If you don’t know a lot about the servers where your website is stored – or even which company you’ve purchased web hosting through – you certainly aren’t alone.
Once they’re set up, most of these things can become an afterthought. Or at least that's the case until something goes wrong.
Once web hosting does become an issue, it’s easy to find yourself in a technical maze of overlapping issues that’s difficult to understand, much less resolve. To help you understand why this happens, and to avoid some common traps businesses make, we are going to share a handful of web hosting tips we hope you’ll follow for your own safety, security, and mental health…
1. Work with Your Web Team when Choosing a Hosting Provider (and a domain registrar, as well.)
Whenever a client comes to us with hosting already in place, up goes a red flag. That’s because most businesses aren’t privy to the technical details involved in making a secure call in this area. It’s easy to go with the lowest-price package (more on this in a second), or by hosting through a monster company that does a lot of crazy advertising… you know the one, featuring sports cars and scantly clad beautiful women.
These are easy choices, but they aren’t necessarily the ones that are going to leave your website safe and operating in peak, secure condition.
2. Should I Separate Domain and Hosting Service Providers?
There are some very valid reasons why you might want to register your domain (the .com or whatever address for your website) with a different company than you use for web hosting. Usually the argument is that if there’s a dispute, you can take your business elsewhere. But that very seldom happens in real life. Know that if you ever run into technical problems with your website, having to problem solve with two different support teams can be quite a headache.
I have spent entire days literally holding two different phones to my ears in an effort to get domain registrars and web hosting providers to cooperate with one another and help me to find and fix a problem. Website issues are almost always easier to resolve when your domain and hosting are run through the same vendor.
3. What Do I Get with my Website Hosting Plans?
As with most things in life, web hosting is largely a “get what you pay for” kind of endeavour. When you choose a bargain-basement package, you'll most likely get storage space on an older, slower, and usually overcrowded server. That means your website is being loaded from an outdated computer running software that most surely will be behind the times. And, the same drive storing your site could be inhabited by hundreds upon hundreds of other websites – including adult sites, online casinos, and other dubious websites.
Web hosting is largely a “get what you pay for” kind of endeavour.
By selecting the most appropriate, mid-level hosting package, you can get space on a faster server, and potentially a partition that’s reserved for your website only. Additionally, you’ll likely get more reliable performance, better security features, and fewer conflicts with unsavoury neighbours. Often, these benefits far outweigh the small price increases, which are often only a couple of dollars per month.
4. Understand that Hosting Support and Sales are often Handled by the Same People
A note of caution has to be added to the point I just made. While good web hosting is well worth the money, it’s important to understand that the sales and support departments in most hosting companies are very close, if not the same individuals. So, the minute you call with any issue about your website, the standard reply just might be: “I think we should upgrade your web hosting package.”
In some cases it will be true that you do need more horsepower, but in the majority of situations you could simply find yourself paying hundreds of dollars or more every year and getting negligible results in return. Paying more for web hosting isn’t always the solution to every problem.
5. Take Technical Answers from Your Provider with a Grain of Salt Because they are Biased
Just recently, I fielded a somewhat agitated phone call from a client who had noticed his website was loading slowly. Upon taking the issue up with his web hosting provider, he was told that the source of his problems could be found in “the way the website was built.” The technical representative at the hosting firm even sent a link to an industry-standard report showing lots of charts and graphs. Naturally, the client was a bit upset with me and my team, thinking that maybe we weren’t totally on top of things. Right…
Upon giving the report a quick look through, we were able to determine (and explain to him) that the performance issues shown in the report were actually server-related issues, plus another instance where the client had installed a Wordpress plugin that was a known bandwidth hog.
In essence, the report proved the hosting company wasn’t holding up their end of the deal. However, they certainly weren’t eager to admit that and it wasn’t the kind of thing my client would have been able to spot without the technical knowledge.
6. Ever Received a Fake Hosting or Domain Renewal Notice?
If you haven’t paid extra to keep your domain and hosting information private, companies will be able to see when your registration expires, and your registration details, including email address and name.
That means, as the domain or hosting renewal date approaches, you’re likely to get a lot of official-looking emails and letters reminding you that it’s time to “renew” your hosting or domain services. Most of them will come from vendors you’ve never done business with in the first place. But, since you can set it and forgot it, these companies are banking on you not remembering who is handling your service.
Responding to the wrong notice won’t just cost you money, but could cause your website and email to go down since your hosting service provider will have changed even though the actual website hasn’t moved. This is usually just an expensive annoyance in the long run, but can result in a completely lost website just as easily.
As usual, it’s better to avoid having these kinds of issues in the first place. Always check with your web partner on the validity of a renewal request.
7. Should My Web Design Firm Host My Site?
Here’s the scenario… your web company has offered to host your site, in a secure environment, for only a hundred dollars or so per month. They take care of everything for you – turnkey – and make billing easy by doing so an annual basis.
And then they mess up your project, don’t seem to have the same sense of urgency as you do around your site updates, go out of service, or are not delivering ROI for the money you pay them. You want to go to a new agency.
But wait, you just renewed your hosting. As you look for alternatives, you learn that hosting should only cost you a tenth of what they are charging. You realize they have you by the nose. You are stuck in a bad relationship and you can’t get out.
Please, don’t ever agree to this type of arrangement. Keep everything under your control – it might mean the future of your business. By the way, the same thing goes for self-hosted sites. Do you run a data centre – then you can handle it. If you aren’t, then use a trusted hosting provider. It’s what they do.
Looking to Avoid Hosting Troubles Altogether?
If all of this sounds like working with a web hosting company is a rough road, we want you to keep a couple of things in mind. The first is that most reputable web hosting providers aren’t going to give you problems, particularly if your site has been set up properly by a reputable web partner. The second is that web hosting is a fact of life – you need it if you want your site to stay online – so you won’t get around working with one provider or another, anyway.
The best way to get good value in web hosting is to work with a team who can help you make smart choices and then keep an eye on your website’s performance over time. Otherwise, you could find yourself dealing with a web hosting adventure that’s even worse than the ones we’ve described here.
I’d like to close this out with one more tip: always have super-admin in your name, using an email address that is not part of your domain, such as Gmail.
This way you will retain control of your hosting and have a key for the back door if ever needed. Make sure this account has a seriously secure password that has never been shared, and that you have the details for it noted some place safe.
Need a bit of help sorting things out? Reach out any time.