The big problem with the cheap hosting industry is it presents people with the idea that web hosting service is more than what it is. Worse are those hosts that engage in a false package called unlimited hosting. Creating a façade that you can do anything with a package that costs less than $10 a month. Most hosting companies do nothing to change that image. As I frequently state a hosting company was formed to obtain profit. If you become a customer that becomes an expenditure a host will find a reason to cut your account off.
When it comes to an unlimited package, there is little room for competing other than to lower the price and offer tons of gimmicks that are rarely ever used.
So if you have a cheap hosting plan these are my recommendations:
1. Do your own Backups
I cannot stress enough that you should not rely on any single source of back up. I try to make it a common theme in all my posts especially when dealing with unlimited hosting. Regardless it does not matter which company you are with, the best insurance you can have for protecting your data is to do your own backups and store in at least more than one place.
One of the biggest complaints I see between reviewers on this blog and elsewhere are complaints about data lose. Sometimes the client does something that screws the site up or worse the host has a disaster that can last for mere hours, to days, to weeks, or worse just never come back up. Sometimes when the server comes back up data lose happens. Or perhaps your site was hacked. You can ask any company how much compensation you will get for loss of data, at best you will get the equivalent to what you pay in a month, at worse you will get nothing. Is your site worth thousands of dollars and you only paid $5 per month on your hosting plan? Your host will only give you $5 back.
Even Rackspace offers a limit on how much they will give back. So if your data is worth time and /or money do your own backups.
I also recommend investing in a network or usb drives.
2. Don’t Panic
Pardon me as I reminisce on Hitch Hikers Guide to Galaxy. No I am not going to tell you to have a towel ready, though it may help. In short I am going to say not to sweat the small stuff.
You read many hosting reviews; you will see a lot of angry people. I am not saying there is no justification for it. But too often I see anger consume a lot of productivity. One particular person I am dealing with now is on a vendetta with a host and has even gone so far as to create several anti-sites against the host in question. They say they will remove it once they get their money back. I am not sure how much they earn an hour, but I can tell you by minimum wage standards they could have gotten back their $130 doing something more productive. In the end I am sure the host can contact these places and claim defamation and blackmail to have all this work removed, and this angry customer will not get their money back.
If you are with a big host you are just a number, and you may be dealing with outsourced tech support. Or perhaps your dealing with a small company just getting its feet wet and you may serve as their training. Maybe perhaps they are small and suffer stagnation and have been at the same point for 10 years. In most cases cheap hosting is not going to result in a sales rep that contacts you on weekly basis to strategize, nor send you fancy gifts to endear your loyalty.
But don’t panic.
While not every large/small, established /new host is going to treat you as a means to an end, even good hosts have their bad days.
But don’t panic.
I know in the past I have brought up that a hosting company is in this to make money, but too often people really stress over an account that cost less than $5 a month. In most cases the stress is with lose of time invested into work, which is why I stress doing backups. Granted there is also lose of visitors and paid traffic but at that point you should not be on cheap hosting. So if all fails take a deep breath. Failure is a fact of life, and you can either adapt to it or freak out. Not much is ever accomplished by freaking out.
Now zombie invasions, there is a reason to panic.
3. Don’t make tech support your first destination
With most cheap hosting companies support is not always going to be immediate. Sometimes it may take a day or two especially for non-urgent issues.
If there is anything that is going to make you less of a customer and more of a charity case; that would be relying on support to do everything for you. I am not saying there are issues such as a server being down that doesn’t require you to contact support. Though perhaps instead of going straight to support, perhaps go to the notifications area to see if there is scheduled maintenance or perhaps there is an outage.
I seriously advise against asking talk to the tech that is handling the down time. If any company is willing to humor you with such a request run, don’t walk to another hosting provider. As I have told many customers in the past you can either talk to the tech that is fixing it, or you can let them fix the server.
A lot of solutions for support can be found by search engines, F.A.Q. (frequently asked questions) sections a host provides, and not to mention information can be found in most webhosting control panels.
4. Have a backup host ready.
I can never hammer home enough, do your own backups. So let’s say you have a critical issue for days being it down time, ip configuration, database issue, or whatever else that could affect your site and they have ignored your pleas for help over a day or more. This is the point where you have other hosts to move to, my advice on finding a new host can be found at:
It’s better to have a backup host picked out before a service disaster then during,
5, Prepare to get bigger
The biggest failure I find most sites go through next to doing little to no work to grow is the failure to pay for a bigger solution. One of my former clients I have talked about before, he made a Christian Screen saver. All people had to do to get it was give them their email address. For which he was clear that he would be marketing Christian related offers to them. Using such methodology he grew his mailing list to over 300,000 people. However when it came time to take advantage of that list he thought it might be ok to do this on an account that was less than $14 a month, this of course went against the terms of service. Safe guards that were put in place suspended his account before he could crash the server or slow the server down to a crawl. Despite having his account shut down he came back another three times before ultimately being banned from service for the same issues. I have to wonder where this guy would be if he had been willing to buy a solution that would work for his needs.
6. Nothing big happens over a single day of work
Back in 2000 when my first successful hosting operation took off, a strange thing happened. A few people had contact me within weeks of our starting up complaining about not making thousands of dollars. Needless to say I was perplexed as I had spent thousands of my own money over several months (not mentioning the other money from other partners and from a loan) and had not planned getting an immediate payback. Most of these people had what barely amounted to a construction page up. Keep in mind we had paid for advertising to bring people in. As I stated in the beginning of this blog we also had a failure under our belt. Despite now 2.5 years out of the hosting industry the 4 companies I left behind are still up, and still a work in progress with constantly evolving advertising and working constantly to bring in new customers.
Even when success comes, it does not stay without vigilance.
7. Track your uptime / downtime
Before I start into going with a third party to check you’re up time, let me be clear no third party uptime checker is fool proof.
Despite services like pingdom.com not being flawless, they serve an important function. Not always will your hosting provider be honest, nor do they always track up time. On the other side of that option no one has a internet provider that is up 100% of the time or problem free.
8. Social Media
If in the past few months you picked up a Time magazine you might see an internet sensation named Oscar the blind cat. This amazing cat got his start as an internet sensation on YouTube, and through other social media such as Facebook; Oscar and his adopted brother Klaus found their way to Internet fame through a video of Oscar fighting a hair dryer.
There is a lot to learn from Oscar’s adopted parents asides the more important lesson of adopting pets with special needs has its rewards. Which is the value of using social media to bring traffic to your site. Not to mention the best part about social media is it is free.
There is not a popular web host out there that you will not find on Twitter. Often people such as myself follow companies like Amazon.com for special offers such as their retweet for $1 or more towards a purchase. The other value in social media is in search engines.
This site owes its start to YouTube and the many people that shared my video.
9. Keep your site fresh and up to date
This is a gripe of mine I often have when I looked at hosts, they choose to not bother with updating their site. Like one that was listing an outdated version of Windows NT. Upon reading my article they confirmed they were still using it, despite every expert I know advising against using it for serious security issues.
There are very good reasons behind this point. You watch enough advertising you will see that commercials are design to get your attention. A web site is the most critical form of advertising for any web based business. If your site does not capture a possible customer attention, someone else’s web site will.
10. Secure your site
The last if not least of my ten points is securing your site. While your web host may do a lot to secure your site there are things that you will need to if you cannot afford a web master. Such as updating scripts and other aspects of your site, hackers are constantly looking for weak points.
Another part to this point in security is your password. Change it often and make your own system for a complex password. The lamest excuse ever for a simple password such as ‘password’. Seriously I cannot tell you the number of times I have found hacked accounts that had this password or perhaps one that is the same as the user name for an account. You have no one to blame but yourself if your account has been hacked and no host good or bad host will take responsibility for your account being hacked especially if the fault is yours.
I could go into a whole post on methodology to create your own password just to remember it. But the best I can do is to recommend one that is a combination of things, stay away from small easy ones. Granted no password is perfect but a simple one is just an invitation to a hacker to make your day miserable.
On a side note: The image that often comes to my mind is an episode of the Simpsons when I think of the cheap hosting industry and the practice of over selling so called unlimited space.
In short Homer offers to do things that go way beyond that of a sanitation department. Which bankrupts that department, and he has to allow other cities to dump in Springfield to make up for the inflated budget. The show ends with the relocation of Springfield.