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The Technology Behind the Site

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Why buyers need to delve into the techie stuff

Except for very large sites, owners tend not to keep a detailed track of the scripts they've used, modifications they've made to the PHP programming or Wordpress template, CRON jobs they've set up, tweaks they've made to the SPAM filters in their forums, honeytraps they've set for bad bots, personalisations made in their wiki or CNAME changes they effected to allow third parties to offer "free" email addresses at the domain.

They may have even forgotten the reason behind several of the entries in their .htaccess file!

WHOA, WHOA, WHOA, what the heck is all that?

Don't panic. Some of it may seem very technical and much of it you may not need to worry about - not every site has a wiki, forum or blog - and many don't even have a database or any programming. However, it must be noted that even for the simplest of sites the buyer needs to be aware of some technical requirements. For example:

- What type of hosting (Linux/Windows) does it require, what bandwidth, what storage capacity?

- What facilities does it need on the server, what version of PHP, what version of database software, what scripting language support?

- What other special requirements does the site have (e.g. if it's designed in Frontpage it may need Frontpage Server Extensions on the server)?

- Does it need its own IP address (a dedicated IP)?

- Does it rely on any third party software (like forum software or shopping cart) and if it does, how much does this cost?

- Are there any properties of the site that require special consideration? For example, not all hosting companies will accept adult sites, proxies, hacking related and file sharing sites.

Without a clear idea of the site's hosting and other requirements, the buyer is unable to accurately decide either the cost of hosting or the cost of providing technical maintenance.


So isn't the simplest solution to leave it where it is?

Due Diligence And Website Buying AssistanceThe easiest route would be to let the website continue with the existing hosting package if the hosting company is willing to transfer control and ownership of the hosting account. However, there are some problems

1. Sellers often have multiple accounts on their hosting account or their dedicated server and need to off load the site if they're not going to keep paying its hosting costs.

2. Staying with the existing hosting leaves the buyer with no experience with transferring the site (which can be really tricky sometimes). Should a transfer be required later he may find that no technical help drafted in can get the site working how the original owner set it up.

3. Some sites cannot be moved at all (example: SiteBuildIt). Buyers would rather discover this at the time of purchase than find several years down the road that the hosting company has gone bust and they've effectively lost the entire site.

Some Tools

See the tools on the WHOIS page. The volume of information they reveal amazes me to this day. Best of all is that they're all free. You can find out about DNS / Name Server and Mail Server information, what's working and what's not. And, that's just for starters.

We've got other tools here that will give you access to a lot more information on the technology behind the site.

In conclusion

There's no substitute for having things down in writing. Requiring the seller to specify the complete technical requirements of the site leaves the buyer with a route out should any nasty surprises appear. It is not unusual to ask sellers to document all scripts, programs, software, templates, widgets, htaccess, CNAME settings, sub-domain information and any other relevant information required to setup, move or run the site. It would not be an imposition to also demand details of any server file creations, deletions and changes and any other relevant additions, modifications, changes or deletions that a reasonable person would expect to take control of and be able to fully manage the site.

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