We hear so much about start-ups in business, especially online businesses. The apparent ease with which start-ups start-up online is well-documented yet what you never get to hear about is the process of shutting-down online. Until now perhaps. Starting-up may be easy but the reverse applies to the difficult task of shutting down.
The great thing about a website is that you can, pretty much, just switch one on and immediately have a presence online. The bad thing about a website is that, even quicker, they can be switched off in seconds. When a website gets switched-off the entity it existed to represent virtually disappears, never to be seen again. Yes, websites can be cheaper and quicker than print but their presence is transitory and not lasting.
Earlier this year we lost a client. This had nothing to do with carelessness, we lost Paul to cancer.
Paul was a tremendous communicator and a consummate networker, Paul was a business coach, a toastmaster and was never found to be without an anecdote or a tale into which a business lesson had been neatly woven - many of the stories and lessons he told found their way into a blog on his website. I'm confident that it's this spirit that may be found woven into this month's blog post.
We'd left Paul's website running; switching it off simply because he was no longer with us seemed a cold and callous thing to do, particularly as friends and family may have felt the need to visit his website after their loss as a way of reminding themselves of his warmth and humour. Moreover, Paul's website hosting account also managed his email address and who knows just how many online services, subscriptions and registrations were associated with his email address.
Nine days ago, Paul's domain name registration expired, his website disappeared and his email stopped working.
Ask yourself, what kind of chaos would be created if your own email account was terminated today. Just how many 'things' have you signed-up for or subscribed-to using your email address? From registrations with HMRC, online shopping accounts, logins to on-demand entertainment services, registration with your bank through to social network profiles - all with a single point of failure, your email address.
Probate can take months to complete and executors can rapidly find themselves in the middle of all sorts of dilemmas when unpicking and resolving someone else's affairs. There is no provision or consideration such as probate online - things are incredibly binary; they're either on or off. How many of us, I wonder, have made any attempt at ensuring that our digital-selves can be accessed and carefully shut-down when we no longer need to have a presence online?
Why is this important? Well, 3 weeks ago LinkedIn sent me an email to notify me that it was Paul's anniversary of the formation of his company and suggested that I might I like to congratulate him. Paul's Twitter account is still live and who knows what else. Was Paul's domain name processed as part of the probate of his estate? One can only hope. With an expired domain now under someone else's control, how now can Paul's online presence be carefully shut down?
What's to stop whoever has now re-registered Paul's domain from setting-up a fresh email account and then hacking online accounts simply by supplying the old email address and claiming that they've forgotten the password? Don't most websites which require a login make it super-easy for someone with just an email address to be emailed an option to reset the password? Back in March 2013 I wrote a blog article about a website being an essential proof-of-existence for a company and now, when thinking through the power of the domain name, it would appear that an email address is in no way different - an email address is now undeniably proof of human existence.
Paul would have, I'm sure, very much liked to have known that even though he's not with us he's still be able to tell you a story in the hope that you'd learn something and, more importantly, take action. The security of your online-self is something that very few of us would have considered but the implications of doing nothing at shut-down are both serious and unthinkable.
Doing some desk research for the proposal to develop a website for a law firm today, I came across a link to this guidance from the Law Society about how to protect digital assets after death.Steve Whiting, Sub@omic Ltd4th August 2015
Author of 'The Art of Search' - the SEO strategy book 2,500 years in the making.http://www.theartofsearch.co.uk