Woman in office holding her head because her online business was hacked

Building a website and starting an online business seems to many small business owners like a big step. This often makes them feel exhausted after it’s done and they do their best to pretend that it’s all they’ll ever need.

So much so that when someone tells them that their site’s software needs updating or that the content needs to be refreshed and extended, they almost hate that person. “What?” they say, “I thought the website was my online business. Is it not enough I’ve spent all that money getting an responsive, singing and dancing WordPress site with mobile bells and whistles, now you tell me I need to spend more money?”

Sadly, it’s not.

Yesterday, a friend rang me and casually mentioned that his online business website had been hacked. He was miserable, because he didn’t know how to recover it and had no way of getting his site back, because he had not kept any backups of the files or the database.

I managed to un-hack the site and restore a lot of the functionality, installed and configured a security plugin to stop future attacks and gave him some tips on how to restore the remaining missing bits, that were deleted by the hackers (why anyone would deliberately damage another person’s business is beyond me). My friend was happy to have his online business working again and invited me for a steak dinner next week.

But this brought up some important things that every small business owner should know and pay attention to when it comes to their online business:

  1. Good hosting service – cheap hosting often comes with bad service. When you need some quick action, the loss of business, the loss of your time and the loss of your peace of mind will add up to more than you ever saved by going with a cheap hosting provider and getting the “no frills” account. Cheap hosting is for personal sites, not for online business
  2. Regular backups – cheap hosting often comes with limitations, like not having regular backups. Sure, the hosting control panel lets you take a backup of different things, but do you ever know trouble is coming and prepare for it in advance? Of course not. Having regular backups can save you, so it’s worth paying for
  3. Enough disk space for backups – cheap hosting often comes with limitations, like not having enough disk space to generate backup files. I sometimes try to save a backup of a client’s site and this fails for lack of disk space. Hosting accounts should have at least 3 times the amount of space required for the website and for emails
  4. Regular updates – hackers are great at finding bad lines of code in site software and exploiting them. By updating WordPress, its themes and its plugins, the change of someone breaking into your site are lower. Nothing is ever completely safe, but if you make it harder, most hackers will just go somewhere else
  5. Good security settings – using predictable passwords, keeping default settings and having open settings are very common. The main reason for installing a security plugin is as a guide for tightening security, but such a plugin also provides means of blocking known attach sources, hiding the site better and more, all with clear advice and an easy to use interface
  6. Trusted professional help – some online business owners are really cluey and good for them, but most people don’t have the time and knowledge required to maintain a (WordPress) website and keep it running smoothly. I often wait before applying changes, check their community ratings closely and save special backups before applying updates and thus save my clients from a bumpy ride and from business downtime. On the other hand, I get a few calls each year from clients who have tried to go it alone because they wanted to save

How to keep your online business running smoothly?

The bottom line is this: to keep your online business alive, get quality hosting with good service, regular backups and enough disk space and hire a professional to secure your site and keep it up to date.

In the long run, this is the cheaper option. Think of it like getting insurance, paying taxes or using an accountant. It’s just part of doing business (online).

Have a great day,

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