Sorry, I hate those spammy headlines designed to get you to read the article… What This Designer Wrote Next Will Shock You!
It won’t. But at the very least I hope it’s useful, and if the Twitter meltdown regarding the 123Reg cock up is anything to go by, it might save you “thousands” of pounds.
In the news, on the BBC and even The Independent, is the fact that “web hosting firm 123Reg has accidentally deleted an unspecified number of its customers’ websites” — you can read more here. This comes after on-going reliability issues with both 123Reg and huge amounts of downtime with Heart, another hosting company, both owned by Host Europe Group.
Now, I don’t want to get into name calling and mud slinging, but my own experience with both companies hasn’t been great, and all it takes is a quick Google to see I’m not alone — endless downtime, sites being deleted, email not working for days… We’ve actually had nearly 100 clients who we supplied via one of the above hosts, and we’ve spent the last year moving everyone over, slowly, but surely.
I now tell my clients two things — the first is that you need to take responsibility for your own rescue plan. If you don’t know what it is, then you probably don’t have one. Ask your web designer or agency what they are doing to protect you, or create your own plan. If, like some of the 123Reg customers who are quite rightly angry at the moment, your business could lose a significant amount of money while your site is down, then it is entirely your responsibility to know how you are going to deal with this — either yourself or with help.
The second thing I tell my clients is that you don’t need website hosting, you need website management. It’s far too easy nowadays to set up a cheap hosting account, install WordPress, and have yourself a website up and running in no time at all. And then what? You forget about it. Sure, you might write a few blog posts, or direct your followers on Twitter to a Mailchimp sign up page, but from experience very few clients keep an eye on their security updates, or take regular back ups. And these cheap hosts are often slow, and frustratingly unreliable.
So what do we do differently? Firstly, we don’t claim to be anything we’re not — we’re not a hosting company, and we don’t buy in bulk and re-sell low quality hosting to our clients. We connect our clients to the very best suppliers of the services they need — domain names and domain management, WordPress hosting, and email for businesses.
We use Flywheel — the absolute very best WordPress hosting we’ve ever used for our WordPress sites (which is now the majority of our projects) and recommend it for all of our clients, as well as anyone setting up on their own.
Why is it so good? It’s fast, has incredibly helpful and friendly support, is secure, and takes daily backups. We then take our own monthly back up, which is stored offline, and this itself is backed up yet again to the cloud. For anyone not on WordPress, more confident to take the DIY route, or in need of a VPS, we recommend UK2, one of the best UK based web hosts available.
Whether you’re using WordPress or not, you need to be confident that your site is being backed up, regularly and securely. If you’re not on a managed service like Flywheel or WPEngine, then we’re huge fans of CodeGuard — a friendly, intuitive web site backup and monitoring service. For anyone comfortable with managing their own WordPress installs, we can’t stress enough how important it is to keep on top of your software updates — and take regular backups — even if you’re not exactly sure what to do with the files if the worst happens, at least having them means you can approach your your developer or host to help. Remember — if you haven’t explicitly discussed, agreed, and paid for someone else to monitor and protect your site, then they very likely aren’t. This blog post is a good round up of the best WordPress backup plugins but make sure you know what you’re doing — we all know the quote “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. A small investment now, in either training or technical support could make all the difference in the future.
We’re also big believers in not only using the best suppliers possible, but in keeping your services separate — if your site goes down, you need you email more than ever, and that’s why we always recommend an external email provider. There’s three superb services that we recommend — FastMail, ProtonMail, and Google Apps for Work — our personal favourite, for stability, ease of use, and the amazingly useful extras, like Google Docs and a full, company-wide calendar. We’ve moved every single one of our email clients over to Google now, and never had a single instance of downtime, and they all love the ease with which they can manage users, the fuss free access to their mail across different devices, and the value in using Docs instead of Microsoft Office.
And lastly, if you’ve read this far, clients often overlook the domain buying process. Again believing your business deserves the best possible suppliers, we cannot recommend iwantmyname enough — “amazingly simple search, registration and DNS management for hundreds of international domain name extensions” along with a perfectly thought out, simple to use dashboard, brilliant support, and loads of one-click installs for the most popular services.
So whether you’re going it alone, or need support from an agency or freelancer, make sure you choose the very best suppliers, ask the right questions, and understand what your rescue plan is — because with websites, it’s not a case of IF something goes wrong, but WHEN.
Full disclosure: We’re proud supporters of the suppliers we use, and we’re not afraid to come clean about using affiliate links on our site. If we spread the love, and one of you lovely lot signs up, we receive a small commission. This then helps us buy biscuits for the studio, and provides us with the energy to keep researching the best products out there, so you don’t have to.