How to Make Sure You’re in Control of Your Bank Website
Being that we’re in the business of website hosting and website development for banks and credit unions, we assist with a lot of website moves throughout the course of a year. Having been working with banks and credit unions to move, upgrade, redesign and create new websites for over 12 years now, I’m still surprised at how often I see one major issue that still catches bank and credit union managers by surprise.
Roughly one out of every four banks and credit unions that come to us find themselves in the uncomfortable position of learning that they don’t actually own their own website and in some cases also do not have control of their own domain name. While they may have the ability to update the content on their website, they don’t actually own the underlying code that drives the website. This means that when they want to move their website to our network (or any other hosting provider), they’re unable to do that without sometimes substantial additional expense.
Just this month I saw this again with a bank in Massachusetts that wanted to move their website from their current provider to a new company. The bank contacted me to help assist with the planning and subsequent move. Unfortunately, they discovered that they did not actually own the website code and their provider is not able to give them a backup of the site. Their only option was to recreate the site on a new, independent platform, which resulted in this decision from management:
We think it would be too much of a project without the source files. It just wasn't something planned for this year.
This most often happens in situations where the financial institution website is hosted on a shared platform that a provider uses to host many websites on a single underlying architecture. The website content is tightly connected to the platform and therefore cannot operate as a fully functioning site outside of that platform. Since the platform is often owned solely by the provider and is shared amongst many other websites, the provider cannot deliver a fully functioning backup of the website that the bank or credit union could take to another provider. Credit unions and banks that find themselves in this position either have to stay with the current provider or undertake the effort and investment to create a brand new website on an independent platform.
Another scenario that we encounter on a regular basis are websites that are built on a content management system (CMS) that is owned solely by the provider and does not include license to use the CMS outside of their hosting network. In these situations the bank may be able to receive a backup of portions of the website content, but not in a fully functional state since the website is tightly integrated with the CMS upon which it was developed. In this situation most financial institutions choose, or are forced, into developing a brand new website.
How do you tell if you own your website?
The best place to start is by asking your current provider what they will provide you if you decide to move your website. Will you receive all of the website files, including a backup of the database, that you could move to another hosting provider? It’s best to ask this question today rather than waiting until you’re in a situation where need to move the website quickly.
If you use a tool like Macromedia Dreamweaver, Contribute or similar desktop application to maintain web pages whose file names end in .aspx, .asp, .php, .htm or similar, then there is a good chance that you own your website and that you could move it to another provider.
What if you find out that you don’t own your website?
This doesn’t always spell doom, especially if you’re happy with your website and the company you work with to maintain it. Hosted platforms can sometimes cost less in initial development fees because the provider is spreading the cost across many clients and does not need to invest significant time into planning, designing, and programming your site. You will often give up flexibility in terms of design, features and customization, but for many small financial institutions who have not yet adopted an aggressive Internet marketing strategy, this is acceptable.
If you’re not so sure about your future relationship with your current web partner, then you may be wise to start planning your future migration strategy now. You’ll have time to better plan your strategy for your next website and spend more time evaluating your next partner.
What about your domain name and other important web technology assets?
Learn how you can make sure that you know who holds the keys to your web properties for your bank or credit union.
P.S. The sites we develop are portable, so if you’re one of our clients, then you already know you’re in good shape.