Over the past three years, my website has been hosted by four separate hosting providers. I’ve been hacked (and had to pay to have the site cleaned — quite expensive, might I add), had unacceptable site downtime, lost access to email due to site outages, and frankly, grown weary of the BS associated with running a business that’s continually interrupted by technical difficulties entirely out of my control.
But here’s the kicker — I thought that any old hosting plan would do. That’s where I went wrong.
After my site being down three times in less than a week thanks to the folks at HostGator, I said to hell with it and sought out a better solution. I’ll get to my ultimate resolution in a bit, but in the interests of helping fellow business owners — let’s talk about what’s important to running your business.
Your Hosting Provider
I was long a fan of shared hosting situations. They’re cost-effective and, if just starting a blog or online presence, perfectly reasonable solutions for the bandwidth you need to get things done each day. But when traffic goes up and you have to share your server space with other sites, those inexpensive plans aren’t the best option. Oftentimes, you have limited bandwidth (reason #1 why these plans are cheap). You’re at the mercy of the activity of other sites on your server and their activity. And then there’s the big bugaboo in my book — when your site goes down, email goes with it. This is worth fuckall when you’re trying to get business done.
Before you opt for a host, take a poll of your audience and peers. Find out what services they are using. But go a step further, because not all of their recommendations will apply to you. Here’s why:
- Your site versus theirs: You can only make an apples-t0-apples hosting comparison by talking to someone who has the same bandwidth requirements as you do. If you’re using WordPress, do they use WordPress? What kind of traffic do you generate in comparison to their site?
- Ownership: This is particularly important if you purchase your hosting services through an agency or reseller. YOu have to understand who “owns” your hosting account. Even if it’s YOUR site, your reseller or agency that’s kindly hosting your site might “own” the hosting account. That means you don’t get C-panel access. It means you can’t really even call customer support without that owner on the line. This is bullshit — you should always have 100% access and control to your website and back-end site management. And it’s not the host’s fault — it’s yours for not asking and knowing this is important.
I’ve learned my lesson: my hosting and email need to be separate. I can’t get work done without email, but can live with periodic technical blips in my website uptime (it’s technology — shit happens). If you need your email as much as I do, you might consider segregating your email and web hosting. This way, should your site go down, your email will remain up and business can proceed. Nothing is more annoying than looking at your inbox and thinking, “Shit howdy — it sure is quiet in here” and then realize your fucking website has been down which is why you’re not getting your email and all sorts of Lindsay Lohan-flavored fuckery ensues.
If you’re considering segregating your email hosting, Google Apps is one solution. I opted to use Rackspace for $10 per month. I simply couldn’t justify Google having any more of my information than necessary and they’ve had outage problems-a-plenty lately as well. Rackspace was awesomely simple to set up on my iPhone and desktop mail client (I use Sparrow as my iPhone client and MacMail as my desktop client) and it’s been a seamless transition.
So what did I do with my web hosting?
I’m comfortably serviced by Synthesis, now and hopefully until eternity. A product of Copyblogger Media, I’ve known about Synthesis for quite some time. Here’s why I bothered them with my web woes — with the volume of traffic Copyblogger has received over the past 5 years, they understand that downtime is bullshit. With more and more small to mid-sized businesses using WordPress as a platform, they also understand the security issues and continuous hack attempts that proliferate the interwebz. I pay full retail price (roughly $70~/quarter) — there are no favors here. But here’s what I’ve noticed in the past 48 hours since this transition was made:
- My site loads like a motherfucker. By motherfucker, I mean fast — and that’s huge, as I have a graphics-heavy site.
- The service has been unparalleled. They handled the port from HostGator to Synthesis soup to nuts. One point of contact (yo, Derick!), and a conspicuous absence of web hosting-related bullshit.
- A lighter website. With the built-in security features offered by Synthesis for WordPress-powered sites, I could uninstall a ton of security plugins. This makes my site just as secure and run even faster — equally important for my audience AND me.
And no — the folks at Synthesis didn’t ask me to write this post. I write about shit that matters to me and my business, and this matters. Web hosting is something most of us deal with, and begrudgingly. I’m over cheap and free and embracing yet another place in my business where scaling has been a challenge.
My email is shiny happy, my website is shiny happy — and if you have suggestions and thoughts to share with folks on your own web hosting and email solutions journey, let’s hear ’em.
PS: I polled my Facebook audience for images of a hedgehog on a MacBook. Here are some gems they shared/created: