If you’ve read this blog or listened to my podcast before, you know I am very passionate about you owning your stuff, owning your websites. Today I want to talk about web hosting. Website hosting is something that a lot of people either don’t mess with or have no clue about. But let me tell you a cautionary tale.

My Tale Of Woe…

Years ago I ended up taking over a hosting company from one of my friends. It grew and grew and grew, and finally, I got it to a new hosting company and had it put on a dedicated server. I was serving about 50 clients at the time. I was at a golf outing and all of a sudden I get this phone call saying, “Hey, one of your websites has gotten hacked, and if you don’t shut it down now we’re going to take down your entire hosting.” That meant all of my websites, all of my client websites. So I went into panic mode.

It just so happens that the church I was going to, which I gave free web hosting to as part of my “tithe” decided to give somebody else access to it. They created a Joomla! Site. Don’t use Joomla! And the site got hacked. It got hacked so bad that it started affecting every single site out there. So what did I do? I said, “Okay, this is all hacked so I’m going to take these sites and I’m going to move them to a new server and get rid of the hackage.” Not so much, because that hole in the system still sat there. Guess what? The hackers followed and they rehacked. It turned into a nightmare.

Finally, through some of my contacts, I found somebody who said, “I know how to fix it. I’ve got a guy, and this guy can go in and dehack your site for you.” He had to go actually dehack the entire server, not just that website. So he did. I moved my server over to his, which was a personal server farm that he had in a cage down in Florida with a whole bunch of other racks of web servers. The guy was really nice and relatively responsive. The price was okay so I was back in business.

Well, not too deep into that relationship, I get a call from the guy who dehacked the sites and he says, “Did you hear what happened?” I said no. He said, “The guy who owns the server had his girlfriend and a male friend show up at their house because she wanted to move out, and he shot and killed the guy. So then he was arrested and taken away.” Well guess what? The websites and the servers were just sitting there running with nobody manning the ship. At that point I said, “Uh oh.”

So we transferred everything over and eventually I said, “I am so out of the hosting business.” At the time, it was part of my business. I was making good money but the grief was not worth it. As a matter of fact, I lost over $10,000 on that transaction in the long run, and I pissed a lot of customers off.

Lesson Learned

So I will never own another hosting company again. Then I had to start exploring web hosting options and what was important for my business. Just so you know… there’s a big difference between domains and web hosting. For example, my main domain is b2b-im.com. What that does is point to a specific server with web hosting systems and software. When somebody types that in, it finds that particular server and my files and serves them up. Web hosting is where all your files are served up from. Keep in mind that some day you may want more than just one website for your business. I will explain later.

Types Of Web Hosting

There are all different kinds of web hosting services out there. There are tons of free ones, tons of cheap ones, and tons of paid ones that are very expensive. You have to decide what’s the best for you. All I can say is that you want to make sure that you run it and that you own it, meaning you’re not going to run the web hosting, but make sure you’re paying for it on your own credit card. An example where this matters is if you’re working with a web guy, which happened just recently with another client… They had their website hosted by their web guy and they had their domain hosted with this web guy, and suddenly the web guy would not return their phone calls and then guess what happened? Everything expired and they lost it all. They lost the domain. They lost the hosting. They lost everything.

Protect Your Ass-ets!

You website, its analytics, users, media, and content are a business asset. First off, you want to make sure it’s backed up in multiple ways. A local hard drive crashes and you could lose all of that hard work. Also, I’ve had clients lose their domains. Here is what happens when some of those companies can’t get ahold of you when a domain is about to expire. Now, I’m not going to pick on one, but there’s a big one out there that just waits for a domain to expire and then they claim it for themselves. Then, rather than what you normally pay for a domain, $10 or $20 for a year, they’re happy to sell it back to you for $500 to $1,500 just to get access to your own domain name again. Is it a scam? Yes. Is it legal? Yes. The bottom line is, pay for it on your own credit cards. Be on the email that says, “Your hosting or your domain is expiring.” Uber important.

“I Don’t Need A Website”… Do You?

Now a lot of people say, “I’m not that interested in websites. I’ve got Facebook.” Well go back and listen to some of the other episodes I talk about where Facebook shuts people down. If you don’t own it, if you don’t control it, you can easily lose everything, including your entire business. There are some free services out there. One of them is called Wix. They make pretty websites. Nothing wrong with that, except it’s free. You don’t own it. There’s another one, WordPress.com. There are a few options here: you can go to WordPress.com and get a free account, or maybe pay a little bit of money per month to WordPress.com. But guess what? You can’t sell anything from that. How do you run a business where you can’t sell something?

You want to make sure that you understand the concept. This is one of the reasons why you want to have a legitimate “hosting company.” Another one called Squarespace is really big. Squarespace will sell you their package for $12 to $18 per month, which equates to $150 to $200 a year. Again, they make pretty websites. But that’s not the right way to do it. The best way to do it is using WordPress.org – a self-hosted website using the WordPress software – because it’s something that you can grow upon. If you leave Squarespace, everything you have on there goes away. With WordPress.org, you can transfer it from server to server. You can add new functionality. You can change the look and feel with the themes. The data behind the site is an asset that you own. You can grow with it and it can grow with you.

Here’s the key thing you want to think about. Something like Squarespace charges you $12 per website. I have 20 websites, brianbasilico.com, baconcodes.com, baconpodcast.com, b2b-im.com. I can go on forever. If you’re getting charged per website, that’s going to cost you a lot of money. Get a really good hosting company.

The BIG Picture

Now there are a lot of biggy hosting companies out there, and I’m not going to mention them but you’ve seen ads for them. Many people use them, and those are owned by big conglomerates. One of them’s WEB.com. There are some masquerading as independent companies, but most all the major hosting companies that you’ve heard of are all owned by one big conglomerate.

What really matters to you? Number one would be the tech support included with a hosting plan. I’ve waited an hour to an hour and a half on some of those big ones trying to help customers. The one that I work with, A2 Hosting, only takes about 10-15 minutes. I’ve called on Easter Sunday. I got a technician; he solved my problem. Great tech support is one of the most important aspects of having a website for your business.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to web hosting, your business is depending on you! You need to own it, pay for it, and make sure it’s managed by you or a great company with great English-speaking and US-based tech support. You’ll thank me later.

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on your experiences in web hosting. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas or questions about showing the concepts presented. Have you had to overcome any of the presented concepts? What worked and what did not live up to expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?