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Costly Web Hosting Mistakes To Avoid The First Time. And Definitely The Second.

By July 7, 2014July 1st, 2015Website Design & Marketing
Costly Web Hosting Mistakes: The "Don’t Make The Same Mistake Twice" Series Part 1

It’s so easy to make a mistake, isn’t it?

Some mistakes we just have to make. In a way, we have to “prove” to ourselves that we’re wrong – because usually we don’t start out thinking that!

Other mistakes we can avoid, if only we had a little more information at the outset.

Either way, we comfort ourselves knowing that we learned something. That we can take that and apply it to next time.

Today I’m starting a series dubbed “Don’t Make The Same Mistake Twice” about some of the mistakes that I see business owners make – smart, well-intentioned business owners – again and again.

They can be costly, both in terms of revenue and in terms of reputation. And sadly, not only do I see them made a lot but I see them made repeatedly.

So this series is meant to help you avoid those mistakes if you can. And avoid making them again if you can’t. Because it’s one thing to “live and learn” and another, as they say, to keep doing the same dumb thing and expect a different result the next time.

Today I talk about web hosting mistakes that range from an expensive inconvenience to an unrecoverable disaster – but stay tuned for more to come on the subjects of social marketing, web development and more. If you want to stay in the loop and be notified when the next post comes out, you can subscribe here and share your thoughts and experiences, too.

Cheap Hosting And “Some People Never Learn” Syndrome

We’ve covered the high cost of cheap hosting here before. I’ll let you read that and won’t belabor the issue.

I’ll tell you a story instead.

Some time ago a client asked me to build a website. Afterwards, instead of hosting the site with us where we fully manage the maintenance, security, WordPress updates and backups, he opted to host it “cheap”.

A couple of years went by.

One day, my client called me in a panic because something had gone wrong with his website.

Could I help?

And thus began a two day affair. Because guess who had been maintaining the site? Nobody. And guess who had been making WordPress and plugin updates? Nobody. And guess who had backed up the site? You got it… nobody.

By the time I had managed to back up, restore, fix, update and relaunch the site, my client had incurred six hours of labor on my part. At a hundred bucks an hour, that’s two years of managed hosting, minus the downtime, minus the headache.

In spite of this, my client went right back to cheap hosting – and two years after that, he paid me another chunk of several hundred bucks to fix another catastrophe.

I understand tight budgets. I understand measuring risk against cost and deciding that you’re willing to take the chance that something will go wrong because plenty of times it won’t. Sort of like skydiving without medical insurance. Or driving without car insurance.

What I don’t understand is doing it again.

I don’t want you to be that person, the one who never learns.

I don’t want you to be the one who loses two days of business and several hundred bucks to avoidable web hosting mistakes. But if it comes to that, I do want you to be smarter the next time.

This isn’t really a rant against cheap hosting. It’s a reminder that when it comes to your website – the home base and foundation of your online marketing – that there is more to think about than you might realize.

Insert Coin Here. Pull Head From Sand.

Too many people take a “head in sand” approach to their website. They figure it’s all about technology and they’re not tech people.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. A website may be built on a particular technology but your website is about your marketing. Your sales. Your leads.

Saying that you don’t know the first thing about your domain name/hosting because you’re not a tech person is like saying you can’t drive a car because you don’t understand the mechanics of a combustion engine.

You don’t need to know how an engine works to know you need to change your oil or get a tune up or keep it in good repair before the white smoke starts billowing out from under your hood on a highway in the middle of nowhere.

Now, you could learn all about the combustion engine, figure out how it works and do the repairs yourself. Or you could hire a mechanic.

It’s up to you to decide which. Learning and doing all of the support and maintenance tasks required to maintain a healthy website can come at a high opportunity cost. Instead of focusing on what you do well and running your business, you’re taking on responsibility outside your area of expertise. If the opportunity cost is low enough, go ahead and take it on. If not, remove head from sand and pay a professional.

Ignoring it is not an option. Ignoring it even after you’ve been stranded in the middle of an empty highway – well, after that I kind of stop feeling sorry for you.

The Short List Of Web Hosting Mistakes To Avoid The First Time And Most Definitely The Second

Whether you’re a DIYer ready to handle the management and maintenance of your site yourself, or you’re planning to pay a professional, you should know what’s involved in the good care of a site.

Security. How easy are you making it for people to guess your WordPress password? I’ve been on this rant before – so if your password is still “password” or “pa22word” or “mydog” or even your birthday or anniversary, then change it now or if I see you stranded on the side of the road I’ll honk as I speed by.

And how easy is it for a bored teenager to start uploading gigabytes of porn to the server your website is on and getting you blacklisted by association?

No exaggeration.

I know someone who was blocked from sending emails from her own email account because someone else using the same server had violated the rules.

These are a couple of simple anecdotes because there isn’t enough space left on the internet to tell you all the stories I’ve heard and been witness to.

The cheaper the hosting, the more likely that the company is selling space to unqualified buyers, not monitoring usage or activity, cramming sites onto a sever by the hundred and basically leaving the front door wide open with the jewels sitting on the dining room table.

Backups. Technology is fickle. Web forms stop working. Links break. Plugin updates have a habit of destroying entire WordPress installations. Cheap hosting or not, someone has to be backing up your site so that in the event of technology failure or gnomes, you have a rollback point. If you’ve got the time and know-how, then get cracking. If not, pay someone to do it.

Are you really willing to risk losing your content, photos, your entire website if something goes wrong?

And backups are nice but do you know that they work? I worked with someone not long ago who had a backup and when her site tanked, was ready to make a quick fix. Too bad the backup file was corrupt.

How about restoring the backup? It’s not as simple as “push a button” and your website magically reappears. Do you know how to do that? Do you know someone who can? Or are you risking days of down time as you figure out a Plan B?

Bloggers in basements have better disaster mitigation processes than many business owners. And for them, down time doesn’t usually mean lost revenue and an extra session with the therapist.

Maintenance. So many disastrous outcomes can be mitigated by simple, ongoing maintenance. Look at it like going to the doctor once a year to make sure you’re in good health. Nobody likes to do it, but we do it so that the doctor can tell us when our blood pressure is creeping up or when we’ve been spending too much time behind our desks or in front of a bucket of ice cream – before we end up in the hospital having bypass surgery.

Keeping your website in shape is preventative medicine.

Updating WordPress before it’s two security releases behind. Updating plugins before they get so old that they’ve become the playground of backdoor hackers. Checking for technology failure points, implementing security patches and updates.

Or you could cross your fingers, wait it out and hope nothing happens. Then lose money when it does.

Or, I hope not.

Renewals. “My site is down!” The panicked cry of a client on the other end of the phone stops me from what I’m doing so I can troubleshoot the catastrophe.

Servers are up and running. No problems on the delivery side. Back end looks good.

The problem?

My client never renewed her domain name. Oh, and in this particular case my client never renewed her domain name – because the minute it went back into the open pool, someone else snatched it up. And there went ten years of marketing.

The same happens for hosting. Even if it’s on auto renew, credit cards expire or accounts get closed. If someone can’t bill you for a service (or get your attention to rectify the billing issue), they’re going to cancel that service.

There are so many reasons your site can go down that an expired credit card shouldn’t be one of them. Set up a calendar reminder on every important renewal date and check your services. And don’t assume that because you’re “not a tech person” that someone else is dealing with that.

What’s It Worth To You?

They say you can lead a horse to water… so consider yourself led.

What you do now is up to you. And whatever that is, I hope that you first start asking some questions, like, “How safe is my website data?”

“What happens if something goes wrong?”

And, “Is it worth doing it all myself, paying someone else or just relying on wishful thinking?”

It’s your site. It’s your business, your sales, your leads, your revenue stream, your risk and eventually your loss.

But I hope not.

I hope you reconsider the value of your website and take measures to protect it as the business asset it is.

Have I inspired you to make a change? Do you have any nagging questions stopping you? Let me know, I’d love to help prevent you from being someone else’s disaster story!

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • I think you should have to get licensed to operate a website.

    Not to limit people’s expression or anything, but because if you don’t know to renew a domain name, you should probably give up on the internet for a while. Or you should have a licensed representative working for you.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve helped to avert that particular crisis – “oh, your domain isn’t renewed…”

    I still assert that you could – if you were savvy enough – get away with “entry-level” hosting if you know what you’re doing. Set up backups, set up security through htaccess… but all in all, yeah, managed hosting will almost ALWAYS be a better bet in the long run, especially if you’re not tech savvy.

    That said, picking amongst them will almost always be a challenge – they come and go just as much as the normal entry-level hosting providers, vary in quality and functionality for various folks, and even piss some geeks off from time to time because you just can’t tweak like you want to.

    Which one do you like, Carol Lynn?

    • Well, like I said, you COULD do it yourself… but will you? That’s the break point for most people, which is that they may think they can do it all themselves, maybe they even can, but they don’t. Because they’re busy with their actual business.

      I have used Media Temple with great success. I find they are pretty good about doing stuff they say they don’t but then do it anyway in a pinch (good for the less tech-savvy, especially if you can sound pathetic). And at least you can get help pretty quickly. Rackspace is the ultimate best, I would give them my first born. Those are the two I have had experience with. And then I wouldn’t use Godaddy if they actually paid me to do it, so there’s that.

      I think we should start lobbying for a website license! How many problems would that solve right there?

      • Definitely; delegation and “doing your best work” play a critical role.

        There’s no excuse for a company that can afford better hosting to be using the cheapo-stuff – especially if they have someone hiring their web stuff out.

        However, a solopreneur who is the CEO, janitor, and webmaster? Gotta do some learning until “good enough” isn’t 😀