The Good The Bad and The Ugly Hosting Services

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I’ve never known a developer actually recommend a hosting service

Unless they were paid to do so.  It is too risky these days.  There are so many options out there.  It’s impossible to decide what is going to work for you if you are a small business owner with no technical experience.  Because so many things can go wrong.

I want to come clean right now

We started out small and went with a Canadian hosting service because one of our first clients asked for them.  We were having problems with our existing hosting service, one of the granddaddies of all hosts, so we decided to move our websites to this small company.

Analogy time! Image you start your small business in a beautiful little city on the outskirts of a major metropolis.  Your neighbors are great, like you, and you enjoy sharing lots of utilities, like water, electricity, phone, cable and even free wireless.  As the years go by, more and more people move to your city and eventually your city becomes a part of the major metropolis.  You still share the same utilities but the service is terrible.  Not only that, crooks have moved into the neighborhood and are using up all the wireless for themselves and they don’t much care at all if you suffer.  Then someone digs a hole and knock out your electricity, and everyone else’s power. In the worst case scenario you have to temporarily close your business for a week.

If you lose access to your business in the real world its tragic

Moving your business may be the only option but can be very expensive.  We are a lot luckier on the Internet because we can move our online business to another company, another city, another cloud. And the costs are far less.

Or can we?

Take a deep breath.  Can you move your website?

Probably not.  You may need a developer to do this for you, particularly if it’s a CMS (Content Management System).  Or if your site is parked with a hosting service that offers you a one size fits all web builder which will not allow you to move the site.  I know, you never thought the service would collapse after a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. This is an attempt to make an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple sources caused by Botnets.  These generate huge floods of traffic to overwhelm a service. Wow!  That’s a mouthful.  But it does happen.

We rely too much on our hosting services, big and small, to look after our online business

Unfortunately, today, we also have to take precautions and have a Plan B in place should it happen to us.

Yes, even us professionals get caught out.  What we preach to our clients is not always advice we listen to.  Recently one of our own company employee blogs (not a client site) disappeared down the rabbit hole for a week.  So we know what it’s like and can offer some advice.

Are you stuck between a rock and a hard place?

Your site has been down for three or four days. You are hosted with one of the largest, global hosting services with a great reputation for support. But its support has been throwing all sorts of advice at you, mostly technical, about why your website is running at a snail’s pace, why you can’t update it any more because the site keeps dropping.  You’ve been getting 503 error messages and your customers are now complaining they can’t even get onto your website.

The hosting service is telling you your images are too large, your plugins are incompatible, or just refer you to your theme’s developer because they don’t support your theme, plugin or anything else……apparently.  They have even recommended an online service which can test your site for you.  You have a WordPress website, but they don’t tell you that many of these tests are inaccurate for a Content Management System website like WordPress.  Hmmm.

Four Easy Rules to Save Your Online Business

  • Don’t lose your temper with your hosting company

    It will get your nowhere.  I’m not saying it could happen but they could get snarky.  Instead look at the following illustration, take a deep breath and hum something gentle to yourself for at least three or four minutes.

     

    zen stones piled on top of each other on a beach

  • Backup Your Website and Database.

    If your backup website service (you do have one, don’t you?) is with your hosting service, always, always take your own backup of your website at least once a month.  You can do this yourself using an FTP solution like Filezilla.  There is one caveat though.  You also need to backup your database (if you have a CMS website) from approximately the same date and time as the backup of your website.  You can ask your hosting service for instructions on how you do this.  It’s quite common.

  • Move Your Website to Another Service

    Before you do this a bit of advice.  “Cheap is expensive.”  In most cases, really cheap hosting services grow exponentially and very quickly can get too big, too fast, resulting in a loss of service.  Sometimes it is really worth going with a slightly more expensive service and knowing your service is in good hands.

  • Ensure you have the best security features money can buy

    If you are on a shared hosting service you have to hope others sharing the service are as scrupulous about security as you are.  But that’s probably not the case.  You should then consider purchasing an SSL certificate.  (You can get free SSL certificates but I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you are a developer.)  If you have more than one website on a service, you can buy multiple certificates at a discount. Currently I have one client whose service was so fractured after purchasing the SSL certificate I nearly lost it with the service.  I have recommended the client move their website and they are thinking about it.  They should move it and move it now.  But the customer is always right, I say, and the final decision is with them, as it should be with you.

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