Buying a Small Business? Here is a Checklist for your online presence.

Buying a Small Business? Here is a Checklist for your online presence.

Often times, a client approaches us soon after its website or email malfunctions, or a client is at risk of losing its domain name. Later on, it becomes evident that a website and email server came with the business that the client purchased, but the new owner does not have the ability or possess the required information to maintain it.

When buying a business, below is a checklist to ensure that you engage in best practices to maintain your new business’ online presence. Appropriate stability is important because if you lose the domain, website or email address, clients might not find you. Thus, you may have to rebuild the online presence from scratch. This process is very costly in terms of time and money.

This checklist is not comprehensive but it should give you a good understanding of what steps are needed to be undertaken.

  1. Ask for a list of “online assets” that come with the business.
    1. This may include: domain name(s), website(s), email address(s), email box(es), dropbox account(s), product lists, etc.
    2. Do not count on the seller keeping a good list. Be diligent and ask for the items above explicitly, one by one.
  2. Explore the domain name – this is probably the most important thing on the list.
    1. Who owns the domain name? Does the prior owner have direct access to the account holding the domain name, or did the prior owner have someone else hold it?
    2. If the prior owner does not have access, how fast can the actual holder transfer ownership?
    3. Which registrar is the domain name held?
  3. Confirm a plan to transfer passwords and ownership of the online assets at closing.
    1. Ask for the names of the service providers, how to contact the service providers, and the URL / login user ID of each of the services. Ask if any of vendors are out of business or no longer provide the online services*
    2. Confirm with the seller on how s/he will be transferring the ownership of those online accounts / data to you. Ask the seller to provide a written record of all the passwords for each login, so that it can be easily passed onto you at the time of the sale.
    3. Request that the seller provides access at the same time as the sale happens. If you wait too long, sellers tend to be less responsive, and you may have troubles getting the right information to take over the website.
  4. Inquire about whether the seller is current with payment of online vendors.
    1. Make sure the seller has paid its bills to its server host, domain company, and any other vendor that provides the online service to the business.
    2. Avoid a situation where the vendor(s) refuses to provide service or ownership transfer because the prior owner has a large outstanding balance. You don’t want to be on the hook for someone else’s bill.
  5. Inquire about the technology used and the monthly cost.
    1. Does the web server run on PHP, ASP or other technologies?
    2. What is the all-in cost to maintain the online services per year?
  6. Test access to all accounts as soon as you receive the info.
    1. Test early – if you have any issues trouble, you can flag the issue with the seller right away. S/he is much more likely to resolve the issue in a timely manner than if you re-approach the seller a few months later.
    2. Retain an IT consulting company (like Restobox) early in the process – we can save you time and ensure you are taken care of during the process.

Buying a business can be exhausting. Very frequently, the business’ website and online assets are a second thought that might be neglected until the new owners realize they may permanently lose access to its data. Don’t put yourself into that situation. At Restobox, we can assist you to ensure your business will have a smooth handover of online assets.
Contact us today.

Thanks for reading!
Leo Poon

*Some businesses hired website companies or freelancers that are no longer in the business of making websites. As a result, the website may be poorly maintained and the new owners may have a hard time seeking for help if they run into trouble. New owners should consider retaining a new IT company as a replacement.

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