At StudioCoast, we’re proud to partner with Australian web and marketing agencies serving great Australian businesses. We understand that for many of these agencies, hosting is just a means to an end, but we’d like to suggest that choosing a website hosting company for your clients is actually a very important decision. After all, your clients are looking to you for advice and expertise on all aspects of their site – including hosting.
Back in 2013, Amazon’s online marketplace suffered an outage that lasted a mere 40 minutes, and cost the company a staggering $4.72 million in sales. For the vast majority of small- and medium-sized businesses, that number doesn’t even register on the scale of reality. But even if your clients may not stand to lose $5 million every hour their site is down, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be any happier with an outage. Every minute of downtime for a business website represents losses in potential sales, search rankings and mindshare.
As a web developer or digital marketing agency, you are your clients’ first call when something goes amiss with their web presence. To keep your clients happy, and your phone from ringing off the hook with panicked calls from owners of downed sites, your choice of hosting provider is an important one. After all, your clients pay you to design, architect and ultimately launch their sites into the online world for their market to see. They won’t distinguish whether or not a problem is something within your control, they will only see that they’re not getting what they paid for.
4 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Website Hosting Company
There are a number of factors you should consider when choosing a website hosting company – let’s take a look at a few of the things that can mean the difference between making money and making apologies for your agency.
1. Host vs. Reseller
Right out of the gate, you’re faced with a choice: will you go with a provider who actually offers their own hosting, or a reseller who is simply piggybacking off another host? You may feel, as a web agency serving local Australian SMBs, that there is a powerful statement to be made by supporting a local business – opting for a friendly reseller in your town. The optics are good, and it’s reassuring to have a contract with someone you can actually go and see if something’s not right… right?
Unfortunately, many reseller hosting solutions are not really in the best interest of SMB customers, especially those with high demands. Your friendly local reseller is likely leasing a virtual private server or dedicated server from their hosting provider, and then cramming as many of their clients on it as possible – including you. Worse still, they might just be taking basic hosting plans from the master seller and simply marking them up to sell to you. And when things go wrong, and you take a stroll around the block to get them sorted? Your reseller may be local, but don’t forget – there’s a good chance their servers are not. Visiting their premises to have your problems solved simply means you’ll be sitting with them on hold for support from the actual provider.
If you want to be able to serve your clients as they grow and expand, a reseller-based hosting solution will always be an unnecessary limitation.
2. Data Centers and Hosting Platforms
Even if you’ve determined that your agency can better serve the needs of your clients by partnering with a top-level hosting provider rather than a reseller, you haven’t completed your journey to choosing a website hosting company. Just like snowflakes, no two providers are exactly the same – it’s important to keep asking questions to find the team that will best serve the needs of your clients.
Find out about where your (and your customers’) data will be stored. The Uptime Institute offers a data center tier classification system that can help give you an idea of how much effort your hosting provider has put into minimising your downtime. The tiers range from an average of 28.8 hours to 26.3 minutes of downtime per year. (If you’re thinking 28 hours a year doesn’t seem like much, remember those angry phone calls we discussed earlier? Think about 28 hours of them.)
It’s also wise to find out what hosting platform your provider uses. While different platforms have different pros and cons, it’s important to choose the one that best aligns with the specific needs of your client. For most small- to medium-sized businesses, Windows-based hosting offers a wider range of benefits. Windows excels at handling media-rich sites and eCommerce applications, and offers seamless integration with on-premises Microsoft technologies like Access, SQL and ASP.NET.
3. Hosting Packages and Options
Any top-level provider will offer a range of hosting packages and options. The next step in choosing a website hosting company is to find one that offers plans that suit your clients’ needs and budgets.
- Shared hosting plans are a common and affordable option, and a favourite of web agencies looking to help small clients with limited needs get up and running quickly. Shared plans can often be had for just a few dollars a month, but it’s important to remember they come with limitations. Your hosting provider will likely limit the number of simultaneous processes on a shared plan, and customers with anything more than the most basic demands will run up against those limits all too soon. You should also investigate whether your shared plan will offer dedicated IP addresses, which can protect your sites from being blocked because of spam originating from another site on a shared IP address.
- Virtual private servers (VPS) can emulate an entire server and offer a higher level of performance than a shared plan, even though they are entirely software-based. They’re faster and easier to deploy and manage, have more resources and a higher process limit, and are often customisable. Like shared hosting though, the VPS can still run into limits when too many VMs all run on the same physical server.
- A dedicated server will offer the highest degree of control and customisation, although usually at a significantly higher price than a shared plan or VPS. A dedicated server may be the best option for companies who require maximum performance and anticipate long-term growth. The complete control offered by a dedicated server over hardware and software ensures your clients’ site will never be bogged down or blacklisted because of someone else’s activities.
4. Support – On Your Way In and Out
No matter how much research you do, no matter how well you choose a provider and how stellar their reputation may be, one thing is certain: at some point, your clients will need support. There’s a good chance that they’ll turn to you – but will your hosting provider be there for you to turn to?
When choosing a website hosting company, look for one with support centers located in your country with flexible support methods and multiple methods of communication. Your more tech-savvy clients may be perfectly happy to engage with live chat support, while others will still prefer a phone call. For mission critical websites and applications, ensure you’ve found a provider that offers 24-7-365 support. (Remember those angry midnight calls!)
Beyond investigating the way your host will respond when you’re working with them, it’s good to consider how they’ll respond when you leave. Change is constant in the technology industry, and there may come a time when your clients want to migrate their service to another provider, whether because of a pricing or support issue, or simply because they’ve outgrown the services offered. Make sure you’ve read the fine print for clauses that could make it difficult for you or your customers to move on.
Choosing a website hosting company that will meet your clients’ needs is a critical part of your success as a web or marketing agency. With a plethora of options currently out there for you to choose from, finding the provider with the perfect combination of features, performance, price and support can be a daunting task. At StudioCoast, we take pride in helping Australian marketing teams support the efforts of local businesses, and we can help you. Get in touch with us today to learn more about which hosting package would best meet your needs.