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Why Your Web Developer Shouldn’t Be Your Web Host


Before any of you even mention it — I know I’m kind of shooting myself in the foot by writing and publishing this post. I build (and sometimes host*) websites for clients myself, but I figured it would be better if people knew the disadvantages of having your web developer/designer as your web host. I’m not trying to put myself out of business. I just don’t want experienced people taking advantage of those who know very little.

Fact: Most small business owners get ripped off when having their very first business website built.

webdev-webhostingI’m sure most of you have heard, or maybe even said this line at some point: “I’m new to this whole building websites thing, I don’t know a thing about it!”

Now believe me when I say that the moment you post the sentence above to a typical webmaster forum, more people are going to try to offer their services — subtly or not, it doesn’t really matter — than offer you genuine help. My point? We aren’t living in a perfect world. Some people would rather rip you off than offer you assistance for free. They don’t know you anyway, and you’d probably never know about the whole rip off thing until much later.

Moving on…

Let’s say you’re a small business owner trying to build an online presence. You’ve been told you’d need a domain name, a hosting account, and finally a web developer (and/or designer) to create your website. Of course none of these terms probably made any sense when you first heard them, save for the “web designer” term most likely.

First thing on your checklist: Consult/hire a web developer. Let’s say you got many offers and found one that fits your requirements, especially your budget, perfectly. You hire them, ask them about the things you’re unsure about, and they tell you not to worry.

They promise to handle everything from designing your site, to all the complicated coding, to web hosting. They say after you approve of their work, your site will be hosted on secure servers, you’ll have “just the right amount” of space and data transfer, and you’ll be able to setup a few email accounts for yourself and your business partners. You’re cool with that? Alright, let’s move on.

ripoffAfter spending $xxx to $x,xxx to get everything built and setup, you now have a fully functional website! On top of that, your small business now has a home on the Internet (AKA you now have a hosting plan) and you’re only going to have to pay your web designer/developer $50 a month to keep it that way. Sounds awesome, right?

Not quite.

You find out a couple of your friends have their own sites, some even much more complicated than yours, hosted on a $10 or less a month hosting plan.

You suddenly feel you’ve been duped. Your ridiculously small and limited shared hosting plan has the price tag of a Virtual Private Server (VPS)! Moreover, your friends’ sites are loading much faster than yours. They also get hosting support much faster, and they aren’t bound to any contracts. So what went wrong? Or rather, what IS wrong?

Main Point #1: Most web developers/designers are just hosting resellers.

Don’t get me wrong, reselling web hosting to clients is a legit business. Making a nice amount of profit is not and should not be against our ethos. It would be a different story though if you’re charging $50+ per month for a service they could easily get for less than $10 per month, unless of course you’re offering some premium, worth-the-money perks they wouldn’t get from regular hosts. This means free site templates valued at $97 (or so they say), AdWords credits, and other common perks are OUT OF THE PICTURE.

A lot of people would pay a developer $50 per month for the following:

  • “just enough space and bandwidth” for a small business site
  • ability to host one domain
  • one, five, or maybe ten email accounts
  • includes hosting support, but does not include site maintenance whatsoever

Why? Simply because it’s easier to work with just one person/firm rather than deal with yet another company. And also because they don’t know what they could really get for x amount of money.

Well okay, maybe the $50 per month price is a bit exaggerated, nevertheless I think I made my point. Charging so much for so little seems to be a norm in this “web development + web hosting” industry. Devs are trying to milk as much money as possible out of their unfortunate clients and it’s just plain sad.

Main Point #2: If they are indeed a reseller, you don’t and probably won’t know who their hosting provider is.

This is in connection to the first point. Even if you know your web developer is a reseller, chances are you wouldn’t know who their hosting provider is. If something bad happens to their provider (e.g., outages, data get compromised, etc.) then your site is going to be in trouble, and your developer won’t be of too much help until their provider resolves the problem.

I’d also like to point out the fact that data CAN get compromised, and you’re basically trusting your developer to trust some other company (that you know nothing of) with your data.

Main Point #3: Web hosting support is best handled by web hosting experts.

Yeah, I said web hosting experts. Not web developers nor web designers. Of course there are developers who know how to handle and solve server issues, but if they are just resellers (most of them are, see main point #1) they would have to contact their provider about YOUR issue regardless. This does not only make getting support and a resolution to your problems a whole lot slower, it could also pose privacy issues to some extent.

Main Point #4: If and when things go sour, you’ll be in a lot of trouble!

This is just like buying your domain from your web host — it’s one of those things you should look out for, and avoid altogether. If your relationship with your host goes sour, then there’s a risk of you losing your domain. Sure, not all hosts do this kind of shadiness, but there have been cases where clients were forced to stay with a host just so they could keep their domain names.

It’s the same when it comes to web development and web hosting. These two things are different and are best kept separate. If you host with your developer, all your files would be on your web developer’s server. They’d pretty much have control over everything related to your site. They could delete ALL your files in one click if they wanted to. They could access your databases and almost all the information stored in your hosting account. In short, they could destroy your online business in seconds and nobody wants that.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

I know it’s much easier to keep everything in one place, but if you want better security, faster hosting support, and just better hosting service overall then buy hosting directly from reputable web hosting companies. You won’t only save money, you’re also going to save yourself from frustrations in the long run.

If it’s inevitable that you host with your web developer then at least make sure that guy (or web firm) is 100% trustworthy and you know for sure that they will never do anything to harm your online business.

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  • Joshuaar

    Interesting write up, particularly from someone who is a reseller themselves.

    In my experience, the client is going to need to go through the developer for web host related issues either way. That is, they don’t know enough about potential issues to go through hosting support with any real purpose. For me they also don’t even want to see or know what cPanel is, preferring to get the developer to also set up things like email accounts etc and being walked through how to set this up on a mail client (lots of hand holding).

    • Brent

      Yes, I agree to an extent. There are different kinds of clients and it’s a fact that a lot of people don’t want to get involved at all with the technical stuff.

      It’s true that clients would need help from the dev with most issues, but if they are made aware that web hosting and web development are two very different things then there should be no problem with the client having to deal directly with the host. The only issue is if the client is *willing* to learn a bit of the tech stuff in order to save money and time in the long run.