Is It Time to Fire Your Website Host?

by CherrellT on August 20, 2011

A business can potentially be crippled because of ineffective or unprofessional website hosting. Host companies are not all the same, so it is all too easy for a business to choose the wrong one. Many web hosts are part-time ventures that are set up by individuals looking to make side money, and they are not necessarily offering the best product or support. Unfortunately, it is difficult to know this up front. If the site has been intermittently down, or you’ve experienced frustrations with their techs or policies it’s no doubt become painfully apparent that the wrong decision was made.

Is the Website Down Often?

The first indicator of a poorly hosted website would be that is frequently down. The sign of a reliable host is one that is able and willing to offer an uptime guarantee. This is usually a percentage of time that the service is guaranteed to be running correctly and accessible to clients. In this industry, there is no possibility of a 100% guarantee on uptime. However, web host companies still should be able to put at least a 98% guarantee in writing and stand behind the services that they offered.

Is the Support Lacking?

With a web host, almost all of the interaction is done through e-mail or over the phone. Because of this, there needs to be reliable customer service that is offered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You are never able to predict when there will be issues with the website and, of course, these problems will not always occur during normal business hours. If the website host only offers limited support options, there could potentially be a time when the site is down for several days before it can be looked at and corrected. Obviously that scenario would be devastating to any online business, especially e-commerce sites!

A modest amount of support should be included in the basic web hosting agreement. There may be additional charges for after-hours support, but hopefully this is not too costly. Many times, a host will offer a number of tiered support options. The user is able to select bare bones support or can opt for complete coverage. Choose a plan based  on the minimum anticipated needs of your company and your comfort level with your site—you can always upgrade but not always downgrade without a penalty.

Are You Stuck in a Contract?

In some cases, it may be very difficult to get out of an existing contract. Many times, such service agreements will be set up for a specific length of time. These will generally vary and can be as short as a few months or as long as several years. Before leaving the current web hosting company, the specifics in the contract should be reviewed—possibly with your attorney (especially if they haven’t lived up to their promises or are attempting to hold your site hostage).

All contracts must have a release clause of some sort, with options to stop service that will include a fee for early termination. In extreme cases, this fee may be based on a percentage of the balance of the term, but more usually there are 30-60 day out-clauses.

Do Your Homework

Once it has been determined that the wrong decision has been made, it is time to properly research a professional company that will be able to provide a much higher level of support and reliable uptime service.  Be certain not to take everything at face value when finding the right web host.  Check out the company’s listing with the Better Business Bureau, look into local reviews of the company and check if they are willing to provide customer references.

Sometimes a host may be reluctant to provide this information and will try to distract you with, “Well if you aren’t happy with the service we will let you out of the contract,” but that’s not good enough.  Having to make another move costs time and money—so stick to your guns and find some happy customers; if they aren’t to be found then you’ve got your answer about that web host.

Remember your website host can be your best friend or your worst enemy when you depend on your website to communicate with your customers.  Select the new host thoughtfully and surgically—you have many more important things going on then to have to worry about your website on a daily basis.

Tommy Ramirez creates websites and blogs about many Internet subjects. He recommends checking out Website Host Reviews for online comparisons of cheap web hosting, details of services and best values to fit your business and personal sites.  Photo credit: Website Down by Sean MacEntee/flickr.

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