Monday, December 7, 2015

Why Web Hosting Matters!

Why Web Hosting MattersHere at SEO Ann Arbor, we offer to host our clients’ sites with a service we call “Business Class Web Hosting.” Actually, to be accurate, the hosting is done through our sister company, Network Services Group, LLC. To be even more accurate, we actually require 99% of our SEO clients to use NSG hosting. Why, you might ask, are you guys so particular about web hosting?

Thanks for asking. I’m bout to tell you!

But first, let me share a typical story we hear from callers and potential clients on an almost weekly basis. The names have been changed to protect the evildoers and their helpless victims.

“My Website Keeps Going Down, Help!”
Yesterday, we got a panicked call from somebody at (their office is only about two miles from ours). Their site was been down all day, and it's back up and running now. Their web guys say it was caused by a DDoS attack directed at SoftMembrane.  Apparently they (The Bird Brain Group – NicePantsDude’s web developers), are using a hosting service called CheapAssHost, which appears to be one of those "pay us $8.50 per month to host your site" companies like GoDaddy or 1and1.  Just for reference, we typically charge people $300 per year to host their sites.  It’s not really a profit center for us because of the costs involved in maintaining our robust, redundant services, but we offer it for a variety of reasons, a few of which we’ll explain below. By the way, a good friend of ours who has a highly effective website and SEO business in Florida charges $85 per month for hosting ($125 per month for hosting both a website and blog), and it’s worth every penny.

CheapAssHost appears to have their servers hosted at SoftMembrane. SoftMembrane (formerly MyOrbit and now owned by HCN) is actually where NSG has several of their servers, though the NSG servers were unaffected by this supposed DDoS attack.

There are plenty of companies that charge $8 per month (or less) for hosting, and, at first glance, that sounds really good.  In fact, when Don Prior first started NSG back in 2001, he signed up with a couple of them.  After all, why go through the expense and hassle of setting up your own servers, paying the monthly fees to a data facility (hundreds or even thousands per month) when you can pay as little as $3 per month per site?

The fact is, they seem to work pretty well, especially at first glance. You pay your $8 for the first month, and voila! You have a website that works...  most of the time.  It turns out, however, that those sites had an odd habit off slowing down at random times or not submitting form data properly, and of course if you call to talk to someone, you are talking to a "script reader" who, when you get down to it, really knows nothing about web hosting or servers. So paying $8 per month makes a lot of sense, but only if low cost is more important to you than having a site that works all the time and having access to good support.

We've seen this happen with our clients’ sites too. National Sandwich was originally hosted with Craftwerk Solutions. Their site had an odd habit of timing out or crashing a couple times per week right around 6-7pm when everyone went home and started ordering sandwiches. We transferred it to NSG servers and … the problems stopped!  The NSG servers even survived their super bowl ad. We've had people transfer from GoDaddy or one of the other commodity hosting companies and the comments we get are usually something like this: "gee, it sure is nice to have reliable email for a change!"

Within a couple months of starting NSG, Don quickly decided that having sites that work most of the time – and not having full control over his hosting environment and servers – probably wasn't the best recipe for success. He bit the bullet and purchased servers that NSG controls, and all the problems went away. NSG spends a lot of time and money setting them up, hosting them at a data facility, and maintaining them so they continue to run well. They have servers in multiple data centers, so that if one blows up (don't laugh - it actually happened) they can switch to the other. They backup to one another, and also to servers at NSG world headquarters here in Ann Arbor.

Losing Your Site Can be Bad, Okay?

It's not that our servers never go down. But it has happened pretty rarely, and NSG goes to great lengths to make sure that they would be able to recover from a failure and get people back up and running on another server relatively quickly.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. So think about that the next time someone asks why our web hosting costs so much. $8/month for a site that works most of the time … it doesn't sound so good when you say it like that!

Or as one of the great minds at NSG puts it:

“One thing people need to realize is that when we host their sites, it represents the shortest possible path between the people who care about what’s happening with their site and the people who can really work the magic to make things happen if there's a problem or if they need something special. With canned hosting providers, there's a very big gap there.”

Our focus, first and foremost, is relationships. We market SEO Ann Arbor in part on the fact that our clients can sit across the desk and yell at us – if the need is there. What happens most of the time is that they sit across the desk and tell us how much better their websites, social media, and blogs are doing now that we’re helping out. Whether they’re shouting insults or heaping praise on us, it’s always better – both for them and for us – because of the direct connection. We care about their success, and if they aren’t our friends when we first meet, many do become friends, so we have a vested interest in seeing them succeed.

It’s truly a joy to be around people who are wired to work hard and help others succeed. That’s one of the biggest intrinsic rewards of what we do. And because we spend a lot of mental energy on “getting it right,” we’re lucky enough to be around a lot of those people. So, remember this the next time you’re thinking about whether to go the “cheap” route or the “good” route: price is what you pay. Value is what you get. If you’re after price, think GoDaddy, 1and1, or another discount hosting service. If you’re after value, think quality, think local, and think SEO Ann Arbor!


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