Understanding Hosting - Value vs Price

A Company has their website go offline unexpectedly and without warning. They reached out to their supplier and received some canned message in email after a day. It was in English, but a bit hurried by the textual content. After a few days of being offline, and numerous unanswered requests for help, they gave up reached out to us for help.

After some research we realized that their supplier had changed IPs on the web server that they were hosted on. As the DNS records were pointing to the old IP address, the website was offline. We later learned that the old server had been compromised by an attack, and in an effort to track the hacker’s methods the hosting company decided to shut the services off while they were debugging it. The hosting company had restored services from a backup onto a new server with a new IP address but their canned email was not very descriptive as to these events and it wasn’t 100% clear that the DNS had to be updated.

To make matters worse than they already were, as DNS is cached by TTL (time-to-live) parameters, even after correcting the DNS to point to the new server took over a week to fully propagate on the Internet.

As a result, their website had been offline. This Company does a fair bit of e-commerce and produce all their leads from marketing and landing on their website where their potential customers got engaged in a pre-sales process. Being offline was a severe hit.

We asked what they were being charged for hosting, and we were told $3.95 a month. It was being hosted in Mexico after some research, not in Canada.

Hosting Services
Hosting Services

After thinking about this we had to point out some logic failures in simple service terms:

How many customers paying $3.95 a month do you need to be able to hire a decent IT Engineer to handle the server? A thousand? A couple thousand?

Now there is a problem. How is it possible that this single technical resource can help this many customers? How do they prioritize who they call back? Phones are likely not an option at all, hence the canned email response.

Possibly in the normal course of business support might not be too laggy but it would be hard pressed to meet a 4 hour response SLA. It definitely wouldn’t be personal or in context. This is why as a customer, they were left with unanswered support requests and being down for days.

Is your hosting important to you? Does your business rely on your website being online? Do you consider it professional that when someone types in your website address that it actually shows up in your web browser?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a hosting partner. First, consider them a partner. Do you want them to be there to support you? Do they actually know enough about your business to understand the impacts of being offline, even for an hour. When is maintenance done; during the business day?

To us, one of the most important criteria is that there is someone to talk with. We value understanding your business so we can help shape our products and level of response. If you want someone to talk to when there is an issue, the rate you pay per month is a key factor to the level of response you will receive. It doesn’t mean that you have to be gouged, but it has to be relative to the service level expectations.

Another important factor is the hosting platform itself. Are you on a shared, dedicated or single host environment?

Next time you have an outage, just think about the rate and the corresponding possible number of tickets that technician needs to get through if their hosting rate is $3.95 a month.

The lowest price is usually lowest value, and you can expect to get a level of service based on what you pay for.

Here is a value criteria map (subjective):

Investing less than $5 a month usually means that there are hundreds of websites on a single server, and one website getting attacked usually impacts all websites on that server. Sometimes they get blacklisted for spam and your email is offline while things get sorted out; single server, all sharing a single IP and hundreds of sites. No backup control, usually a monthly backup.

Investing $50 a month for hosting usually gets you an acceptable level of service, your site is usually on a shared server but not too populated. A dedicated IP usually removes the email getting blocked by another customer problem. Backups are more regular.

Investing $200 a month usually gets you a higher level of service, and possibly a limited shared server with very few customers sharing resources. Usually PCI compliance or other more stringent criteria. Access to a high level of backups, dedicated IP and SSL certificate management. If you have e-commerce you really should be in this space.

Investing $500 a month usually gets you a dedicated server for your environment, and regular patching. It could be a VM in a highly available cloud infrastructure, but dedicated to your site. other customers cannot easily affect your site performance. Possibly a development environment for patch testing before deployment. Snapshots are made before systems updates for very quick rollbacks if necessary. There is no reason your site should be offline.

If you would like a free consult, please reach out to us we would be more than happy to help assess your situation.

As most things in life, if you stop and think about it a bit, there is a reason that cheap cheap cheap sounds too good to be true. Focus on value, not price, and get your hosting into a program with a partner that cares about your business enough to invest the right resources into managing your public web presence. This is often the 1st thing your customers and potential new customers see. Make sure that its up and running so that there is something to see.

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