In an earlier post, “Whose site is it anyway?” I discussed the risks to organizations of having their website’s eggs in one basket. Here’s a look at a situation that happened recently, omitting the names.

Organization X had a wiki for internal operations, hosted by a commercial company for a small annual fee. It had only one designated administrator, who lost interest in the organization. Well before the deadline, they were aware of the issue, and there was discussion of how to back it up. There’s an export function available, but only an administrator can use it. Short of that, there are solutions such as HTTrack, which can download the pages as HTML but not as editable wikitext.

Discussion happened. Not much else did. A few months later, logged-in users started seeing a warning that the account would expire in a matter of days. X contacted the hosting company, asking to transfer the ownership of the account, pointing out that the name of the wiki was their legally registered name. The company said (quite properly) that they couldn’t transfer it without appropriate legal procedures. It was registered by the administrator, not the organization.

Things got a bit frantic from there. The existing organizer was getting communications, but there were conflicting messages on just what he was being asked to do. Was he supposed to reassign the account? Was he supposed to start a legal transfer of ownership, meanwhile letting the account lapse? Was he supposed to renew it and get reimbursed? Was someone at least making a backup while the clock was ticking? If he was supposed to add administrators, who would they be, and could the same scenario happen again if they left?

Fortunately, this story has a happy ending. The administrator decided to just go ahead and renew the account, leaving concerns about reimbursement for later. The new admin account was an email alias on Organization X’s domain, with multiple people assigned to it. For the time being at least, they’re out of the hole. I hope they start doing backups, of course.