Identity theft prevention — Are you secure?

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As we said earlier this month, having managed to sort out Peter Cornwell’s Identity theft we are now publishing the promised paper from the Associations website developer. Stuart Morrison of Business Web Mentor, who is doing a really splendid job for our Association.

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Red hat

Having an HTML website is the equivalent of leaving the ignition keys in your car overnight… 

Your chairman is a really great champion for the NAWCP members and when we first dealt with him I was under no illusion about how protective he was of the NAWCP website and its members. Over the course of the recent updates to the NAWCP website David and I have built up a mutual trust (and love of cars) and when he called me recently to ask my opinion on Peter’s problems and find out what could be done about his cloned website, I was shocked but not altogether surprised.

The problems that SpecialWeddingCars.com has experienced are not an isolated incident, and the company who’ve flouted his copyright may also be victims of a scam themselves. An unscrupulous Web Designer could easily have taken the website wholesale, rebadged it and cloned the entire operation. If they had been slightly more talented it might have gone unnoticed but the cut/paste nature of the job has revealed the crime.

Unfortunately if you have a plain html site then you run the risk of this happening to you and your business and there is very little you can do about it. With an HTML website your code is on display for all to see, using a Content Management System (CMS) your code is only assembled when someone asks for the page, and thus cannot be as easily “leeched” as a plain HTML website, where the code ALL THECODE is displayed plainly in your website browser.

Why database websites are better

With a database website, the individual page content is stored separately to the page layout and design code so the process of recreating your site is much, much harder (not impossible) but there are steps that can be taken with a CMS site to prevent a leech attack from stripping your content and further securing your intellectual property rights, your brand and ultimately your customers.

If you want to make sure your website has not been cloned visit:           http://www.copyscape.com/

And cut/paste your website homepage URL into the search box and find out how unique your content is. If you have a score of less than 10% you are doing very well, if your score is 30%+ then you have a problem. Google looks for duplicate content and marks down any site it feels is not the originator of the content. If you take what you think of as an original sentence from your site and search Google and do not come top then you more than likely have a “dupe content” penalty and your website will struggle to be found in searches. This will impact on your position in the search results and is probably costing you real revenue and loss of business.

CMS/Database driven websites are not totally hack proof, your data can be compromised and your code hacked in other ways BUT if you take regular backups then this is not a big problem, dealing with a stolen website is just a headache no one wants, Peter is lucky to have the NAWCP looking out for his interests.

I am hoping that Peter’s experience is a solitary incident, however experience and a knowledge of how certain cheapskate web developers work you may find otherwise. To be frank: the only way to make a profit if you do not charge enough to do the job is if the cheapo web designer, ahem, “borrows”, ahem, the code from someone else’s hard work. In the real world we’d call that theft, because that’s exactly what it is. don’t let it happen to you.

What would you do if your business was completely cloned?

It’s not uncommon though and if you were to wake tomorrow and found your entire operation cloned and someone else was out there touting for business using your marketing what would you do? No, that’s illegal: what would you do that was legal? Yes, it’s a tough one and it is hard to trace back and act on, especially when you then have to deal with people and organisations overseas and good luck even beginning the conversation in Eastern Europe, China and other parts of Asia.

The problem is, there are a lot of unscrupulous web developers out there, and many business owners with tiny budgets who think that they got a bargain, when in fact they are actually buying someone else’s website just wrapped in different colours. It’s just like buying cars, there’s no such thing as a cheap one. If it is cheap, it’s probably cheap for a reason. Beware “Priced for quick sale” is just as applicable in web design and development, if a price is cheap it is cheap for a reason. Without wishing to scare anyone, having a plain HTML is akin to leaving your shop window unglazed and the door wide open. Which is one of the reasons CMS websites were created…

In the “good ol’ days” html websites were the only way forward for a small business, the development costs for content managed sites were astronomical, I should know as this is what my first web design business sold, managed and updated, CMS websites.

A determined hacker or group of hackers will not be stopped by any security, NASA, FBI, the US Government, have all been hacked to some greater or lesser degree, but the point is they are a high profile target and take lots of steps to prevent it happening and have the budget to match. As a small business owner it is not so easy to justify huge spends on the website let alone web security, you just want something that works and helps you get customers.

How do you prevent this?

So, how to prevent this? How do you protect yourself and your business? By using a CMS system, what’s a “CMS System”? CMS Stands for Content Management System, and it’s a much easier way to update and run your website, because once it is built and launched you can add content and manage it from anywhere in the world. You can give access to other members of staff or members of your team and have them update it for you. All in all it makes the task of running a website a much less problematic operation. You will also not have to rely on your website designer to make updates and get back to you.

As websites and the Internet grew more popular a bunch of good hearted pro’s started to coalesce their ideas around making a CMS system for smaller businesses and bloggers, in fact anyone who wanted to have the power and flexibility not to mention the security of a CMS system.

These systems grew and grew and now you have several choices, so many to choose from, so much to do, how do you choose? Well, if you have less than 100, 000 visitors a month then it’s easy, WordPress. There are others, Drupal, Joomla and Mambo to name the other high profile CMS systems, but WordPress is the stand out, knock down undefeated champion of website CMS systems. It has long since thrown off the “bloggers tool” label and is now a seriously powerful content management system that allows you to run your websites in a fast and very professional manner, adding new or modifying your existing content quickly and importantly, protect that content.

So why WordPress?

Google loves WordPress and 33%+ of the top 1000 websites in the world are on the WordPress platform, the Official Star Wars blog is on WordPress and that gets hundreds of thousands visitors a day, say no more.

So, how do you protect yourself from being a victim of a cheapskate web developer? Read and understand the following rules…

1)    Use a reputable developer; make sure they have done lots and lots of work for businesses like yours in the same industry.

2)    Make sure they have several decent sites in their portfolio and come recommended by someone you know and trust.

3)    They are willing to go as slow as you are comfortable with but make it easy for you to understand and just get on with the job.

4)    They know what they are talking about and don’t try to baffle you with HTM this and PHP that, easy, straightforward and open.

5)    They use a CMS system you have heard of and are willing to talk you through the pros and cons, the CONS are important.

6)    They are not bargain basement and are not willing to cut corners; no one wants a bill for copyright images that are not paid for.

7)    A good web developer should spend more time talking to you about your business goals than impressing you with their coding skills.

8)    They have lots of happy clients, have been in business for many years and they want to build a long term relationship, not just a website.

9)    Are easy to deal with, answer your emails within 24 hours and can be got on the phone.  Ensure they have an outstandingly awesome moustache and wear a bowler hat.

 OK, so maybe no. 10 is a bit specific but the rest are absolutely non-negotiable and “must haves”.

Also make sure they are aligned with your marketing goals, most website designers are just that DESIGNERS, they know nothing about marketing a business or business growth and marketing goals, which is where we are unmatched.

Price is long forgotten when quality is long remembered.

You know that you could cut corners with your cars but being a reputable business owner you know that to build a long term reputation it is better to trade on quality and not lowest price. Price is a consideration but quality is the deciding factor and the same with your website. As the saying goes:

You get one chance to make that first impression and we know your business reputation is in our hands, as web developers of 20+ years we know that it is better to build a well optimised site with a few pages than a massive slap dash site with hundreds.

So consider upgrading to a more appropriate” vehicle” (pardon the pun) for your online marketing and start to use a CMS system.

Not all servers are created equal

Furthermore, just like cars, you gets what you pays for! I should know I have had a few “classics” in my time, complete with classic rust, period repairs and self loosening wheels. The point is that if you buy cheap hosting from the likes of GoDaddy and Hostgator you are storing up problems and all will be ok until it goes wrong and then you have to try and contact someone in the States or East Asia and make them understand the urgency of your issue. Also cheaper hosting has issues with access to certain features that are quite often turned off on the server. So you cannot benefit from more advanced services like “Cron” and the latest versions of PHP and security software.

Also, “Latency” the delay in the response of the server when your visitor requests your website from their browser. Now if you are a bride in the UK and your request for a page has to go all the way to the States, fight through a load of other websites sharing your server (they also suffer from overcrowding or “overselling” of server space) and come back. That can sometimes be treble the time from a server in the US when compared to a server in the UK or Europe.

So beware, not all hosting is made equal so the NAWCP is going to be offering you a hosting package. They have selected a very robust and solid piece of kit and it really represents extremely good value for the very little money they will be asking for it. So why not upgrade and start to power your website with “5 star” hosting?! The less latency, the more Google will like your site. So contact  as soon as possible admin@nawcp.co.uk to find our more information. The offer can only be taken up if enough of you want to seriously safeguard your website and offer your clients the speed of rendition that we all expect in this modern world.

I also have an offer for NAWCP members.

MY OFFER If you wish to talk about your website, your marketing and your business I would be more than happy to offer 10 NAWCP members a free 30 minute consultation as to what can be done to improve your business, increase your income and secure your website.

I am so confident in our skills and the services we offer that I give this guarantee: I’ll give you 1 nugget of knowledge that will improve your website or you get an apology for wasting your time, in crisp ten pound notes. If you think our chat about your business website was a waste of your time I will pay £150 to you or a charity of your choice.

Call Stuart on 07968 756595 or email your number and a good time to call you to stuart@businesswebmentor.com

I look forward to hearing from you and helping you as a registered NAWCP member, and securing your content and income from unscrupulous web developers and hackers.

Thanks for your time in reading this and I hope you have continued success

 Stu

Stuart Morrison – The Business Web Mentor

07968 756595

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There is a pdf of this article if you wish to print a copyClick 1


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