The Secret to Surviving After Your Webmaster Disappears

There’s been a few clients over the years who called me for the first time somewhat panicked. For some reason or another, the person who had been running their website has disappeared. They may have been hit by a bus, run off with the maid, or perhaps they’re just watching all 624 commercial-free hours of Star Trek. Regardless of what is going on, the person calling me can no longer make any changes to their website.

Preventative Measures

If you’re lucky and you’re reading this, you’re not yet in that situation. webmastershall The key thing to get to avoid this circumstance in the future is information. Even if you don’t know exactly what to do with the information, when you call me (or someone else) with desperation in your voice, we will know what to do.

There are two things you’ll need to get information about. The domain name ( and the actual web hosting (the computer your website is actually sitting on).

With the domain name, there are a few pieces of information you need.

1. The registrar’s website address. The registrar is who the domain name was registered with. To make any changes, you’ll need to know who it was registered with. There are ways to determine it later, but it’s a little more difficult. Not much, but a little.

2. Your login information for that registrar’s website. Most likely that’s just a username and password.

With a web host, there’s not really much more information.

1. Your FTP address.

2. Your FTP username and password.

3. The website address of your control panel. This will allow you to do things like add, remove and modify email addresses, among other things.

4. The username and password for your control panel. This could be the same as the FTP username, but that isn’t always the case.

That’s pretty much it. If you have that information, you’ll be fine if your webmaster decides to become Amish. You will be able to find any other web developer/designer, and they can use that information.

It’s Too Late For All That!

So all the things we talked about are fine and good if your webmaster is still around, but what if it’s too late? What possibilities exist then?

Well, you will still need the same information. All you really need to start with, however, is the registrar’s phone number.

So how do you get that? There are numerous websites where you can look up information about your website, including information about the registrar. Just use a search engine and enter the word ‘whois’ and make sure it’s just one word. Go through a few of the websites that come up and see what information they have about your website.

They should have some information on what company the name was registered through. Not who it was registered by, but who it was registered through. This company is also be listed as your registrar. They will, most likely, have a website address. If not, just do a quick search on your favorite search engine for the company, and a website should come up.

Now you just need to contact that company. Hopefully you’ll be able to find phone contact information, but if not, feel free to use their contact form or contact email. Let them know the situation. Your webmaster has disappeared. Do not, however, simply ask them for your login information. You can tell them that you are wanting that information, but the important thing to ask is how you can prove you are the owner of that domain without having the login information.

The methods for proving who you are vary greatly from registrar to registrar. The one that my clients (after their old webmaster disappeared) seem to run into most often is that they need to fax some form of identification to the company. They will then tell you how to proceed from there.

Once you have that information, you may need to get the login information for your web host. In that ‘whois’ record that you looked up earlier, look for your Name Servers or Domain Servers. These will look like a web address, but will have something other than www in front of them. Simply take that address, replace the beginning part with www, and see if that is their website address.

If it is, contact them in the same way you did your registrar. You should then be able to log in and edit or download your website.

If you can’t get ahold of your current web hosting company, there’s no need to fret. As long as you can log in on your registrar’s site, you can ditch that web host (one way is to just deny the credit card charges) and sign up for a new web host. Once you’ve done that, your new web host will give your DNS Servers. These are the Domain Servers or Name Servers you looked at earlier.

Once you have those DNS Server names, you can log into your account on your registrar’s website with the login information they supplied you, and change your server names there. Every registrar has a different control panel, or I would tell you exactly how to edit it. When you call your registrar to get your login information, you might also ask them how to change your DNS Server in your record.

That’s it! I’ve had this take a couple of weeks with some clients, but others have had their site back up and going in just a couple of days. Hopefully it will be the latter with you.



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