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Hosting is just somewhere your website lives …isn’t it? Part 1

Not so long ago, someone told me that hosting is just a commodity, and you may as well get the cheapest. When pressed, this person confirmed their website was hosted with one of the big companies, had been for years, they could use unlimited space, and it was cheap as chips.

You may, or may not, be surprised to hear that I didn’t rush out and move all our sites to this large company.

The adage, “You get what you pay for” is, like all these sayings, not completely true. They may be rooted in truth, but you will be constantly tripped up if you live rigidly by them.

It took us three attempts when we first had our own website (2004) before we settled on someone we could trust. Yes, trust – the price had nothing to do with it, because the cost to us with the first two hosting companies was way more than we were actually paying them. So for ten happy years (2006 to 2016) we were with a small independent hosting company. They were more expensive than others, and we didn’t get ‘unlimited’ space, but their service response was good (typically less than 45 minutes by email), and their server set up was nicely vanilla.

Why would we want a ‘vanilla’ server set up? Because that was the best way to guarantee that we wouldn’t have any problems with the software we loaded … first Dreamweaver sites, then WebPlus, and finally WordPress. One of their USPs (Unique Selling Propositions), was that they didn’t give anyone unlimited space. By strictly allocating space to accounts, they prevented the server from becoming overloaded, slow, and unreliable.

Then the owner sold out to the large European hosting group, Paragon. Immediately, the speed of response to service requests went to over five hours, and the quality of the technical support dropped – it was little better than a call-centre, whereas we’d previously had engineers. We already had two possibilities we’d been given good reports about, so we weren’t too worried … even though moving getting on for 100 hosting accounts isn’t to be taken lightly. However, one company didn’t use a standard control panel (they’d written their own), and the other, though nominally independent, was already owned by Paragon.

A trawl of review sites and some due diligence turned up a number of possibilities, and we finally settled on AboveCloud and Certa, and we’ve split the accounts across the two providers – another adage: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. This does cost more, but it’s unlikely we’d have to move more than 50% of the accounts at any one time.

Their service is streets ahead of the Paragon company we’d ended up with, typically less than thirty minutes (and AboveCloud often respond in under ten). They seem to have engineers who know what they are talking about – this is not only reassuring, but also means less time wasted.

And to cap it all, even though we’ve split accounts and so would expect to pay more … the total is still less than Paragon. Bang goes the “… get what you pay for …” adage.

I’ll talk about what you get for your money in Part 2.

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