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Hosting: Are You In Control?

Many small business and non-profit owners are unaware of the difference between hosting options and are in for a nasty surprise should they chose to utilize the private hosting offered by their website agency.

The Three Different Types of Hosting

Before explaining the different types of hosting, I want to introduce an analogy which I think will help. Imagine your website as a PowerPoint presentation and the files for that PowerPoint are kept on a USB drive (for easy transfer). Now, the USB (your website) by itself is useless, so you need to find a computer (or server) to plug it in or host it. Once you’ve found a way to host your website, you’ll need a way to edit the files so, in our analogy, the computer monitor would allow you to see into the USB drive and edit the files, much like a cPanel (control panel). Finally, you need a way for people to see your website or PowerPoint, so a projector (or internet) is used to display your website on the wall for all to see.

1. Public Hosting. By now, you’ve probably heard of a few hosting companies—Bluehost, GoDaddy, Siteground, Hostinger, and the list could go on.

For the sake of our analogy, we’ll compare public hosting providers to a library, and you pay the library (your hosting provider) a set monthly fee for the library to keep your USB plugged into one of their computers which then displays your presentation on the wall using a projector. In return, the library will give you a login which you can use to access your USB files through their site whenever and wherever you chose. Depending on the library (hosting provider), you may have to provide your own network security, but, ultimately, the library is now responsible for keeping your USB functional, making sure your USB doesn’t get stolen, and ensuring that you are receiving the service they promised to provide.

Choosing the appropriate hosting provider and plan for your website is important as your plan determines how big your website can get and how fast it will load (load times affect your ranking on Google which I’ll cover later).

2. Included Hosting. If you use Squarespace or Shopify, you won’t have to worry about your hosting at all as these companies, and others like them, offer plans that include hosting, editing, domains, and more. Included hosting is its own topic which I won’t get into now, but, for the sake of this article, I did want to at least mention it.

3. Private Hosting. The last option is private hosting. Not attempted by many businesses as it requires more technical know-how, this option has become popular with agencies.

Returning to our analogy once again, your agency would operate similarly to a close friend who edits and manages your PowerPoint for you. Since they’re your agency and are already editing your files, when they ask to have ‘full control’ and take the USB home with them (host your website on the agency’s private server), many business owners don’t think twice. Owners are told that the agency will have more control over your website speed, can increase your disk space, and will often include the hosting cost in your monthly maintenance fee—so what can go wrong?

The answer is, everything. While owners are told about the increased access to speed and disk space, they are often uninformed that this request for increased control is actually a request for complete control. Instead of just maintaining the computer (server) where your USB is plugged in, your agency now also manages your physical USB (the physical files that comprise your website). Once the hosting transfer is made, you have now lost all control of your website because agencies rarely provide you with a login to access your website on their server. This means that your agency is now the only entity who has access to your website’s files and they can now charge whatever price they want if you decide to move the website for any reason (gaining access to your cPanel, faster hosting, change of agencies, etc.).

I personally have seen one of my own clients call their agency and ask them to transfer the website back to public hosting, only to be told there was a $600 fee for doing so. I don’t need to explain to you the shock of receiving such a large and unexpected bill, not to mention the horror at realizing that there is no way around paying it because the hosting transfer was approved by the business owner, and the agency now has full control over the website. Many owners do not build an extra $600 into their monthly budget in case they need their website back, and the price of leaving an agency can dissuade a business from trying to leave altogether—a result that hurts no one except the business itself.

If you’ve opted for private hosting with your agency, we regret to say that there’s nothing we can do about that, but we hope that you found this information useful and we promise to educate you and inform you on all decisions should you choose to manage your website through us.

Thanks for reading!

~ Madison