11 min read

Let’s talk about your web hosting.

I work in the hosting industry. I’m that guy you sometimes talk to on the phone when you’re freaking out about your site going down for whatever reason. By and large, I find that the people that call in are completely ignorant about the product that makes them money or gets out their message. By ignorant, I don’t mean stupid. I mean they’re truly ignorant as to the way things work and they have a certain sense of entitlement saying, in their head, that the customer is always right.

Sometimes, people neglect to accept the fact that the customer is commonly misinformed.

This happens across pretty much every service industry, but the web hosting industry in particular. Why? Because people want to have a nice site but they don’t understand the need for constant upkeep or having to pay someone to keep the site maintained themselves. They do not want to accept responsibility for everything that comes in tow with a website. Unfortunately, there are certain realities you will have to embrace if you want to host a successful website, not the least of which is the hosting itself.

Today, I’m going over some common misconceptions in regards to hosting a website.

Hopefully, this will serve as an education to some. To be honest, most people that don’t know what they’re doing will just remain pissed off and have a broken site and blame some customer service rep for their issues instead of accepting the responsibility for their website. Nonetheless, let’s educate!

There is a difference between a developer, a designer, and a webmaster.

A developer knows how to code, plain and simple. They can code CSS, HTML, Javascript, build plugins, themes, etc. If you can’t do these things, YOU ARE NOT A DEVELOPER.

A designer is just that…they design. I’m a designer. I work in WordPress for the most part with a bit of experience elsewhere. I can take a theme, put in some plugins, optimize a bit of code to secure and make your site run faster, do some logo design, layout, and some other stuff. This is a very valuable skill set and well worth the money you would pay me to design the site. I don’t code, though. I’m not building you a plugin or theme from scratch. I will use the tools I have available to make you a badass website. MOST DEVELOPERS ARE ACTUALLY DESIGNERS.

A Webmaster is a bit of an antiquated title but this is the person that does the maintenance on the website, updates content, and may help with server related issues. Typically, they are neither a developer or a designer but they can be both.

Your hosting is a tool.

“Treat your hosting like the tool it is. It is an investment that requires your time or your money. Pick one and run.” – Z.H., Hosting Guru

Your website is just a portal to get people to buy into whatever you’re selling. Your hosting is the tool that allows you to get that portal out there for people to see. I often like to use the apartment analogy when it comes to hosting:

“Think of your hosting as an apartment. It’s empty when you rent it. Your website content is your furniture. The landlord will be happy to fix the plumbing if it goes bad (server related issues) but they’re not going to fix the chair your broke (your website.) It’s your responsibility to take care of that furniture and your responsibility to pay someone to repair what’s broken if you don’t know how.”

You can invest your money or your time.

Sometimes, especially in tech, the solution to the problem is to spend money. 

“I tell most the phone story. If you are going to run your business and you are spending less than you spend on your monthly cell phone bill, it’s a hobby, not a business. I personally spend about 85 dollars a month with Verizon for a Pixel 2 XL, that’s $1,020 a year to have something in my pocket to tell me the time and let me scroll through facebook when I’m on the shitter.” – Jim P., Hosting Guru

Read the fine print.

Before you purchase anything, READ THE TERMS OF SERVICE. I cannot stress this enough, because once you’ve agreed to the Universal Terms of Service, you have bought into a contract with your hosting company. Truth be told, at the end of the day, the only thing the hosting company is responsible for is the server and the hardware that runs it. They’re not responsible for restricting access to your site from hackers, they’re not responsible for maintaining your site backups, and they aren’t responsible for making sure you’re doing the things necessary to be successful.

Your hosting company is not your developer.

Yes, I know you’re not very tech savvy. However, that does not excuse you from learning about your website build, how it operates, how to maintain it, and what to do if something goes wrong. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you should hire a developer. People study to do this in college and they deserve to be paid for what they can do.

Number one, most hosting companies have in the Terms of Service (see read the fine print above), which you agreed to when you bought your hosting package whether you read it or not, that they do NOT provide website development as part of their free tech support. (They may have a service, though.)

Number two, those tech agents make anywhere from around $10 – $20 an hour, maybe. A developer costs anywhere from $50 an hour on the low-end all the way up to thousands of dollars. They don’t get paid to help develop your site.

This means if you update your WordPress site or change some coding in your design and the site breaks, it’s not the responsibility of the web hosting company to troubleshoot and repair it for you. If this is something you run into a lot, then you need to be on a website platform that does all the behind the scenes maintenance and troubleshooting for you, like the proprietary website builders that have proliferated the interwebs with junk sites.

Your hosting company is not responsible for securing your Website.

There are various reasons for this but the primary ones are both economically and developmentally based.

On the economic side, it’s simply impossible to absorb the costs for the infrastructure of the security you need on your website. This goes above and beyond the baseline need for paid hosting. You have to employ security techs, deploy really expensive hardware, and maintain a security awareness on hundreds of thousands of websites. That’s not cheap.

On the developmental side, applying strict security measures to a customer’s platform could make the type of website they want to build impossible. This gives them the option to find the solution that works best for them and employ that. It doesn’t limit your adaptability.

You should be aware of who’s visiting your site and react appropriately to the traffic. Do you pay attention to the traffic that comes to your site for SEO purposes? (If not, why?) You should also make sure it’s not potentially malicious traffic as well. A good firewall, outside of the server, your code, or plugins will help immensely. I suggest Sucuri.

Back to the apartment analogy above, when you go out of town, do you expect the landlord to lock your door for you? Nope. You have to do that.

Your hosting company is not responsible for teaching you how to build your website.

We will be happy to educate you, however, because most of us are tech nerds that love teaching people things. That being said, it’s simply impossible for us to learn how to build a website on every single proprietary website builder, CMS, or whatever you’ve decided to go with. Hire a developer or learn to do it on your own. That’s not what you’re paying for when you pay the hosting company. You’re paying for space. That’s it.

Your hosting company is not responsible for the maintenance of your website.

It’s up to you to care about your website. Again, if you pay me to care about it, I will. Otherwise, like most things in life, you’re on your own. Maintaining a website can be a pain in the ass. If you don’t want to deal with it then you need to pay someone to perform that service. With literally millions of websites out there, web hosting companies simply do not have the fiscal means of maintaining your website for you.

Standard tip & tricks:

  • Always maintain at least three (3) backups of your data: Two (2) in the cloud and one (1) on an external drive. Update the cloud backups daily and the external backups at least once every week. NEVER, EVER RELY ON YOUR HOSTING COMPANY TO MAINTAIN YOUR BACKUP.
  • Get a paid security solution with a firewall. I recommend Sucuri.
  • Make sure you check on your website at least weekly. If you pull the old fire and forget, you will pay for it down the road.
  • Don’t assume things are being done in the background by your web hosting company. Make sure you’re clear on what they do and don’t do for you and adapt appropriately.

Your hosting company is responsible for making sure your server is live and you can access it.

Honestly, that’s it. They’re not responsible in the least for your content. Even if the server crashes and you lose everything? Nope, still not responsible. Anything they do to compensate you is a courtesy, not your right. This is all outlined in the Terms of Service as well.

malware-detection-source-codeCommon tips when dealing with customer support:

  • Stop yelling at the customer service rep. As soon as you start yelling, they will not help you. They will simply double down on the truth they’ve already given you. You will evaporate any goodwill you may have with them. If they were willing to step out of the box, they have firmly stepped back in the box. DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE AND CUSTOMER SERVICE REPS WILL HELP YOU OUT.
  • Have your information ready and a detailed description of what you’re having issues with, including errors, bounceback emails, or whatever. When you have to spend the first 30 minutes of a call trying to figure out what the hell the customer is saying, reinterpret what you’re asking for, and then trying to implement a solution, you’ve wasted a lot of your time and the customer representatives time. Additionally, you’re probably mad as hell because it’s taking so long. Pro Tip: Please don’t assume your Google search outweighs the hosting agent’s experience troubleshooting your hosting issue.
  • No one single agent cares how long you had to wait. Do you know why? Because that means if you’ve waited on hold long enough to bitch about it, then so has everyone else the agent has talked to before you. We’re nice, we issue a fake apology, and then one of two things happens. (1) The customer continues to bitch and whine and complain about everything the universe has done to them, or (2) they want to get their issue fixed and get off the damn phone.
  • If you’re filling out a customer survey because a product you purchased isn’t working the way you expected, don’t blame the agent. Seriously, our hands are tied by policy on a daily basis. There are many things we’d love to help you do but, in order to keep our job and provide for our families, we can’t. Because the boss said no.
  • The moment you start cursing or throwing personal insults at the agent, the conversation is done. You can keep prattling on if you wish but, I can assure you, the agent will provide only the minimum support they have to in order to keep their job. We aren’t your servants. You’re getting free tech support. We’re also human beings making just slightly better than minimum wage for the most part. Stop being a dick.

Yeah, that’s a lot to take in.

It can be a bit repetitive but the bottom line is that your website is your responsibility. No one else. You. The sooner you accept that fact, the less disappointment you’ll face. This barely scratches the surface. I’m sure there is a lot more information out there that you need to be aware of in order to be a success. Learn it! Pay someone! Don’t for one minute think that someone else cares more about your website than you. Accept that and you’ll find that your frustration level goes way down.

If you have any helpful suggestions for web hosting n00bs, please let us know in the comments.