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Why I sacked my web host

Apr 4, 2016 | Vee's blog | 5 comments

I sacked my web host

I used to web host for my clients. Here’s why I got involved in hosting in the first place, what happened, what prompted the decision and what I’ve done since. Plus the lessons I learned from doing something that is outside your core business.

Why I didn’t (at first)

Back in the time when I was doing a lot of networking, more than one person had suggested and recommended I should host the websites that I build. It would mean a residual income from the annual hosting fees and I’d have more control over any issues with the host while I was building the site.

At the time I was against the idea because I believed it was important for the business to ‘own’ their website and not be held to ransom by their designer because the also hosted your site.

What changed

But then I went through a string of bad experiences. I had issues with customers’ hosting companies who weren’t helpful or available in a timely manner.

I started having trouble with my own hosts (Bluehost). I’d been recommending them as in the beginning, they were brilliant and easy to use. I think they became a victim of their own success because their support couldn’t cope with the demand. The online chat support were quoting 6-8 hours waiting time to speak to someone!

I also created some websites in super quick time only to discover after the build was complete and signed off that they had no money to pay. If I was also hosting then I might have been able to exert some leverage – ‘don’t pay, no website’.

The leap

At around the same time I got to know a fellow networker who did offer hosting to web designers like me. It would be a dedicated host, so no issues with shared hosting and sites being slowed down because of other websites activities on that same server. I could host as many of my own clients sites on there are I needed. It was a big jump in what I was paying, but it seemed like a good idea. They provided support which meant anything I couldn’t do, they could, so I made the leap.

The migration seemed smooth enough. Everything worked on the new server with the new company. They seemed to know what they were doing.

I started offering hosting with my web building packages and all seemed to be working well. Until it didn’t.

Then it didn’t…

Support was run through a ‘raise a ticket’ system and they would take sometimes a day to respond. Sometimes the responses appeared to be by someone who had less technical knowledge than me.

The server would crash frequently. I found myself dealing with support issues I knew nothing about, that really should be dealt with by support but they were pretty useless and unhelpful too. I had to act as go between client and support which meant there’d be delays in getting the problem resolved.

Major breakdown

Then there was a major incident when the whole data centre, where my server lived, was shut down. My and my customers emails and websites were down for 3 days! That’s when it transpired, that they were third party resellers and their reaction to this catastrophic failure was as if it was no longer their responsibility and they passed the buck on to their supplier.

It took 4 days for normal service to be resumed, but still problems continued for some of my clients and the server continued to crash. They blamed it on plugins taking up too much resource and I should switch them off, but they couldn’t tell me which sites or plugins that were causing the issue and they could write software for me to replace the plugins at £800 per plugin! In other words they didn’t have a clue about WordPress and really this server wasn’t designed for WordPress websites.

The final straw

The final straw was a response I got from tech support about an issue a client was having ‘well I’m no expert in this but…’ Excuse me? Why are you on the support desk then?

This ‘residual income stream’ from hosting was causing me more stress and when I reviewed the figures, actually was not even profitable. It was time-consuming and taking me away from my core business activities – the things I’m really good at, designing websites and creating online marketing strategies for clients. And worst of all my clients were not getting a good service which is completely against my core values.

I was right

I was right in the first place. Clients should retain control of their websites and truly own it. They shouldn’t be hindered by poor third-party service providers and be free to choose who they want or who is recommended to them. I’ve become much better at vetting potential clients and have processes in place to make sure I do get paid. I shouldn’t be involved in providing third party services that I’m no expert in. I should focus on what I’m best at.

After a bit of research and asking around my techie network, I chose a hosting company that do provide support and have expertise in hosting WordPress websites. Plus they’d migrate the sites at no extra cost.

2 months later…

My sites and emails are working perfectly. My clients have had their sites moved to alternative hosts. Now that I’m not distracted sorting out server issues I am more focussed on helping my clients improve their websites and online marketing.

There you have it. Why I sacked my web host, why I got involved in the first place and the lessons I learned from doing something that isn’t your core business or what you’re good at.

Want to know who I was using? And who I’m using now? Email me and I’ll tell you 😉

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5 Comments

  1. Tom Meekin

    Dear Vee, It was very interesting to hear of your experiences and thank you for including me in your mail shot of explanation. We met you just at a crisis point in our life ( and business) you may remember. We were returning from a trip to a cancer hospital with my daughter and son in law in 2009 We chanced to bump into AdaM MAY ON THE FLIGHT HOME and were introduced to Forever Living Products. Sally had always an interest in these but we had no contact. We hoped that our business would ‘take off’ and indeed in a very short time it did and we became MANAGERS very quickly. Our Gobbins Lodge Health Spa business was going well since 1996 but with Stephen’s illness (Sally nursed him at home through the 15 months he survived) and subsequent death we had to cut back, could no longer take guests and then I suffered 2 strokes in 2011. Had we known you in earlier years we could have made better use of your expertise but are always grateful for your patience and help. With thanks and best wishes
    Tom and Sally Meekin

  2. Sandra

    This is a great post and thanks for sharing! It is great that you supported your clients by hosting their web sites.
    As small business owner, i find this helpful as it can be time consuming and also frustrating trying to manage your own website hosting without real technical knowledge but I also see it from your view point.
    Clients will need to take the responsibility in managing the web hosting although I personally would want a great IT provider to host and manage my site.

  3. Vee Smith

    Here’s the thing Sandra, the people who host your site don’t have to be the same people who manage your site. Hosting companies are good at hosting and fixing hosting issues. I’ve yet to find a host who is also an expert in optimising websites and online marketing.

  4. Lee Swaine

    You should not be doing anything that distracts from your core business, sounds like a lot of your time was wasted by issues that should of been dealt with for you.

    Indeed you are correct about customers ownership of sites, people should always ensure they have ownership of the domain name so they are free to move hosts if needed.

    Any good web host should resolve your customers issues for you promptly
    and 4 days of downtime is simple unacceptable, I can understand why you cancelled.

  5. Vee Smith

    Thanks Lee. Too right!

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