Photo of Shira



PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Web Set Hygiene:

Protecting Your Online Home

by Shira




Table of Contents


Many belly dancers over the years have been dismayed to lose control over their own web sites, to lose content, or to have their names & reputations linked to advertising for products they found offensive. This can happen if a dancer doesn't fully understand the possible consequences of some web site decisions she makes. This article will warn you about possible pitfalls, and offer advice on how to avoid having those consequences happen to you.



Keep Backups of Everything

Keep a complete, up-to-date copy of your entire web site on an external hard disk that is separate from your computer. Whenever you update your web site, update that external hard drive. Once a month, update a second external hard drive, and store it in a place that is separate from your normal home or office. A good place to choose might be a bank safety deposit box, or a family member's home in another city.

This backup copy should contain:

  • Original high-resolution copies of all your photos.
  • All cgi scripts, programs, and other tools that provide interactive elements of your web site.
  • Every article that appears on your web site.
  • Anything else related to your web site that you don't want to lose, such as email addresses for your newsletters, responses to polls and surveys, comments left by visitors, original drawings created in vector graphics programs such as PhotoShop, video clip originals, etc.

If your web site is maintained for you by someone else, obtain copies regularly from them, no less than once a month. Keep one copy with you, and make a second copy to store separate from your own home or office. If that other person refuses to cooperate with your demand to make these regular backup copies, find a different designer. It really is that important.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photograph by "K", Santa Clara, California.


Why is this important? Here are things that have happened not only to me, but also to other dancers:

  • Since I launched in 1997, I've had 4 different occasions where my web site hosting company experienced a catastrophic hardware failure and completely lost my entire web site. In one of those cases, there was a fire in the company's data center that destroyed large amounts of equipment, including my web site. In another, the company moved their equipment to a new site, and dropped the disk storage that contained my site, destroying it. Because I kept a copy of my site on my own hard disk, I was able to restore my site as soon as the hosting company got new hardware operational.
  • Gasolina (not her real name) was a vendor who hired a web designer to create her web site. To draw visitors to her site, Gasolina wrote several informative articles, including historical information, costuming advice, and more. Unfortunately, she did not keep copies of either the articles or the illustrations that went with them. One day, her beautiful web site vanished because her design/hosting company went out of business overnight. Their phone number quit working, and their premises were empty. She had no way to reach them. She hadn't kept copies of her articles or photos, nor any of the page designs she had paid them to create for her. Everything was gone. Her business was devastated, because her primary sales channel literally disappeared overnight, without warning.
  • Uvula (not her real name) used a "content management system" named Joomla provided by her hosting company to create her web site. She typed everything into the hosting company's computer, and did not keep copies on her hard disk. When her hosting company went out of business, she lost her entire web site.
  • Since 2007, I've experienced hard disk failures on four different computers that I owned. One was my fault - I accidentally knocked the computer on the floor. The others were simply a matter of computers going bad over time. Thanks to backups, I didn't lose my thousands of photographs, drawings, and articles, but suppose I hadn't kept backups?
  • Novella (not her real name) entrusted all web site maintenance to her husband. When their marriage fell apart and things turned ugly, he replaced text on her web site with malicious material suggesting she was a prostitute and stripper, and he replaced her photos with ones that were altered to be extremely unflattering. It took many months for her to regain control of her site and get rid of his malicious alterations.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photograph by Lina Jang, New York City, New York.




Control Registration of Your Domain Name

At first glance, it may seem easiest to let your web site designer handle everything for you, including registration of your domain name, but the more control you give away, the more vulnerable you will be if the company goes out of business.

It's not difficult to register your domain name for yourself. Then you'll control it. Put it in your own name, with your own email address, your own postal address, your own credit card, and your own phone number.

What can happen if you delegate this important task to someone else?

  • Gasolina (mentioned in the "Keep Backups" section above) had let her fly-by-night web design company register the domain for her. When they vanished, she was unable to obtain control over her own domain name - even though she had provided the money to register it, and it was the same as the name of her business. When it expired, the registrar sold her domain name to the highest bidder, who pointed it to a web site full of advertisements that had absolutely nothing to do with belly dance. There were still many other dance web sites that linked to her domain name, so this company earned a large amount of ad revenue based on her reputation, while her own web site was lost to her.
  • Novella (mentioned in the "Keep Backups" section above) had let her husband register the domain name for her. When they got divorced, he retained control of it. Novella needed to register a new name, then go through the tedious process of notifying everyone who linked to her of the need to update their links to her new site. And of course, some never did.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photograph by Kaylyn Hoskins, Solon, Iowa.




Keep Your Domain Name, Even If You Quit Dancing

If you decide to do a career change and quit belly dancing, it's still advisable to keep your domain name. Renew it for a ridiculously long number of years. You can create a one-page simple web site that just says, "Beulah is no longer teaching or performing. Please contact one of these other lovely dancers in our area...." followed by the names of skilled dancers that you recommend, possibly with links to their web sites.

If you don't retain ownership of your domain name, it'll be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Advertising sites regularly buy domain names that are no longer being used and fill them with their advertisements, which could be for products you don't want associated with your name. If someone else buys your domain name, there'll still be potentially hundreds of links pages on other dancers' web sites with your name linking to the domain name that used to be yours. I know of a web site that was discontinued 10 years ago which some current sites are still linking to.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.


Why keep paying for a domain name that you no longer use?

  • Farina (not her real name) truly intended to retire from dancing. But after a year or two of doing something else, she realized she wanted to return to it. But when she looked into reactivating her web site, she discovered that some guy had purchased it and pointed it to a page full of advertisements. When she contacted him to try buying back her domain name, instead of offering her the price of $50 that she expected, he demanded $500. He claimed that's what he had paid for it, and that's what she would have to pay him if she wanted it back. She was upset, but the law was on his side. He had paid for it, fair and square.
  • Magazina (not her real name) let her domain registration lapse when she decided to quit dancing. It was purchased by a pornography web site, and soon she was receiving complaints from other dancers who had linked to her, and now suddenly found their links leading to a pornography web site. Some searches on her name also still led to her former domain name, so people searching for her found themselves viewing content they preferred not to see. Her reputation was damaged by this.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.




Check Your Expiration Dates

Check the expiration date of your domain name. Do it now. If expiration is less than a year away, renew it now. Make sure the registration company has current postal, email, and telephone contact information for you. Also make sure that the credit card number associated with your registration is current, unexpired, and with room on its credit limit to accept the renewal charge. It is now common practice for domain registrars to auction off a domain name if it's not renewed by its renewal date. Once it has been auctioned off, you can't get it back.

You wouldn't want a pornography site to use your domain name, would you? It could happen. In the course of cleaning up the broken links on my web site, I visit each and every link that has an auto-referral, and some of the stuff I've been finding would be very upsetting to the dancers who used to own those domain names if they knew what their reputations were now being linked to. See Magazina's story in "Keep Your Domain Name" above.

Also keep an eye on your hosting company's expiration date. If you don't pay by the due date, they have the power to take your site offline.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by William M. Smith, Iowa City, Iowa.




Switching Hosting Companies

If you decide to switch hosting companies do these tasks in this order:

  • Establish the relationship with the new company.
  • Load your web site on the new company's computers.
  • Tell your domain registrar to redirect the DNS pointers to your new web site's location. Update your "technical contact" to be the new company.
  • Tell your old company that you no longer wish to do business with them.

If there's any bad blood between you and your former hosting company, and if they're not completely ethical, they could create problems for you if they're still listed as your technical contact in your domain name registration company's database.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.




Avoid Working Through Resellers of Web Hosting

It can be tempting to use a reseller to purchase your web hosting services, because resellers often offer discounted prices. But once again, it is better to control your own relationships rather than permit intermediaries to handle them for you.

Why avoid resellers? Here are things that happened to me with over the years:

  • The reseller used a bad credit card to pay the actual hosting company for my renewal. The hosting company proceeded to take my web site offline. There was even a rumor posted on one of the belly dance forums that I had died, and that's why my web site was no longer active! When I tried to contact the reseller to find out why he hadn't paid the hosting company for my renewal, it took 24 hours to reach him.
  • The reseller told me abruptly that we "needed" to switch my entire web site over to a different hosting company. He gave me only 24 hours notice for this. It was a nightmare. It broke all the forms and cgi scripts on my web site, I lost all the web statistics that I had not yet had time to download, I had to set up new email addresses and consequently lost some emails, etc. I don't know why he suddenly lost his reseller relationship with my previous host, but it created a large amount of time-consuming conversion hassle for me, under intense time pressure.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Pixie Vision Productions, Glendale, California.




In Conclusion

It's wise to control as many of the administrative details of your web site yourself as possible, even if you hire someone else to handle the day-to-day updates for you. For anything that requires someone else to be paid (hosting companies, domain name registrars, etc.) it's best to control that yourself rather than depend on your web site design company to do it for you. And once you decide to discontinue your site, keep the name registered to yourself to avoid the possibility of someone else buying it and using it in ways that could damage your reputation.

PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.




Copyright Notice

This entire web site is copyrighted. All rights reserved.

All articles, images, forms, scripts, directories, and product reviews on this web site are the property of Shira unless a different author/artist is identified. Material from this web site may not be posted on any other web site unless permission is first obtained from Shira.

Academic papers for school purposes may use information from this site only if the paper properly identifies the original article on using appropriate citations (footnotes, end notes, etc.) and bibliography. Consult your instructor for instructions on how to do this.

If you wish to translate articles from into a language other than English, Shira will be happy to post your translation here on along with a note identifying you as the translator. This could include your photo and biography if you want it to. Contact Shira for more information. You may not post translations of Shira's articles on anybody else's web site, not even your own.

If you are a teacher, performer, or student of Middle Eastern dance, you may link directly to any page on this web site from either your blog or your own web site without first obtaining Shira's permission. Click here for link buttons and other information on how to link.



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