Recently I received a call from a former client, concerned that their website was down. We helped them set up their web host services with a nationally recognized company and provided them all the information they needed to manage their account before continuing on with our other services.
Then one day we got a call. They were frantic and concerned (and not without a heavy dose of blame on us) because the site had been down and nobody could figure out why. We were the last people they entrusted their site to so we were the obvious
Ultimately everything got worked out, but when it come time to renew their services with the web host provider the credit card on file had expired, as had their primary contact email addresses. The web host went no further in trying to contact the company (anyone hear of a phone?) before disconnecting the account.
Our former client was able to get web hosting restored and all was well with the world, with the exception singular exception that they continue to use the same web host provider.
Web hosting, like sex, is generally one of those things you don't think about unless you don't have it or until there is a problem. Web hosting is often considered as one of the web site's "utilities," similar to how you need to pay your electric bill in order to keep the lights on. But the simplicity of setting up an account with the electric company and having them send out the monthly meter-reader pales in comparison to setting up a web hosting account. The hosting package you choose will play a significant role in the overall performance of your site.
You may not be concerned about your web hosting package today, but I guarantee you that you'll be thinking about it the minute your site goes down or you are unable to send or receive email. Over the years I've used almost a dozen different web hosts providers. In that time, I've found only one or two that I feel I can trust completely.
While there are many, many features any given web host provider offers, there are only a handful of issues that you must pay particular attention to before selecting your web host company.
Web hosting prices aren't as significant as they once were. With prices in equipment dropping, it's fairly simply to find a low-cost web host provider that appears to give you all that you need. There is abundant $5 and even free hosting services that can meet the needs of the average person, and even possibly a small but growing company. But the old axiom is true, you often get exactly what you pay for.
While there are certainly differing equipment needs for differing levels of hosting service, the most significant expense in web hosting is largely in the quality of service you are being provided. If you feel you are getting a great deal compared to other providers, its quite possibly you'll sacrifice customer service to get it.
You should never choose a web host based solely on cost. As inexpensive as it might be month to month, a poor provider can cost you thousands of dollars in lost sales if your site or email goes down or simple fails to function properly on a consistent basis. A couple of years ago I had a situation where I chose cheap over anything else. My experience was short but costly. My site frequently went down and customer support often went weeks without returning calls or emails. That was a lesson learned.
Downtime / Up-time
Many providers offer some kind of up-time guarantee. Be sure to read the small print in order to fully understand what that means. I've dealt with providers which the guarantee was only for the website and not for email. One time I went a full day without functioning email and the host refused to give me any discount or credit on that month's service charges.
Many providers give a 99.9% up-time guarantee. This means that the provider guarantees that their servers will not go down for more than 8 hours per year or less than 45 minutes each month. Of course, if you're in the middle of a big marketing campaign, 45 minutes can be crucial.
Talk to your provider, or whoever you are considering to be your provider, about their up-time guarantees. Ask about redundant back up, what happens if a server crashes or the power goes out. Many small web host companies that house their own equipment don't do enough to ensure consistent up-time.
If a provider fails to meet their guaranteed up time, you can usually get your hosting charges waived for the month. If it happens regularly, you can literally go months without having to pay fees. Sounds nice, but it's really not adequate compensation for the amount of traffic, and perhaps business, you lose while your website or email is not functioning as it should. If you are currently with a host that goes down more than a couple times a year, you may want to reconsider who you host your website with.
In the next post I'll address issues such as speed, bandwidth, monitoring, space, email and secure servers, then in the third and final post of this series I'll address ftp access, control panel, tech support, in-house options. Stay tuned.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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