE best. This password manager remembers your passwords so you don’t have to waste time writing, remembering, and resetting them. With just one master password you’ll be able to keep the rest locked up and easy-to-find in the secure LastPass vault. Some of the best features from LastPass are that it syncs your passwords across all your devices, automatically changes your passwords, offers enhanced multi-factor authentication, and last but not least, my favorite feature: you can share passwords.
Ok, you might be thinking “Why would I ever want to share my passwords? Isn’t this all about keeping them secure?” You’d be surprised at the number of situations in which you have to share passwords, especially as a business owner. When you need to share access to an account, you can do it securely through LastPass. Just select the item you want to share, enter the recipient’s email address, and send it to them. You can choose whether to let them see the password or simply use it without ever seeing it. Once they’re done, you can remove their access and voilà!
As you can see, there are digital assets you simply cannot afford to lose. Having control over your domain name, website, email and social media accounts is something that you should be doing already. If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Remember that your online presence and success could be damaged or destroyed completely if your assets were to fall into the wrong hands.
We’d love to know if you have any questions about your digital assets—let us know in the comments below.