When you are talking to a customer for the first time, these are the things you’ll need. You have to ask them about their registration. You need to ask them about their website itself and access. The more access you get the easier it is to perform whatever tasks you need to throughout a project. Coming back for credentials after the beginning of a project can cause a delay of days on a project that your team is just getting warmed up into. It can be a pain and is easily avoided by proper onboarding.
When I am onboarding a customer I will start by asking the what they like or dislike about their website currently, then drive the conversation from their to solve whatever problem they have. If they are worried about censorship, I’ll start discussing the details about where their content current resides and how we can move it to a more secure location. This still revolves around the three things I need. DNS/Registration, Website files, and database. If they are worried about design, then I discuss what other websites they like and want theirs to look like, what functionality they may want, etc. Guess what? I still need those three things to do anything.
We only support websites we host ourselves. That’s why I need the database as well. Normally, it’s not an issue, but if you are concerned with censorship and your data is at risk of being deleted, then database dumps are critical.
The first thing which is nameserver and registration access is provided by companies like GoDaddy, Dreamhost, Epik, or Cloudflare. Getting these credentials early is important for later. Access can be shared sometimes, GoDaddy offers this feature, most times it’s easier just to get the credentials from the customer and login. Nowadays you will almost always face two-factor authentication issues, so doing this as part of the initial conversation while you can get the two-factor out of the way with the customer saves a lot of time.
If censorship at the registrar level is a high risk, I recommend moving the domain registration to Epik. They are a Christian owned company that has fought back against censorship. They work with Gab, for example.
You will want the website files. This is not always the same as where it is registered. I can register a website in China, but it can easily point to a server in Miami Florida. The website files will be behind a public IP address somewhere. Looking up the IP address and seeing who owns it is sometimes a way to find out where it is, or what company has it. Knowing who owns the website files is helpful. Knowing it’s Godaddy vs Cloudflare tells you what you are going to have to deal with. GoDaddy is almost more prone to censor or delete a website than Cloudflare, so as part of the assessment it tells you how fast you need to move on the migration off their servers.
You will want a database dump or access to the database itself. This may not be needed depending on how their server is setup, but if a migration is necessary importing a database dump into your own database server is sometimes the only option. I prefer MariaDB as a database server. It’s performant, and was built by the original MySql team and forked from MySQL. Converting a database from Postgres or something else I’m not familiar with, but keep in mind what database architecture the site has to provide an appropriate estimate.
In the future we’ll go into more specifics about migrating websites from various hosts, but this is the general overview for you to think about as you start delving into website development, or are a customer looking for web services.
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Owner, Altha Technology