Help Me Resurrect a Dormant Website
March 3, 2015 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I hired a developer to build a retail website for me in 2011. He did it, but I moved and the MyPhP account he established for me expired. At the time, knowing how life situations can change, I asked him for a copy of the code, which he gave me although he protested because he though I would allow him to host it on his site. We also had a falling out about quality which later, made me glad I had asked for a copy of the code. I know nothing about coding.

Anyway, he sent me a file called htdocs that he said held all the files I needed. And I recently opened a MyPhP account. I sent them what I thought they asked for, which was:
FTP hostname (FTP Server/Host Address)
FTP username
FTP user ID
FTP password

What they said they needed was:
Database hostname
Database name
Database username
Database password

And after some back and forth, they said they wouldn't talk to me anymore until I sent them what they said they need. I'm told coders won't work on other coder's stuff. I feel stuck.

Since I've paid for an account I don't seem to know how to use, where do I find that stuff they say they need?
posted by CollectiveMind to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You are very far above your paygrade. Coders will work with other coder's stuff. Hire someone to set this up for you.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:10 AM on March 3, 2015 [10 favorites]

If the previous person did not give you this information he / she didn't give you the website.
From my point of view you are the rightful owner of your website content. You paid for this so you own it. Aks again kindly by phone / email. Then in writing. If not legal action.
Question remains if a retail website from 2011 is worth all the trouble. By now its time of a mayor overhaul and since its retail I assume most products have changed as well.
Check out services from very easy to use and no mystery coding either..
About $80 per year...
posted by Mac-Expert at 9:13 AM on March 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I'm having a hard time figuring out what you mean by a "MyPHP account". There's an open-source content-management package called MyPHP; are you using a company that provides hosting for that product, or is there something else going on?

It sounds like you need a web host who will give you access to both a web server and a database server. Then you upload the PHP code to the web server (which is what those FTP connection details are for) and tell it how to connect to the database server (which is what the database connection info is for). The way you do that configuration will depend on the application. In your case, it sounds like the code is all custom-written, so I wouldn't be surprised if it involves editing some config files.

But as DarlingBri said, if you don't understand how this stuff works and it's important to your business, you need to hire someone who does understand it.

I'm told coders won't work on other coder's stuff.

I'm a coder, and this is absolutely false.
posted by teraflop at 9:14 AM on March 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

So was that a typo that he gave you an htdocs file, and did he actually give you a folder called htdocs? B/c it's quite possible that there is a config file inside that directory with the database info that they are requesting. But if they are the ones telling you coders don't work on other people's stuff, I would move away from them fast as possible. Programmers are always working on previously written code, and many, many projects of a typical freelancer developer involve rescuing something that another programmer abandoned. I too would be skeptical that there is much worth saving here, but you should be able to find someone who will (for a fee) take a look at what you were given and tell you if it's all there/how it looks, etc.
posted by snowymorninblues at 9:21 AM on March 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

Coders often don't like to work on other people's code, and it can be challenging and time consuming to do so, but if the code is documented and commented it shouldn't be a show stopper.

I think your ISP stopped wanting to work with you because they were asking for some specific information and your were giving them the wrong answers. At some point they realized there was no point in continuing to ask because either you didn't have it or didn't understand what they are asking.

Most likely the htdocs contained the code of the website, but you also need a dump of the database.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:22 AM on March 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

Are they asking you for the ftp/database connection info for the previous host?

The database connection info is usually stored within one of the files that is within the htdocs folder that you were given. You'll either need to find this or send everything in the htdocs to the new host so that they can do so. I can't give you specifics because I don't quite know about this MyPHP CMS, if that's what you're talking about (I agree with the questions above - what do you mean by 'myphp account'?)

You should maybe read up on installing MyPHP to see where the database connection information is stored. If this sounds like alien bullshit to you, be prepared to pay someone else to investigate/do this and try not to burn bridges with them in the future or at least prepare for the fact that you may at some point burn bridges with them.

For instance, you could get a hosting account, and be in control of it, and provide connection info as it's needed to the coder, then rescind this info after they're done. At this point, as someone else above said, it may be better to start from scratch, especially if there were quality issues, as you've said.
posted by destructive cactus at 9:23 AM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Maybe this will help with some of your confusion: it seems to me that your website was a database-driven website. This means that the files you got supply the framework of the site, but much of the actual content (text, possibly images and files), is held in a database. Code in the framework files query the database to get the content when a browser loads the page.

The question here is: did he give you the database, or a file that contains the database's contents? Because if you don't have that, you're missing a part of the site. And if you don't have control of the database, then you don't have control of your site.
posted by telophase at 9:24 AM on March 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

DarlingBri has answered your exact question correctly but I feel I need to strongly encourage you to forget the old site and get yourself set up with a retail store on Shopify or similar. The world was much different in 2011 and I guarantee that your site is not PCI compliant and a myriad other things that are too technical to go into here. Let's just say that you are in possession of a very old rusty car made way back in the 50's and it will cost you $40k to fix it when you can have a much better modern car for $10k.
posted by rada at 9:28 AM on March 3, 2015 [13 favorites]

nthing rada: whatever code and data you may (or may not) have is of limited use to you, and a fully-hosted service through SquareSpace or Shopify or BigCartel or wherever is going to be the way to resurrect your retail site, not through this code.

If the site relied on a database and you don't have the database, the code itself is mostly useless. If you have a database SQL dump and there's something worth salvaging in it (for instance, a list of previous customers or purchases) then you can hire someone to extract that.
posted by holgate at 11:20 AM on March 3, 2015

Let's just say that you are in possession of a very old rusty car made way back in the 50's and it will cost you $40k to fix it when you can have a much better modern car for $10k.
Also the car you own is not street legal, wouldn't pass the emissions test, and it's only a matter of time until it catches fire while you are driving it down the highway. This may be a metaphor, but it is not an exaggeration.

You do not want to be using custom built e-commerce software. You do not want to be using unmaintained e-commerce software. You don't even want to be acquainted with anyone who is using unmaintained custom built e-commerce software.

Hire someone who can help you extract the content (presumably products, sales records, promotional mailing lists, &c) from what it is you have and put it into a different platform entirely. If you know any more keywords about the data you have we might be able to point you in the direction of helpful resources to do this. For instance, do you recognize MySQL as a technology that you were told was being used by your website?

Think of it as though you are on Antiques Roadshow and you need an expert to help you identify what exactly it is you are holding in your hands.
posted by books for weapons at 12:18 PM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Coders will work off of other coder's code; however, ISPs will not typically work to resurrect a bagful of code that a non-coder hands them. At least, not for $29.95/month or whatever you're paying for the hosting account.

You need to find a new developer. Sorry.

If you're considering threatening the previous developer with legal action: that would almost certainly be a complete waste of time and money. Don't.
posted by doctor tough love at 12:26 PM on March 3, 2015

To (I hope!) clarify what others said above: the site code base and the database are two totally separate entities. The database holds the stuff you see on the site (among other things), and the site code grabs the stuff from the database and puts it in the browser so you can see it.

It's very, very possible that a programmer who was annoyed with you for some reason took your request literally and gave you the site's code base, and not the site's database. If that happened, as others have said, the code is basically useless.

I'm with everyone else -- hire someone to make you a great new website using a pre-built e-commerce solution, or use a standalone e-commerce solution like Square. Any custom e-commerce website made in 2011 is probably *really* not worth saving.
posted by nosila at 12:57 PM on March 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I agree that you don't want a hand-built site. Then you're totally beholden to your developer, you won't be able to easily integrate add-ons/extensions, and you won't have any support/camaraderie from fellow platform users.

e-commerce has changed a lot in 4 years. You can probably make a great store on Shopify, Bigcommerce, or another hosted platform with a beautiful template - and it'll be a lot cheaper and nicer looking than your previous site. Or you can hire someone to code you a site on Magento, Woocommerce, etc.
posted by radioamy at 2:37 PM on March 3, 2015

I agree, you should just find some PHP shop in your city to do this. There are plenty of companies that take on little tasks like this, and any of them will have PHP knowledge.
posted by deathpanels at 7:36 PM on March 3, 2015

Response by poster: I appreciate all of the considered and consistent advice. Thank you all very much.
posted by CollectiveMind at 9:59 PM on March 7, 2015

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