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Mothballing Your Web Site

About This Document

When the funding for a project finishes it is normally expected that the project's Web site will continue to be available in order to ensure that information about the project, the project's findings, reports, deliverables, etc. are still available.

This document provides advice on "mothballing" a project Web site.

Web Site Content

The entry point for the project Web site should make it clear that the project has finished and that there is no guarantee that the Web site will be maintained.

You should seek to ensure that dates on the Web site include the year - avoid content which says, for example, "The next project meeting will be held on 22 May".

You may also find it useful to make use of cascading style sheets (CSS) which could be used to, say, provide a watermark on all resources which indicate that the Web site is no longer being maintained.


Although software is not subject to deterioration due to aging, overuse, etc. software products can cease to work over time. Operating systems upgrades, upgrades to software libraries, conflicts with newly installed software, etc. can all result in software products used on a project Web site to cease working.

It is advisable to adopt a defensive approach to software used on a Web site.

There are a number of areas to be aware of:

  • If you are using unusual configuration features for the Web server software the Web site may stop working if the server software is upgraded (e.g. a new version of the server software is installed) or replaced (you move from Microsoft's IIS software to Apache).
  • If you are using special features of the Web site's search engine software aspects of the Web site may cease to work if the search engine software is upgraded or replaced.
  • If you are using online forms on your Web site these may cease to work if the backend scripts are updated.
  • If you are using a Content Management System or server-side scripting technologies (e.g. PHP, ASP, etc.) on your Web site these may cease to work if the backend technologies are updated.
  • If you provide automated feedback, annotation tools, etc. which allow users to give comments on resources on your Web site there is a danger that the tools may be used to submit spam or obscene messages. With popular feedback tools there may be automated devices which will submit inappropriate messages automatically.

Process For Mothballing

We have outlined a number of areas in which a project Web site may degrade in quality once the project Web site has been "mothballed".

In order to minimise the likelihood of this happening and to ensure that problems can be addressed with the minimum of effort it can be useful to adopt a systematic set of procedures when mothballing a Web site.

It can be helpful to run a link checker across your Web site. You should seek to ensure that all internal links (links to resources on your own Web site) work correctly. Ideally links to external resources will also work, but it is recognised that this may be difficult to achieve. It may be useful to provide a link to a report of the link check on your Web site.

It would be helpful to provide documentation on the technical architecture of your Web site, which describes the server software used (including use of any unusual features), use of server-side scripting technologies, content management systems, etc.

It may also be useful to provide a mirror of your Web site by using a mirroring package or off-line browser. This will ensure that there is a static version of your Web site available which is not dependent on server-side technologies.


You should give some thought to contact details provided on the Web site. You will probably wish to include details of the project staff, partners, etc. However you may wish to give an indication if staff have left the organisation.

Ideally you will provide contact details which are not tied down to a particular person. This may be needed if, for example, your project Web site has been hacked and the CERT security team need to make contact.

Planning For Mothballing

Ideally you will ensure that your plans for mothballing your Web site are developed when you are preparing to launch your Web site!

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