Web Hosting Dilemma



May 24, 2007

As a small web development company that also does web hosting for some of our clients it is difficult to even consider competing against the thousands of companies out there that specialize in it. In the last two years we've started to move away from promoting our own services and instead focusing on providing technical support for folks who want to choose to work with another web host. Partly this is because many of our clients have very strong feelings about where their site is hosted (either because off past experience or the monthly cost). It is also because it is very difficult for a small company to have the level of redundancy that we feel comfortable with in order to provide a service as reliable as we would want.

Many web hosting companies advertise for 24/7 phone support, which is way more than most small web hosts can provide, however giving you the ability to talk to someone doesn't mean that this person will understand your problem let alone be able to do something about it. Often the best you can hope for is a knowledgeable diligent customer service employee who can pass the message up the chain in a way which is meaningful to the people who actually have the power to do something about it.

This week I had to spend quite a lot of time dealing with a web hosting company that built a strong reputation for good tech support, but then was bought out by a big American company who are slowly but surely looking to maximize profit by under staffing their tech teams. The customer service teams that we had access to didn't have permission to do the changes that were required and could only act as a liaison between us and the level two techies. As a result a clients site was effectively down for a 3 day period simply because when modifying the database the level 2 technician changed the user permissions on a Friday before a long weekend and there wasn't a unix support technician available with permission to add lock permission to a database user account.

This would have been a simple problem to have had fixed with a smaller company where there is a closer connection between the people maintaining the websites and those people maintaining the web hosting environment.

There doesn't seem to be a stable, mid-sized, affordable solution out there for shared hosting environments. OpenConcept will continue to provide some shared web hosting and to resell lower cost hosting from other providers. We will also encourage more organizations to move to having virtual or dedicated servers, where possible, so that at least some of the restrictions can be removed.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.