Technical Audit: Making sure your acquisition is solid technically
A technical audit is a comprehensive examination of the technology and systems that underpin a website’s operations. It’s an essential due diligence step when acquiring an online business, as it uncovers potential risks and issues that could impact the site’s long-term stability and scalability. This article will guide you through the key components of a technical audit for a website acquisition.
Why a Technical Audit is Important for Acquisition
Technical due diligence helps ensure that you’re not acquiring a “lemon” — a website with hidden problems that could become costly and troublesome. By thoroughly vetting the technical aspects of a site, you can avoid surprises, plan for future investments, and negotiate better terms for the purchase.
Areas Covered in a Technical Audit
Evaluate the scalability and robustness of the site’s architecture. Is it built to handle growth, and can it manage increasing traffic without performance issues?
Assess the quality of the hosting solutions. Are they reliable, secure, and cost-effective for the scale of the business?
Examine the codebase for quality, maintainability, and up-to-date documentation. Poorly written code can be a source of security vulnerabilities and costly to maintain.
Identify any security gaps by checking for adherence to best practices, such as regular updates, use of HTTPS, data encryption, and compliance with security standards.
Ensure that the site complies with relevant regulations, such as GDPR for privacy or PCI DSS for e-commerce sites that handle credit card transactions.
Site Speed and Performance
Check the loading times and responsiveness of the site. Speed is a crucial factor for user experience and SEO.
Verify the integrity and structure of the databases. Look for clean, well-organized data that follows best practices.
Assess the site for technical SEO issues that could affect search engine rankings, such as broken links, improper use of tags, or slow site speed.
Review all third-party services and ensure they are integrated properly. Check for any outdated or unsupported software components.
Evaluate the site’s backup solutions and disaster recovery plans. Are they adequate, and do they ensure data is recoverable in case of an incident?
Conducting the Technical Audit
Collect all available documentation on the website’s technical setup, including architecture diagrams, hosting details, and access to the code repository.
Use Automated Tools
Employ automated tools to scan for common issues such as broken links, security vulnerabilities, and performance problems.
Conduct a manual review of the website’s technical aspects, preferably with the help of experienced developers and IT professionals.
Perform a risk assessment to identify any potential technical debt and the cost of rectifying identified issues.
Create a list of actionable insights and recommendations to address any discovered problems.
Dealing With Technical Aspects as a Non-Technical Acquirer
If you’re considering an acquisition but don’t have a technical background, it’s crucial to approach the technical audit with a strategy that compensates for this knowledge gap. Here are some steps to ensure you’re well-informed and protected:
Partner with Technical Experts
Hire or consult with a technical expert who can translate complex technical jargon into straightforward business terms and help you understand the implications of the technical audit.
Technical Advisory Services
Consider engaging technical advisory services to perform the audit on your behalf. These services can provide comprehensive reports and support in understanding the technical strengths and weaknesses of the acquisition.
Training and Education
Invest time in basic technical training relevant to the website’s technology stack. Understanding the fundamentals can provide a better grasp of the business’s technical operations and potential issues.
Vendor Due Diligence
Request and review all due diligence documentation from the seller, including any past technical audits, maintenance records, and performance analytics. This can give you a clearer picture of the technical upkeep and any recurring issues.
Regular Updates and Maintenance
Ensure there’s a process for regular technical updates and maintenance. This can be facilitated through a managed service provider if internal expertise is lacking.
Establish a Transition Plan
Create a detailed transition plan with the seller to cover the handover of all technical assets and knowledge. This should include a comprehensive briefing on all technical aspects of the business.
Set aside a contingency budget for unforeseen technical issues. This budget can be informed by the risk assessment carried out during the technical audit.
Post-Acquisition Technical Support
Negotiate post-acquisition technical support with the seller to cover a period during which you can call on their expertise to address any technical challenges that arise.
Develop a continuity plan that includes training for an internal team or hiring permanent staff to manage the technical side of the business. This helps reduce reliance on external contractors and builds internal competency.
Leverage Support Communities
For widely used platforms or content management systems, leverage online support communities and forums. These can be invaluable resources for troubleshooting and advice.
By following these steps, you can significantly reduce the risks associated with the technical aspects of your website acquisition and ensure that you have the resources and knowledge needed to maintain and grow your new business asset.
A technical audit is a critical step in the acquisition process, providing a safety check against future technical troubles and associated costs. It enables you to understand the technical state of the acquisition fully and make informed decisions. By taking the time to conduct a thorough technical audit, you can secure a solid foundation for your new online venture.