I have seen the overlooking hosting problem over and over as the years have gone by, but was recently reminded of this. The first time I saw this problem was when we worked on a project with a local marketing firm for a company that has a fairly large National brand that sells their product heavily during the holiday season. The marketing firm we were working with recommended a $5/month “unlimited” hosting solution to the client, despite our arguments against it, after they had just paid top dollar for a premium website.
Here’s what happened. Every Saturday morning for a month the site shut down. When we called the hosting company, we were put on hold to talk with someone, like that credit card commercial where the man says “This is Peggy.” We were told there was an out of control script running. After multiple weekends we finally got them to tell us what the script was. It was the index.php file which is their homepage. So apparently the hosting company promised unlimited hosting, but had a cap on CPU usage and when people came in droves to the site on the weekend to get information on their product, it shut the site down. We’ve seen this over and over with only slight variations to the story.
What I think is interesting here is to look at the economics. In order to host a bare bones cheap price, the formula is always the same: huge mass marketing, customers are one of thousands or millions, outsource the call center out, and limit access to control the hosting. Though these methods are great for lowering the cost of hosting, they make it nearly impossible for your developers to do much if the site comes down.
What I think people seem to be missing is another calculation, what is the cost of your site coming down? As I mentioned earlier, we saw this again recently but with another company. It was exactly the same kind of thing, the marketing firm said use our cheap hosting, client does, site goes down during their peak traffic of nearly 4,000 visits to the site. My guess is, in this client’s case and the other one I mentioned, literally thousands to tens of thousands of dollars may have been lost in sales in order to save a few hundred dollars a year in hosting.
My point? This is business 101: Don’t step over a dollar to save a penny. Hosting often falls into this category and people think they can go cheap on it. We disagree. If you own a premium website and you are deciding on hosting, ask yourself, if it shuts down how much do I lose an hour? If that number is high or even more than a few hundred dollars an hour, here is what you should do:
1. Find a hosting company that your developers can work with, including support from people who’s true native tongue is American English, or at least the language you speak.
2. Make sure the developers (if they are smart) can fully access the server so that when it is down they can do something about it. If they are not smart, your problems may be greater than just hosting.
3. Monitor the server to make sure it stays up and have the monitoring service text them if it is down, so they can jump in to fix it.
4. Pay your developers or System Administrators to keep the server up to date with patches and other scripts to help prevent malicious attacks on the server.
Unfortunately all of these things do require a small premium, but for most of our clients, the value far exceeds their cost and buys peace of mind that their internet presence is better protected and monitored. If you are really short on cash I think a better idea rather than going cheap on your hosting might be to cut your scope down. If you are interested in our hosting and/or other services let us know. We’d be happy to get you a free quote or consult with you what you should be doing.