Getting Hosting Sorted

April 1, 2012 in Hosting by

Host­ing, much like air and water, without it we would shrivel up and die, and like water going to the wrong sup­ply will make you sick.

Actu­ally the ana­logy above doesn’t really work because I want to talk about the respons­ib­il­ity of host­ing rather than choos­ing a sup­plier. Host­ing is one of those awk­ward require­ments of the web industry that doesn’t get the atten­tion it needs. It’s a neces­sity, without web-hosting we wouldn’t be able to put our web­sites online, every web­site has to be hos­ted some­where. It’s an incred­ibly import­ant aspect of our industry and if you are involved in the cre­ation and deploy­ment of web media, you should have a strategy in place to deal with it.

The prob­lem is, it’s an area with a few potholes. Often a cli­ent will have abso­lutely no idea of what host­ing is or why they need it. This is fine and under­stand­able, I wouldn’t expect them to any more than a plumber would expect me to know what sort of valve con­nects my boiler to my water sup­ply. We could just include the host­ing costs along with any other build and sup­port costs, but, I believe that a greater degree of trans­par­ency is required. With host­ing (and cer­tain other sup­port requir­ing ser­vices) iden­ti­fic­a­tion of respons­ib­il­ity must be cla­ri­fied up front.

There are some­times issues with host­ing, some­times minor prob­lems, some­times major out­ages. This is where you need to have iden­ti­fied clearly to your cli­ent what host­ing is, where your respons­ib­il­it­ies lie with regards their host­ing and ensured that their expect­a­tions with regards level of ser­vice are reas­on­able. Without these con­cepts clearly agreed between you and the cli­ent, things have the oppor­tun­ity to get pretty messy.

Reseller Accounts

A nice simple solu­tion is to set your­self up a reseller account with a host­ing com­pany, that way you can sup­ply host­ing neatly bundled up with your brand­ing. All lovely if you have the resources to man­age this prop­erly. Depend­ing on your supplier’s set up you may have to deal with every sup­port request from your cli­ents and in some cases handle assor­ted admin­is­tra­tion tasks as well. I’m uncom­fort­able work­ing on this basis, with the best will in the world, no amount of small print T&Cs are going to con­vince an irate cli­ent that their host­ing going down is out­side of our con­trol if their con­trol panel comes with our branding.

Cli­ent Man­aged Hosting

Hand­ing the respons­ib­il­ity for their host­ing back to the cli­ent can be con­sidered. Yes, there’s the pos­it­ive that you won’t have to deal with sup­port calls, it’s up to the cli­ent to sort out the billing and, worst case scen­ario if everything falls over it’s someone else’s prob­lem. The cons far out­weigh the pros. Primar­ily it’s just unpro­fes­sional, I like to think a cli­ent can come to us for a web solu­tion and we can make the pro­cess as simple as feas­ibly pos­sible for them. Send­ing them off to set up an account they may have not even been expect­ing to require is just going to make the pro­cess frus­trat­ing. There are some tech­nic­ally savvy cli­ents out there but the major­ity are not (and nor should they need to be). Real­ist­ic­ally you are going to either spend half your life detail­ing what sort of pack­age they need to pur­chase, or try­ing to work with a host­ing pack­age that’s not quite fit for pur­pose. The issue I have run into most with this approach in the past is that host­ing com­pan­ies tend not to have the flex­ible billing prac­tices of a freel­an­cer or agency (for under­stand­able reas­ons) and often a cli­ent will just for­get to pay their host­ing, at which point their web­site ceases to exist (worse still with domain names).

My Approach

With Shinytastic, by default we organ­ise the host­ing for the cli­ent and try to be as trans­par­ent as pos­sible. We make clear that our respons­ib­il­ity is to ensure the host­ing account is paid up to date and con­tin­ues to exist, but the respons­ib­il­ity for the serv­ers them­selves lie with the actual host­ing com­pany. We always tell the cli­ent who the host­ing com­pany is and give them a copy of any sign up emails, agree­ments, logins or any­thing rel­ev­ant to their account for their own records. We do add a markup to any host­ing we pur­chase to cover admin­is­tra­tion costs, but we make the cli­ent aware of this and will give them the costs of set­ting up the account dir­ectly them­selves should they wish to. I believe we’ve only ever had one cli­ent opt to pur­chase the host­ing them­selves, most are happy to not have to deal with it.

We do give cli­ents the option to choose their own host­ing com­pany if they prefer, although there are cer­tain hosts (who I shall not name) who if the cli­ent wishes to use we will insist they pur­chase the account dir­ectly and indic­ate that they under­stand they are opt­ing for a ‘cheap’ solu­tion which may cause prob­lems down the line. We have run into prob­lems in the past when a cli­ent has opted for the cheapest host­ing solu­tion they can find, which has caused us sub­stan­tial addi­tional work.

The host­ing com­pany (Evo­Host­ing) we use are set up such that we can pur­chase mul­tiple host­ing accounts under a single cli­ent account. This massively sim­pli­fies the man­age­ment of mul­tiple host­ing accounts without resort­ing to a reseller account. This is also set up so that should a cli­ent decide to part com­pany with us, we can quickly release their host­ing account to another agency pre­vent­ing them need­ing to set up new host­ing to move away. We don’t hold accounts host­age and do not charge a release fee, the only stip­u­la­tion we have is that a cli­ent must have all invoices up to date before we will release their account.

We use Evo­Host­ing as our pre­ferred host­ing pro­vider. As a full dis­clos­ure, I’m good friends with the dir­ect­ors of the com­pany, but my decision to use them is based on the reli­ab­il­ity and qual­ity of their service.

Let me know your thoughts, how do you deal with hosting?

comments powered by Disqus