GoDaddy Hacked: How to Protect Your Small Business

GoDaddy Hacked

Millions of websites and domains registered through GoDaddy went offline Monday, affecting countless small businesses. What happened? How did the world’s largest domain registrar go dark? Someone claiming to be affiliated with infamous hacker group Anonymous initially took responsibility, but GoDaddy’s interim CEO, Scott Wagner, claims “the service outage was not caused by external influences… [but] was due to a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables.”

Regardless of the root cause of the GoDaddy outage, small businesses took most of the beating, since many of them were left with no website connectivity and no access to email, potentially costing them millions of dollars in sales over just 6 hours.

This will likely serve as a painful lesson for many small businesses who had previously taken advantage of GoDaddy’s bundled domain registration, web hosting, and email services. For these failure victims, the central issue is that they were too reliant on a “single point of failure” – with GoDaddy offline, they were no longer able to access their email or their websites, and neither were their customers.

If you don’t want such outages to disrupt your business in the future, here are some steps you can take to mitigate disasters and keep your website and your business running.

Diversify Your Email Service

Is email the heart of your business? If your email is down, how will you contact your customers and run your business? The easiest step you can take in mitigating disasters is separating your email provider from your web host. This way, even if your store goes down, you can alert your customers, respond to inquiries, and take email orders.

The Web Favorite: Using Gmail as Your Email Host

Gmail is a browser-based email service, and it provides an easy way to set up an email address with your domain, like yourname@yourstore.com. It’s easy to set up, and Google has a robust infrastructure that is unlikely to go offline for long periods:

  1. Sign up for a Google Apps account.
  2. Follow the steps for domain ownership verification provided by Google. You will need your domain provider login information handy, and they have an easy video tutorial.
  3. Configure your new Gmail email settings by following this MX records how-to. You’ll also get instructions on how to do this when you sign up.

Google Apps for Business free version also comes with awesome benefits:

  • 10 GB Email inbox size
  • Use your domain name in the email address
  • Easily create custom email user accounts
  • Direct your domain’s email to Google’s servers
  • Bonus services: Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google Talk and more

If you’re hesitant to hand things over to Google, here is a comparison of some other email hosting solutions you can try.

With this step out of the way, at least you won’t have to worry about your business grinding to a standstill when your service provider or web host goes down. Next we’ll show you how to avoid your web host going down in the first place.

Separate Your Domain Registration from Your Web Hosting

Web hosting services typically bundle domain registration and web hosting to seemingly make your lives easier and save you money. However, if your host goes down like GoDaddy did, your entire website goes down, and your domain name stops working altogether.

This can be avoided by separating your domain registration from your web hosting, and hosting your website with a provider that rarely experiences downtime.

Changing Your Web Hosting Provider

Using a third party hosting provider is one way to prevent issues like what happened on Monday. Your hosting provider is simply the computer where all your website’s files are stored, and switching from one host to another is as simple as copying files over and editing your DNS entries. This means that if your domain registrar craps out, you’re unaffected.  Meanwhile, if it’s your host server that dies, you can just switch. You can’t do either if your domain registrar and hosting provider are the same.

You want a provider that has a stellar record for being always on, secure, reliable, and with high customer satisfaction ratings. Here are two resources worth checking out to save you some time. They’re geared towards bloggers, but they apply to anyone:

As a warning, many web hosting providers (especially the cheap ones) suffer from outages on occasion, so it helps to have a backup of your website to easily switch over if needed. Having a contingency plan is always beneficial. The steps to transfer your web hosting also differ between web hosting providers so follow their procedures carefully.

Here are some tutorials on transferring your site to a couple of popular providers:

And in the aftermath of the GoDaddy disaster yesterday, many competing domain registration and web hosting providers are offering deals for those transferring from GoDaddy.

  • NameCheap – Use Coupon Code BYEBYEGD for 50% off 1st month shared hosting
  • HostGator – Use Coupon code godaddyisdown for 1st six months free web hosting for new hosting accounts, 50% off domain registration, 30% off initial hosting invoice, and 50% off annual or longer billing cycles

Create a Contingency Plan

Separating your email, domain name, and web hosting will help keep your business running even when one of those services goes down unexpectedly. But it still never hurts to have a backup plan. You never know when it might be time to bail on your existing domain registrar or your existing web host, so take these steps to minimize your losses:

  • Backup everything – copy all files, databases, emails, everything.
  • Set up accounts with at least two cheap (or free) web hosts, so you can switch on a moment’s notice.
  • Keep a record of each host’s nameservers, to enter into your domain registration’s DNS settings in the event of a switch.
  • Test your website on each host beforehand, so you can minimize surprises.
  • Alternatively, pay a little more each month for a hosting provider with a high uptime guarantee – the closer to 100% the better.
  • Keep in mind that it can take up to 48 hours for all users to see your new server, so only use this plan in extreme cases.

Communicate With Your Customers

If you have a blog on Blogger.com or WordPress.com, or if you have a store on sites like Etsy, Artfire, or Big Cartel, then your hosting provider and your domain registrar are already separate.  In these cases, you are just forwarding from one domain (yourstore.com) to another (yourstore.etsy.com).  So if GoDaddy is offline, your store will still be up, just with a different address.

In this case, just reach out to your customers in any way possible, such as Twitter or email (since you took our advice and still have email access), and tell them to use the new URL.

Nothing you can do will save your site from ever going down, but at least with these steps you can minimize the downtime, and keep from putting all of your eggs in GoDaddy’s basket.

Do you have a GoDaddy or web hosting horror story? Let us know in the comments below.

Oops Word on Keyboard – Original image from Shutterstock

  • Jesse Snyder

    Awesome post, Rita! I have written about this post on my blog! Appreciate the wise tips!

  • Jesse Snyder
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