To err is human…
No matter how hard we try to avoid bad days (and bad people too), we have them time and again, sometimes out of the blue and other times as outcomes of our past mistakes! As the "battle" becomes over and dust settles, it is time to look back into the past to learn from it, and try our best to avoid making those same mistakes again in future!
After having some hard days with my ex-hosts, I finally found some peace. If anyone else is battling with the same issues and need help, this article may point out some of the things you could do while picking up a hosting provider so as to minimize your losses.
Someone once told me that a host could make or break your business, and rightfully so, for in the past two weeks I spent in battling with hosting issues, I couldn’t invest a single minute in the betterment of my business! Yeah, looking back it was a severe wastage of time on one hand, but on the other, I found a few good hosts I could rely upon for sometime.
Regardless of which hosting provider you wish to go for, here are a few pieces of advice:
1. Always signup for an entry level plan before going out for the bigger baits. For example, if you wish to sign up for shared hosting, choose the cheapest plan available out there. If you want to buy a VPS or dedicated then first signup with a shared or reseller hosting plan offered by the provider before you spend any more money!
VPS and dedicated plans usually come with NO money back guarantee (unfortunately, I learnt it only after getting burnt, see below; the few hosts who offer money back guarantee on virtual and dedicated servers are few and far between. Unlike VPS or dedicated server plans, shared hosting plans usually come cheap and with money-back guarantee too, so they are a great way to test the viability of a host without losing your precious cash in the process (there are exceptions to this rule though as you can read here)! Later on if you feel that your host is reliable and worth your money, you can always upgrade to a bigger plan!
2. Another tip is to look for an active community forum attached to the web hosting company; very often, if not always, it is a good indicator that the company cares for their customers' feedback! Plus if at any time you don't get adequate support directly from the hosting provider, you can always rely on peer-to-peer community support!
3. Before filling up the order form, check the company's terms of service, acceptable use policy and SLA! DO NOT make my mistake of "assuming everything"! Had I read their TOS, I would have known that Liquidweb offers no refund on VPS plans, and then I might have researched on a bit more them before signing up!
Also, the 'range' of "managed support" differs from host to host, so again don't forget to read the "fine print" carefully before signing up! Some hosts would go above and beyond their call to help you even with little things, others would limit themselves strictly to technical support, still others would help you only in critical situations such as server downtime, hard drive failure, router problem, etc.
It's funny that you would have to dig hard to find these legal documents on most websites; whether they are purposely hidden from public view or a common flaw in web design is something I cannot say with certainty! ;)
I have a rather awkward way to test the support system of a hosting provider. I have made a list of almost 23 hosting-related questions, and have individual such lists for shared hosting plans, reseller plans and VPS.
I try to contact the support directly (DO NOT contact sales because their response is usually faster and more "sales-like" than tech support; remember that after you signup for a hosting plan, you would need tech support more than sales support, and believe it or not, the tech support of a lot of hosting companies suck).
The time taken to answer those questions, the answers I receive, as well as the way they are offered, could provide some good insight to the reliability of the company's support!
4. If required, ask the third party software or hardware vendors for help: I had a host who tried his best (or so I thought) to fix certain errors on my VPS server but no matter what he did, he couldn’t fix it permanently. In turn he would offer me one odd suggestion after another.
Fed up, I contacted Cpanel™ directly as the last resort! If your control panel is uses Cpanel you would notice their support link either inside your control panel at the very bottom (provided that your host has configured and set it up properly) or on the left of your WHM (search for "support" in the search box on the left and then click on the "Support Center" link).
If nothing works out, here is the direct support link: https://tickets.cpanel.net/submit/index.cgi
Direct contact with Cpanel is best suited if you are the owner of a VPS or dedicated server. Additionally they also have a forum where you can ask questions related to general support (never used it myself by the way)!
Their website says that they don’t offer priority support to non-customers. However I was amazed at how they not only got back to me within just a few minutes of contact (that too on a Sunday) but also fixed my problems within the next couple of hours! I was quite shocked to discover from their reports that the solution was rather simpler than my host thought! To be honest, they helped me on more than one occasion!
So if your host disappoints you at any time, remember that you have the support of the vendors of your server's software or hardware to fall back on! Personally though, if a host doesn’t know his server's bells and whistles or refuses to help me for any reason, I won’t be sticking with them for very long!
It would have been one thing if I had deliberately purchased unmanaged servers, but when I pay extra for "managed support", that too claiming to be available for 24/7/365, I expect at least SOME kind of decent technical support from the hosting provider, if nothing more!
MORE next week….
As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback!