I was talking with a friend last night who I used to work with at a hosting company. We were laughing about all the ridiculous things we had come across and the angry customers we still remember who expected the world from us. Yes, after 8 years I am still able to recall names and domains of certain customers who would call support and demand the most ridiculous things from us.
That got me thinking about writing this. I have a feeling that many customers don’t quite understand exactly what it is a web hosting company is to them, and the things that they should not be expected to do for you. I’ll cover the most common things I can think of that customers called asking for, only to get overly angry when we said we don’t provide that service.
What Your Web Host Is (or should be)
1. Storage for your website files. This is the service they are providing you. You pay them money in order for them to keep your website files on their servers so that they are available for the world to see.
2. A reliable place for your website. You should expect your web host to be reliable. It is not too much to ask that your website be available and responsive all the time. Well, not all the time, that’s unrealistic if you’re paying less than $5/month, but 99.9% of the time is not a stretch.
3. Responsive. If you have problems with your account you should be able to call them at any time and expect a reasonable response in a timely fashion. A web host that takes 24 hours to respond to an email, in my eyes, is not a company you want to be with. Of course, there are times when companies get busy and it may take a bit longer to hear from them, but any more than an hour or so is not good enough for me.
What Your Web Host Is Not
NOTE: I use WordPress as an example below because it is probably the most well known blogging tool. WordPress can be replaced by any other CMS (Joomla, Drupal, etc…) and the point still stands.
1. Web designers. Yes, web hosting companies may offer this as a separate service, but they are by no means in charge of designing your website if you simply pay for hosting. While some of the better support teams can make simple coding changes on your website if you ask, you should not expect them to be designing your website for you.
1a. Developers/optimizers. The web host will not optimize your website for you. If your website is running slowly because it is poorly optimized (and it is not the fault of the server) then it is not the web host’s responsibility to make your website run faster.
2. WordPress experts. I can not stress this one enough. I can’t tell you how many times customers have called and gotten pissed that I couldn’t debug a WordPress plugin for them. There are thousands upon thousands of different scripts that can be used to create and manage a website. You can not expect your web hosting company to be proficient with every one of them.
The hosting company did not develop these tools and the support staff is not expected to know how to fix problems you have with programs made by other companies. This is a case where Google is your best friend. You are guaranteed to not be the only one who has had this problem. Search the problem and chances are you’ll find a way to fix it. And no, you should not expect support to do this for you.
3. SEO experts. Like web design, the company may offer this as an added service, but you shouldn’t call support and expect them to be able to get your website to the top of Google for every relevant keyword that day.
4. Security experts. Content management systems like WordPress get hacked. A lot. More often than not this is not the fault of the web host. There are hundreds of thousands of plugins available for WordPress alone, most of them coded very poorly with more ways to exploit them than you can imagine. Just because your website got hacked doesn’t mean the server is not secure.
5. Backup storage. Your web hosting account is meant to store your website files. It is not for you to store your personal backups on a remote location. There are plenty of other service that can do this for you (Mozy and Carbonite come to mind).
The Bottom Line
Be reasonable with your expectations of your web host and the technical support staff. Yes, they are there to help you with anything directly related to your hosting account. Can’t log in to your control panel? Website is down? Great, they can help. Can’t figure out why your php script is throwing an error? Don’t expect the support team to read through your code looking for where you accidentally used a single quote instead of a double quote.