Remember when you first got that email confirming that you'd purchased space to host your web site? It was so good back then. You could remember all your passwords. After you and your host company got to know each other, you knew your way around that control panel to set up new emails or install new server software as though the two of you had been business partners forever.
Maybe it went on like that for years, but then cracks started forming in the facade of your relationship. There was downtime when you couldn't reach your site for hours, and it affected your business. You miss an email about renewing your domain and have to scramble at the last minute to save your site from disappearing. And then something big happens -- something more serious -- and the time has come to look in the mirror and decide:
Is it time to break up with your host company?
It can be frustrating to stay in a dysfunctional relationship with your web hosting company, but leaving is inevitably painful and disruptive to your business. So how do you know what should push you out the door, and what's worth fighting for?
How often -- and how long -- is your site offline?
Have you received a call from a client telling you that he can't see your web site? It's a terrible feeling, made worse only by learning that it's been down all day, and made horrific by learning, when you call your hosting company, that there is no estimate for when it will be back online.
This can happen to a host company. It's not ideal, but it's also not terribly uncommon. If it happened once but was immediately followed, once your site was back online, by an explanation of the problem and description of the measures being taken to avoid it again, then you don't need to jump ship. However, if this starts to happen every couple of months, or if it's down for days, you might want to break up with your host.
How hard is it to talk to an articulate human being at your host company?
Even when there isn't an emergency with your site, you sometimes need to talk to your host company and ask a question or add a service. Maybe you want to buy another domain name and point it to your site. Maybe it's been a while and you can't remember how to add an email address for your new employee. Maybe you just want to change the credit card associated with the account. Can you call them? Can you submit a trouble ticket and get a response that you understand?
If the responses you get are too tech-garbled for a layperson to understand, or if the person on the phone doesn't ever seem to completely understand your questions, that can be infuriating when you have a problem. If you don't have any problems, you might be able to wait as all of the varying confused messages get sorted out, but it's reasonable to consider this problem before you make a major change. You don't want to wait until it's an emergency to deal with this issue. If you think there's a major problem with the your ability to understand each other, you might want to break up with your host.
Is hosting costing you a lot more than other people?
Small businesses with simple web sites pay very little for web hosting. Generally speaking, our clients pay between three and ten dollars a month, depending on the host company -- and that includes the domain name. If that number sounds luxuriously low to you, find out what you're getting for the money you spend. Maybe you got yourself into a legacy contract from the days when hosting was indeed more expensive, or maybe someone took advantage of your innocence. It doesn't matter. If you think you can get the same service for less money, you might want to break up with your host.
Can another host offer you better services for your site?
Even a stable, long-respected host company isn't right for everyone. People change, businesses change, and most importantly, technology changes faster than everything else. Just ask all the people trying to transfer their VHS tapes -- once the coolest technology we'd ever seen in our homes -- to CDROM or BluRay. If your host doesn't keep up with the latest and greatest, eventually you'll notice -- especially when it affects your ability to do what you want with your site. If you want to work with new technology but the servers where your site lives can't support it, you might want to break up with your host.
It's hard to say goodbye, but an unhealthy relationship isn't good for either party. Before you feel the urge to badmouth your host on social media, before you start to resent that monthly hosting bill, and before you have an emergency that badly affects your business, you might want to break up with your host. Stay tuned for next week's blog post, where we'll talk about all the things you need to do when you move your site.