Finance

Hundreds of SMEs left in the lurch after website developer enters liquidation

Broede Carmody /

Hundreds of small business owners have been left without access to their websites after the collapse of a Queensland website development company.

Graphics Online, which is based on the Gold Coast, appointed liquidators from Worrells Solvency & Forensic Accountants earlier this month.

The business has ceased trading but liquidators have since written to its former clients advising them to contact a number of internet service providers in order to find which one is responsible for hosting their website.

Greg Tomkins, the director of Top Left Designs, told SmartCompany there has been a “mad scramble” among Queensland web developers to help out former clients of Graphics Online.

“The ones we’ve looked at so far are probably small online businesses but most of them are bricks-and-mortar businesses as well,” Tomkins says.

“We’ve also looked at former clients going through to quite significant medium-sized businesses.

“From what we can gather, there’s about 400 clients – but word is out it could be as much as 900 [clients].”

Adam Ward, partner at Worrells, told SmartCompany this afternoon approximately 600 clients have been affected by Graphics Online entering liquidation.

Tomkins says he is finding that former clients of Graphics Online are unable to access their domains and don’t know who is hosting their website.

“The sites are still running, it’s just if they want to change things or update things or they want support, there isn’t anything they can do,” he says.

This, according to Tomkins, is an issue that is all too common because small business owners are often time-poor and aren’t able to sort the “apples from the oranges” when it comes to selecting the right website development company.

Any SMEs affected by the liquidation of Graphics Online should firstly find out who is hosting their website, according to Tomkins, before carefully considering another developer to work with.

“I’ve always been concerned that anyone can call themselves a website developer or a digital marketer,” Tomkins says.

“Small businesses put a lot of trust in people. And, like other industries, there are people very good at selling and others not very good at following up.

“So we’re saying to people, do your due diligence.”

Graphics Online is not the first IT company to go through financial trouble in recent times.

In December, an award-winning IT company based out of Adelaide collapsed into voluntary administration.

Tomkins says the IT support and website development industry is being challenged.

“There is so much competition and no professional accreditation or recognition,” he says.

“So the poor small business owner is left there not knowing the apples from the oranges.

“A lot of the businesses we talk to don’t know what we’re talking about when we ask if they have their domain registrar details,” he adds.

This story was updated at 1.40pm to include information from the liquidators

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is a former senior reporter at SmartCompany. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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FROM AROUND THE WEB

  • (I’m reposting a comment I left on Facebook.)

    First of all, clients need to be aware of all aspects of owning a website. If the hosting and domain registration are with someone other than the web designer, then they need to be upfront and aware of this.

    Secondly, this type of news makes small business owners more reluctant to put their trust in web designers. They already hesitate because it’s a big financial investment into something they have little technical knowledge about… now the risk that their web designer might jump up and leave!?

  • Steve D

    traceroute

  • Julien Lamy

    I always advise my clients to have their own hosting and domain for this exact reason. You want your clients to be in control and not depend on you. There’s also a good chance you pay more for hosting & domain with the web dev agency than if you were buying it yourself!

  • Sarah ‘sez’

    How stressful for the businesses. The company should give them access to that information. We would be happy to help where we can – http://www.webwise.com.au

  • What do you guys think about Verizon trying to take a 7 year old website? Are there statute of limitations on IP disputes? http://www.roberttanguay.com/legal/verizon-delayed-entrepreneurs-wipo/

  • Digital Glare

    We work in the small business space and have heard this many times. Web designers disappearing, hard to get hold of or the domain is registers under web designer’s name. Please reach out if you need help with finding out where your website is hosted and how you can take it over. More than happy to help anyway we can. http://www.CoolWebsitePackages.com.au

  • Excite Media

    Sorry to hear the news.
    If you need help with your site or marketing, please just give us a call: 1300 392 483 – http://www.excitemedia.com.au/contact/

    We’re a Brisbane web company with a 1000+ thousands happy clients and 4.9 star Google reviews. Just get in touch and tell us what you need!!

  • Jon

    A sad story & a real pain for all these small businesses. Ultimately it is up to business owners to do their research & due diligence that the hard earned money they are investing will be protected. From memory Graphics Online used a proprietary content management system which means their site can’t easily be “packaged up” and moved. I write about this in my book here: https://www.fivebyfive.com.au/book/