website hosting confusion and frustration

We help people build websites every day. A foundational yet often misunderstood part of websites is the hosting environment. Many people just go with a big company and take the services that are recommended by them at whatever price they charge. Yet most people don’t know that they are being sold services that they don’t need. They also often pay for years in advance, making it harder to stop using them when you have decided to switch providers or no longer need their service.

When we start working with clients that are hosting with the most well-known firms with big advertising budgets, I find that most clients are paying for services they don’t need. Usually they don’t have enough knowledge to manage their accounts properly and don’t get impartial advice on what is needed.

Poor Technical Support

[my site] has imploded sometime in the last few days since GoDaddy tried to put SSL on it and my recollection is we didn’t have it on there because that caused the last blow up. Just a heads up I will probably be back on your doorstep. 

[5 hours later…]

Do what you can to fix it. It has been six hours down and they have done nothing. I am going to have to find time to get away from them. This is the last straw. But for now we need to get the site back up.

In cases like this, the usual customer service reply is that they are not web developers, so they can’t help with the site. Mind you, the site had been working previously and what they did is what stopped it from working.

Integration with Third Parties

To gain market share they integrate with other services and end up selling products that even they are not very familiar with. For example, GoDaddy used to have their own email service. Sometime in 2022 they discontinued that and now only sell email services for Office 365. If you have an issue with Office 365 that goes beyond the usual, it’s a difficult slog – You’re GoDaddy’s customer, but using Microsoft’s product, which doesn’t have a relationship with you.

In the case of an e-commerce site, the WordPress site was broken but the hosting company wrongly assumed that the issue was with WooCommerce.

Hello, I’m looking for help getting my site back up and running. I would love to get this site back up today before tonight’s class. The [hosting] folks had me going through woo-commerce trying to set passwords.

In this case, the site was completely broken, not just WooCommerce, and there was no need to reset any passwords. This client lost valuable time of his own and sales through his website.

Another client had built a website in Squarespace,purchased the domain through them, and purchased email from another company. It turned out that Squarespace actually purchased the domain through a third company, so when the email company tried to connect with it, they couldn’t provide the client proper instructions because of the convoluted chain of custody. It took a concerted effort with several distinct steps to clean up and consolidate the accounts to the point where the client could understand and control the services he was paying for. 

Entry Level Support

In pretty much every case, when we call one of these companies, we never talk with the same person twice. So when there’s an issue to resolve, we start from the beginning again to get the new person up to speed. As with many things, there may be more than one way to solve a problem. And when you have multiple people involved in solving multi-step problems, they typically fail from conflicting directions. The people in charge of customer interface are not experts in solving technical problems — they just work from a limited set of standard instructions. If you’re able to convince them that you have a technical problem beyond their instructions, they’ll forward your information to someone that might have the skills to solve it, but in my experience, critical information is usually lost in translation between departments and the problem will persist.

The Most Common Unnecessary Charges  

Renewal Protection. For example, all major service providers require payment by credit card, and for the most part renew services automatically. However, some of these services have an additional fee they charge for “renewal protection”. As if they wouldn’t remind you repeatedly that your credit card has failed?

Domain Privacy. This is a feature that hides the fact that you own your domain. Since most websites have contact info on them already, this is a non-service. Privacy always sounds like a good thing but in this case, is it really necessary to pay for it? Some domain registrars (including the one we use) provide this service for free. But either way, there’s really no need for most people.

Additional Services. There are any number of services that a company can recommend, but that doesn’t need that you actually need them.

Good Example or a Horrible Warning?

If any of this sounds familiar to you, we’d be more than happy to review your accounts and see if we can help host and manage your services in a more efficient manner. 

Get in touch for a free, 15-minute review of your hosting account to make sure you understand what you’re paying for.