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Help, Webmaster Holding Website Hostage! - How To Handle A Website Emergency When You Need To Move Your Website to a New Hosting Company Because Your Web Designer Has Disappeared or is Holding Your Website or Domain Hostage.

Rescue Your Website - How to Liberate Your Website from a Deadbeat Webmaster!

If you are reading this you are no doubt at your wits end. You've tried calling and emails. You tried begging and pleading. Still, your scumbag web designer or webmaster continues to hold your website hostage.

Or worse, your webmaster has fallen off the face of the earth never to be heard from again. Leaving you and your business hanging.

Quite often, victims of deadbeat webmasters often have no idea where their website is hosted or who their domain name registrar is. Acronyms like FTP (file transfer protocol) and DNS (domain name servers) are met with a shrug and a look of confusion. Fortunately, even if you are completely in the dark, there are some simple steps you can take to get control back of your website. Best of all, you can often do it without your webmaster's cooperation.

First you'll need these four items:

1. Login and password to your domain registrar.

2. A copy of Surf Offline so you can easily download your entire site's contents.

3. An FTP client ( FlashFXP or FTP Commander are good)

4. A new hosting company. (BlueHost is a good choice)

Note: If by chance you have FTP access to your website you can skip item #2 “Get a Copy of Surf Offline”.

PLEASE READ: IF YOU HAVE YOUR DOMAIN HOSTING LOGIN AND PASS YOU CAN EASILY JUST CHANGE THE PASSWORDS (BOTH ADMIN AND FTP) AND LOCK OUT THE WEBMASTER THAT'S GIVING YOU SUCH GRIEF. HOWEVER YOU WILL ALSO NEED TO CHANGE THE PASSWORD TO YOUR DOMAIN REGISTRAR TO MAKE SURE YOUR OLD WEBMASTER CANNOT CHANGE YOUR DNS SETTINGS. DO THESE TWO THINGS AND THERE IS NO NEED TO FOLLOW THE ADDITIONAL STEPS BELOW.

 

1. Get Your Login and Password to Your Domain Registrar

The first thing you will need is your login and password your domain registrar. Your domain registrar is where you registered your domain name. If you don’t know who that is you can use this whois look up service.

This is the whois information for my own website Claytowne.com. Your results will look something like this:

Registrant:
claybutler.com

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: CLAYTOWNE.COM

Domain servers in listed order:
HOST1-SEC.CRUZIO.COM
HOST1.CRUZIO.COM

Let’s review the above information. The “registrant” is who owns the domain name. Hopefully the registrant is you. If not, that is something you will need to address.

The “registered through” information is where your domain is currently registered. In my case it’s www.godaddy.com .

Your domain server ( also called NS or name server) is where your website is physically hosted. In my case it is www.cruzio.com. The DNS (domain name server) information can be controlled from your admin panel at your domain registrar. Every website in the world is located on a machine somewhere. This machine has a unique IP (internet protocol) address. It's a string of four sets of numbers that look like this 76.102.4.9 ( this is claywne.com's IP address). It would be impossible to remember all these IP addresses so we created domain names made up of much easier to remember letters and phrases( for example www.claytowne.com). The domain name server is a pointer that matches your domain name with the machine's IP address on where it is hosted. The global collection of these pointers is called the whois database. So when you type in www.claytowne.com into your browser, the browser sends a message to the whois database to retrieve the corresponding IP address. If all goes well, the browser gets the correct IP address and then connects to the server on where www.claytowne.com is hosted. The web page is downloaded and it appears in your browser. This all happens in a fraction of a second. So if you control the DNS information, you control your website’s destiny. It’s also common that the domain registrar (where you registered your domain name and control your DNS settings) and the name server (where your website is physically hosted and where you upload your files) are two separate companies, so don’t worry if these don’t match.

If you cannot find your login and password to your domain registrar, don’t panic. Most domain registrars have a standard policy for handling clients that have lost this information. Most of the time they’ll ask for the last four digits of the credit card that was used to register the domain name. They may also ask for the password hint that you supplied when you originally registered your domain name. Usually it’s your mother’s maiden name, your favorite pet’s name or the city in which you were born. Supply this information and they will reset your password and tell you your username.

Now, log into your domain registrar. If all goes well you should now be in your admin panel. Just leave this browser window open as we will come back to this later.

IMPORTANT: IF IT TURNS OUT YOU ARE NOT THE OWNER OF YOUR DOMAIN NAME THEN YOU COULD BE IN TROUBLE. THIS MEANS SOMEONE ELSE OWNS IT AND THEY MAY OR MAY NOT BE INTERESTED IN TRANSFERRING IT TO YOU. HOPEFULLY THEY’LL BE DECENT ABOUT IT AND NOT FORCE YOU TO GET A LAWYER AND OPEN UP A CAN OF WHOOP-ASS. YOU CAN ALSO, CONTACT THE DOMAIN REGISTRAR AND EXPLAIN THE SITUATION. IF IT'S CLEAR YOU ARE THE REAL OWNER THEY MAY CHANGE THAT INFO FOR YOU.

Next you need to download your website from the server on which it is hosted. If you ALREADY HAVE YOUR FTP LOGIN AND PASSWORD you can skip the next step, “Get a Copy of Surf Offline”, and go directly to “Get an FTP Client”

 

2. Get a Copy of Surf Offline

Surf Offline is a great program and well worth the money. It allows you to download an entire website’s content with a single click. It will be a mirror image of what’s on the server including sub folders, css files, scripts and images. It cannot however download your database, so if your website is dynamically driven this will only allow you to grab the front end files. Hopefully your website is static. You’ll know soon enough after downloading the entire site. If you can view it in your browser and all of the web pages function exactly as they do on the live site then your site is most likely static. If your web site appears all broken up, with pieces missing here and there, then it is most likely dynamically (database) driven.

If the website looks great when viewing the downloaded version from your computer’s hard drive then move on to the next step “Get an FTP Client”.

 

3. Get an FTP Client

NOTE: IF YOU HAD ALREADY USED SURF OFFLINE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR WEBSITE BECAUSE YOU DIDNíT HAVE YOUR FTP LOGIN AND PASSWORD, THEN YOUíLL BE USING YOUR FTP CLIENT TO UPLOAD YOUR WEBSITE TO YOUR NEW HOSTING COMPANY.

FTP stands for file transfer protocol. It’s how files are transferred to and from your computer to a remote location on a server. There are many FTP clients to use and many of them are free. Whether free or paid all FTP clients follow the same protocol.

1. Create a new site and give it an easy to remember name.
2. Enter the IP address (usually something like ftp.yourwebsite.com)
3. Enter username.
4. Enter password.
5. Click Save.

Some good FTP clients that I personally use are:

FlashFXP (FREE for 30 days)
FTP Commander ( FREE)

So now that you’ve successfully created a new site in your FTP client you’ll now log onto your server. In there you may see all of your files. Look for a file called "index.html" and a folder called "images". If you see these, then this is probably the root directory (your website’s “home”). If you don’t see these files then look for a folder called “www” or “httpdocs”. If you see either one of those then click on that folder. Now you should be in the root directory for your domain.

Select all of the files and download them to your hard drive to a folder with a logical name such as “My_Website_Backup”. Now you are ready for the final step “Get a New Web Hosting Company”.

 

4. Get a New Web Hosting Company

A web hosting company is where your web site will be physically hosted on a server. A server is just a computer specifically set up to host websites. If you threw away your keyboard, your monitor, and your mouse, the box of components you have left is very similar to what a server looks like.

You always want to go with the web hosting company that owns and controls their own servers. Stay away from resellers. You’ll want 24/7 phone tech support, a great admin control panel such as “CPanel” and a wide selection of free utilities that you can install with a single click. I’ve been using BlueHost for many years and host about 25 web sites with them. I’ve used their phone tech support extensively and have always been pleased with the short wait times and the knowledge and experience of their tech support people. I don’t receive any kickbacks from recommending them and I am not part of an affiliate program. I just like the company.

No matter which web host you select you will receive an e-mail confirmation that will include all the technical specs you need to control your website. UP NEAR THE TOP OF THE E-MAIL WILL BE THE FTP LOGIN AND PASSWORD INFORMATION, YOUR ADMIN PANEL LOGIN AND PASSWORD, YOUR NS (NAME SERVER) INFORMATION AND YOUR IP ADDRESS. Copy this info and put it in a Word or text file. Give it a name like “website_account_info” and save it in the folder that you downloaded your website to. Do this now, do not wait. You’ll thank me later.

Next, using your FTP client and the information that was provided to you by your new hosting company, upload your website. Since you have not changed the DNS settings at your domain registrar, you will use the IP address that your web hosting company supplied to access your new web site. Cut and paste that into the address bar on your browser and test out the site. Does everything look great? Good, you are now ready to setup the e-mail accounts in your web hosting admin panel. You can keep your old passwords or set up new ones. If you find this process confusing call tech support and they will walk you through it or even do it for you.

NOTE: IF THE EMAILS YOU USE ON YOUR WEBSITE ARE NOT "NAME@YOURWEBSITE.COM" TYPE ADDRESSES BUT INSTEAD GMAIL, YAHOO, AOL, OR HOTMAIL TYPE ACCOUNTS THEN YOU CAN SKIP EMAIL SET UPS.

Now it’s time to update your DNS records. Go to your domain registrar and log into your account. In the admin panel you will see something like “Manage my Domain” or “Change DNS” or "Update Domian Name Servers". When you finally get to the right place it will have two or four text fields. The NS1 (Name Server 1) and NS2 fields will already have the information for the name servers where your web site is currently hosted. Change those to the name servers that were provided by your new web hosting company. You can easily find it in that Word or text file that I told you to make and save in the previous step. Enter the information and then choose “save” or “confirm” or whatever button that is available that expresses the affirmative.

There, your website is now pointed to the new name servers on your new hosting company. Within 24 hours the global whois database should be completely updated so when anyone types in your URL or follows a link from another website they will be taken to the new web site.

Now say goodbye to that scumbag webmaster forever!

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