There have been two instances in the last couple of months where organisations that I have an association with have suffered the sudden loss of their web developer/supplier. In one instance the organisation had an Australian based web developer and host that went into liquidation having delivered only two of the three phases of the web development. In the second instance the company had paid seven thousand dollars to an Indian based developer and host, only to have the developer call to say that the firm was closing its doors. Pleas to at least send a copy of the code fell on deaf ears.

In both cases the organisations were able to recover; the first because the company going into liquidation was responsive and responsible; the second by hastily creating a web site using the do-it-yourself development tool WIX. But both suffered a business impact.

It is important to treat your web site development, its maintenance and hosting as having the potential to be a business risk, and plan accordingly.

Could these organisations have done anything to lessen their risk? Yes, they could. When they entered into an agreement to have their web sites developed, they should have ensured that the contract stated that at the end of each stage of the development they received a copy of the completed code in a form that could be compiled and installed on another host site. Payment for each phase should have been contingent upon receipt of the copy.

The first developer claimed that the source code was its intellectual property (a separate post could be devoted to the dangers of that), as such they did not want to provide a copy. To allow for this the contract should have stated that a copy of the system should be lodged “in Escrow” with a third party, to be made available should the developer/host default. This is a long way from foolproof but with diligent monitoring, auditing and testing this approach can provide some insurance.

Everyone is a web developer, or so it seems. I receive at least one unsolicited email per week offering to create a new web site or upgrade an existing site. I suspect that a large number of these offers come from individuals or companies with no track record (I refrained from referring to them as “cowboys”). It is important to treat your web site development, its maintenance and hosting as having the potential to be a business risk, and plan accordingly.

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Written By Peter R Hill

Peter has been in the Information Services industry for more than forty years with broad experience covering a number of industries working in both Australia and New Zealand. He holds an MBA from LaTrobe University. For seventeen years Peter headed and was a director of the International Software Benchmarking Standards Group (ISBSG) a not-for-profit organisation with a mission of improving the performance of IT through the provision of project history data. He has served on a number of Boards of IT companies. In 2010 Peter became an non-executive director of Fenwick Software. Peter has been a speaker at conferences in Australia, Asia, Europe, Brazil and the USA.   He has had a number of articles published, covering key aspects of the Information Services industry.  He is a past Chairman, Secretary and Fellow of the Australian Computer Society. He is a member of the Committee of Management of Writers Victoria. Peter has compiled and edited five books, including: "Practical Software Project Estimation"  published by McGraw-Hill. In his leisure time, Peter enjoys motor sport and writing.

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