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Choosing a Website Hosting Company for Digital Agencies

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.

While supporting your local reseller may seem like a good idea, ultimately it will 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.

Choose a website hosting company that offers local support.

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.

Why Most Cloud Adoption Challenges Don’t Include Security

Since 2013, respondents surveyed for RightScale’s State of the Cloud reports have consistently ranked security as the number one challenge they face when adopting Cloud technology, until now. This year’s report revealed a shift away from security concerns among both SMBs and enterprises at all levels of Cloud maturity. The new top challenge? Lack of resources and expertise.

So why the shift? Why have businesses using Cloud dropped security as the biggest challenge they face? Beginner users, moderately experienced users and those who heavily rely on Cloud technology all ranked security as their biggest challenge in the past, and have now dropped it to 2nd, 4th and 5th respectively – what has brought about this change?

RightScale Report Graph: Cloud Challenges 2016 vs. 2015

The answer lies in one simple fact — companies are becoming more comfortable with the Cloud. And with greater comfort, so too comes less fear. Which in the world of the Cloud, means less emphasis on security as a top concern. Three primary catalysts have contributed to this rise in Cloud comfort: familiarity, education, and specialisation.

1. Familiarity

Throughout history, new technology has been viewed with apprehension until it reaches a tipping point. Typically, technology adoption follows a common journey, beginning with a slow trickle of early adopters. That trickle eventually becomes a steady flow of users, until suddenly, more people are using the technology than not. And finally, the scales tip and suddenly the technology is in mass consumption.

In its early days, the Cloud was perceived as a risky venture, to be adopted only by daring start-ups. Over time, as more and more companies switched to the Cloud, this perceived risk has increasingly diminished. Today, Cloud adoption is hovering somewhere over 90%, and will likely continue to rise as more companies become familiar with its offerings.

As more companies migrate to the Cloud the perceived risks increasingly diminish.

2. Education

Companies only just starting out in the Cloud still face concerns about keeping their systems safe – security is their number 2 concern. Those who’ve used the technology a bit and are beginning to expand and optimise place security lower on their list of concerns. By the time companies reach the stage where they rely heavily on Cloud computing for their operations, security barely makes their top 5 Cloud adoption challenges.

As businesses gain experience in the Cloud, they also gain knowledge. Their understanding of the technology deepens, and their comfort level increases. In short, the more we learn about the Cloud, the less we fear the Cloud. To illustrate, let’s think of the Cloud as a car. Imagine you’ve never seen a car before and suddenly someone asks you to go for a ride in this strange metal contraption. You’re likely to say no right? But then one day, someone shows you a car up close, explains how its engine works, and how it can help you safely move around. Armed with an educated understanding of that once scary and unfamiliar car, you’re now much more likely to take it for a drive.

3. Specialisation

The growing number of companies rushing to migrate their applications and data to the Cloud has prompted a proliferation of Cloud implementation specialists. Managed hosting providers have carved themselves a healthy niche in helping businesses transition to the Cloud by taking care of all those nitty gritty details (including security!) for them. While many SMBs and enterprises lack the deep knowledge and expertise to ensure their Cloud space is secure, managed hosting providers make it their business to remove Cloud adoption challenges by specialising in security, compliance and monitoring.

Managed hosting providers guide businesses through the Cloud adoption process

Businesses that might otherwise be reluctant to use the Cloud can now make the journey with a trusted and knowledgeable guide. Like a visitor in a strange country, the journey into the unknown territory of the Cloud alone can be daunting. But on a guided tour, the whole experience is an adventure of discovery. As hosting providers offer more specialty services designed to remove obstacles in the Cloud traveler’s path, more businesses will make the trek towards adoption.

Defeat Your Cloud Adoption Challenges

Are you ready to make the move? At StudioCoast, we specialise in helping Australian businesses defeat Cloud adoption challenges and transition their systems to the Cloud safely and securely. If you’d like to learn more about Cloud security or how we can help you, get in touch with us today.

Every Business Needs a Cloud Implementation Specialist

The digital age has brought us so many advantages. With all the benefits of technology, it might be easy to assume that running and marketing a successful business in this day and age would be relatively easy compared to what it was 50 years ago when marketers relied on TV, radio, and print ads. But the truth is that marketing is more of a challenge now than ever before. What technology has done – and the Cloud in particular – is to level the playing field much more so than it ever was in the past. Now, any company can utilise the Cloud. Any business can have access to cutting-edge technology. So what can you do to set yourself apart?

First and foremost, remember the title of this article: Every Business Needs a Cloud Implementation Specialist. In other words, while it’s true that any business owner or marketer can attain access to Cloud technology, that doesn’t mean that everyone is optimising its power. In order to do that, you need to find a hosting provider that does much more than simply babysit your infrastructure. What you really need is a hosting provider that’s also a Cloud implementation specialist and one that acts as a partner – one whose biggest concern is the success of your business. You’ll need a provider that not only takes care of your infrastructure, but also provides the highest level of support and a full range of services you can count on day in and day out.

What to Look For with “Managed Services”

There are thousands of hosting providers out there, and most of them offer what they call “managed services”. But what’s included under that category varies greatly from one hosting company to the next. Look for a provider that offers an enterprise-level package of managed services that includes the following.

Maximum Uptime

This sounds like a basic necessity, but it’s vital that your hosting company can ensure the maximum uptime possible for your network; otherwise, your business will suffer. Your provider should be able to guarantee that your network will be up and running as close to 100% of the time as possible.

Choose a provider who guarantees your network will be up and running as close to 100% of the time as possible.

Monitoring and Maintaining Infrastructure

Continuous monitoring and maintaining of your infrastructure, including both your network and applications, should involve your hosting company practicing proactive measures, such as identifying and resolving issues before they become problems – in essence, troubleshooting before it’s even necessary.

Always Available Support Team

If you’ve ever waited on the phone for what seems like an eternity, only to reach an automated response, you already know that this is not the level of support your company needs. Make sure your hosting provider is willing to be a partner in your business and an extension of your own IT team, and that means being available whenever you need them.

Optimising Your System, Codes, and Applications

Your hosting company should provide you with a team of experts that can handle whatever issues may arise, including tweaking code when necessary to optimise your system and applications.

Superior Data Protection

While every host provider will offer some data security protection, it’s important that you choose one that provides superior coverage, such as security auditing and server hardening; server redundancy and reboots; regularly scheduled full backups; and hardware that is secured in a state-of-the-art data center facility.

Much More than the Standard Set of Services

As variable as “managed services” packages can be, there are also some standards that virtually any provider will offer, such as packages tailored for your individual needs, scalability, and automatic software updates. Before you choose a provider, make sure they go above and beyond the standard services. A true Cloud implementation specialist is also a troubleshooter, willing to meet with you and get to know your business right up front, and is proactive in the monitoring and maintenance of your entire infrastructure.

Choose a hosting provider who will go above and beyond the standard services.

Preparing You for Whatever May Come

Your provider should be busy testing your system and making plans for the future, no matter what the future may hold. You should feel confident that your system will continue to operate under not only normal conditions but also at times when your site traffic is at its highest levels. Your provider should conduct testing to ensure that you’re prepared for whatever circumstances arise in the future.

Feedback You Need

Your provider should give you feedback you can really use, such as the number of visitors to your site, which content is the most popular with visitors, and how often (and for how long) your site goes down. This is the kind of information that you can use to determine how best to modify your site or where to focus your marketing efforts in order to achieve the best results possible for your business.

Just because you have access to Cloud technology doesn’t mean you’re making the most of it for your company. When choosing a hosting provider for your business, be sure to choose one that not only takes care of your infrastructure needs, but also one that is a true Cloud implementation specialist. Look for one that is willing the take the time to get to know you and your company; one that will be there for you no matter what; one with a staff of experts that can provide not only infrastructure support, but application expertise and troubleshooting skills second to none.

Choose StudioCoast as Your Cloud Implementation Specialist

At StudioCoast, we understand how important it is to provide our enterprise customers with the highest quality of services possible. We go the extra mile for your company because we want you to succeed. If you don’t, then we won’t either. If you’re looking for a hosting provider that offers a complete range of services, we invite you to investigate our Enterprise Managed VPS Hosting Package. We don’t want to be just your hosting provider; we want to be an extension of your IT team and an integral part of your success. Contact us today to discover how StudioCoast can be your Cloud implementation specialist.

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