Consider your exit strategy. What, now? I’m just signing up!

When selecting a provider for your domain names, website hosting, email, cloud services or similar, it’s worth devoting some time as to how you would leave the service for which you’re about to sign up. Otherwise it can become either annoying or stressful or difficult and perhaps even expensive to leave.

Reasons for leaving a service

  • As far as you are concerned, the provider has not delivered on promise
  • The scale of what you are doing has changed and you now need a bigger/smaller service – and you may need to do this rapidly
  • You can get the same service for a lower cost elsewhere
  • The provider has gone bankrupt (it happens)
  • You’re selling your business to someone who wants to use their preferred provider

Exit issues

Below are some operational recommendations with an outline of what you might avoid, though you should be aware that we attach no warranty to any of this because circumstances will vary.

One of the biggest modifiers to the situation is whether or not you have the full co-operation of the existing provider. If they are no longer there (eg gone missing, bankrupt) then your problems could scale up dramatically.

Exit fees


Look for or ask about exit fees before you commit. It’s their unexpectedness that makes them annoying.

What you avoid

Depending upon the service, there may be exit fees that are part of the terms and conditions of the provider. Certainly it’s possible that the provider may need to spend time doing ‘housework’ to deal with your exit and so some fee may be appropriate. However, some providers have been known to be generous to themselves at this time.

Migration costs


Since there may be good economic reasons for changing provider, you just have to accept that there may be transition costs and that the migration will take time, so build this into the equation.

Note that technical compatibility can be one of the biggest hurdles in moving providers. Here we’re not arguing about the validity of the reasons for the technology change – see an independent consultant for that – but just showing where resources may be needed or costs might arise:

Technical considerations for a migration

  • Website content management system (CMS) change – if there are no import/export tools then a lot of manual copy and paste will be needed
  • Website technology change
  • Database type change – there may be import/export tools that may or may not work properly, otherwise programming or scripting will be required
  • Database structure change – this will require programming or scripting work
  • Mail system change – some changes may not be possible and/or economic eg moving from Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 to the cloud-based Office 365 in a single hop.

Loss of analytics


Most website owners like to have some idea of the traffic to their website(s) and some even tailor their website in response to that traffic. Traffic analysis is performed using hidden analytics code embedded in the website.

Your organisation needs to own and run its own analytics – it’s not too hard to learn and there are websites and even books about it. For further protection you can consider having two managerial log ins to your analytics and record the credentials somewhere secure too. If you are not confident about using it, you may also want to consider writing down the steps to get in and out of the analytics service.

What you avoid

If you go to a new website designer, you may lose the analytics (eg Google Analytics) because it’s run under the name of your (now former) designer. This means that you can’t compare the performance of the old website against the new.

Domain names


Manage your own domain names directly and not via your website agency.

On the other hand, if you chose to let the agency run your domain names, at the very least do a ‘lookup’ to ensure that you are the registrant.

What you avoid

Your website agency may have registered a domain name for you, but registered it in their name, not yours. If the agency disappears, is not co-operative etc, you may have difficulty changing the domain name records to your new website or mail service.


Terms and conditions of service can vary over the time you are with a provider. If you are with a provider for years, then the Ts and Cs will almost certainly change, so keep those notification emails in case you need to prove that you were not told about a particular change.