You Get What You Pay For

​Panama Papers Leak Proves You Need to Invest in Ongoing Website Maintenance and Hosting

By Bill Hipsher, Co-Founder, B² Interactive​​

Earlier today, Gizmodo reported that a likely reason behind Mossack Fonseca’s website hack was due to an outdated WordPress website called Revolution Slider. Meaning the Panama Papers, the largest leak ever, which exposed secret offshore banking activities of four current heads of state, dozens of former heads of state and their families, FIFA, and countless others, may have been caused because nobody logged in to update a website.

Think about that for a moment. A company that represented more than 300,000 other businesses simply had to update their website to prevent leaking information countless individuals hoped would never be exposed and didn’t.

I doubt anyone reading this represents 300,000 companies, but you’d be surprised to see what information your website collects over a ten-year period. If you have a site that conducts 100 transactions a month, over ten years, you’ll collect information on 12,000 people, all of whom have a reasonable expectation that their data will be protected. How are you protecting all of the data your visitors have left in your care?

What would a data breach mean for your company? Most likely, it would mean losing business. Of course, that depends on the impact the breach had on your customers, its liability, and the loss of trust from potential customers.

WordPress is a secure platform…provided you use trusted plugins, update your site regularly, and have a secure hosting solution.

This news shouldn’t discourage people from building websites on WordPress, but it should alert them to the dangers of a set-it-and-forget strategy for their website, regardless of technology used to develop the site.

Outdated technology that doesn’t utilize current security measures is always vulnerable. There’s a reason you get regular notices about updates for your technology. While there might be a few new features in each update, a large portion of updates deal with fixing possible security issues.

Still, even though people know security is important, they will ignore it when it comes to getting a “bargain” on a website.

Our web design, SEO, and local search optimization firm has lost client bids to lower-priced bids before. Our pricing is quite competitive, but it includes managed hosting and ongoing maintenance for the websites we build. As a result, potential clients aren’t necessarily comparing apples to apples.

Often, a business owner chooses the lowest price, receives their website, then finds they’re on their own from there. If someone is building a $1,000 to $4,000 website for your company, you most likely aren’t getting everything you need. I know I’ll get comments from web designers and self-serve web design companies disputing this who will say “You get it all for [dollar amount] and more!”

Well, here’s my argument…

In the last six months, a friend in real estate and a former consumer service client both decided to go with low-priced options for website building and hosting rather than work with us. One found a “kid just out of college who can build the same thing for $3,000.” The other chose a national do-it yourself website service. Both didn’t update the sites and chose hosting environments based on price, not security and managed services. One site was hacked; the other site lost 80% of the organic traffic it had seen — ​traffic it relied on to attract new business. The business behind the hacked site had to address the matter with clients. The business behind the site with lost traffic had to move off the self-serve platform and rebuild all the search engine equity they lost. Both paid as much or more to repair the damage caused by their “bargains.”

When my business partner and I started our company, we set out to deliver more than a website where we simply washed our hands of it when it was finished. We wanted to build partnerships with clients that helped them secure new business from the internet without them having to invest their time into managing their websites or their online marketing efforts. Yet we’re often asked, “What can you do on price? Because Company X offered to do it for half the price.” Our response is the same every time. “We’ve provided the best pricing we can for the solution, security, and ongoing maintenance that you need.”

No more than I should be swinging a hammer or pulling a tooth, the average business owner isn’t equipped to manage their web presence and keep track of its updates, its security, its search engine equity, etc.

Technology is incredible, dynamic, and constantly improving. But there are risks that come with technology and putting your business online. If you can’t afford to maintain the website and/or technology you want, you should probably consider waiting or scaling back what you have planned. Yes, your customers might like a few more bells and whistles upfront, but I promise you they would prefer a safe environment for them to interact with your business first. Just ask the people whose lives have been affected by Panama Papers.

Bill Hipsher is co-founder of B² Interactive​​, CEO of Storage.com, and managing partner of Hurrdat Social Media.