Geek Love

What To Look For In a Hosting Company…

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine went through what might just be my worst nightmare — her hosting company’s servers were hacked. They told her that she needed to download all of her stuff, but by the time she got the message and got online, her site was GONE.

GONE. Every last single bit of her work, sites she paid for, a custom designed blog, her blog posts, all of it – GONE.

Needless to say, she was in a bit of a panic at first. Me? I was FURIOUS at her hosting company. Livid. Stunned that in this day and age, a hosting company could be run so poorly.

I ran the front end of a hosting company for over 4 years. I’m pretty darn picky when it comes to my hosting. When I got out of the hosting business, I sold my company to Hosting Matters, who had been running the back end for me all along, because I trusted them 100 zillion percent. When you’re putting your business website into someone’s hands, you need to have that much faith in them. (Want an unmetered hosting account with them for $10/month? Click here.)

Some companies cost $2.95 a month for a good reason — they aren’t running a proper business. And if you’re putting your online image in their hands, is shopping for the cheapest deal you can find a good idea? No, it isn’t. You need to make sure your host is the best, that they will keep your site up and running no matter what. Because in the end, that is all that matters to your clients. And you don’t want to be like my friend and out hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars because your hosting company isn’t running their business on the up & up.

Some things to look for:
– Where is their data center at? What are they set up to withstand? HostingMatters is in Florida. My site has been on their servers through countless hurricanes. BIG storms. It has never once gone down due to natural disaster. You can learn all about their facility here – and I love that they are transparent about this information. Is your hosting company?

– What is their backup policy for their servers? How often are they backed up? HostingMatters does daily, weekly & monthly backups. I’ve had to have them pull daily backups before for clients, and weekly backups as well. Only once in 7 years have they pulled a monthly backup, and it was due to a site being overwritten by a client on just the right day and time so that the daily & weekly backups had the new data, not the old. Definitely not the norm.

– Do they charge you to pull a backup? I learned a few weeks ago that GoDaddy charges $150 to pull a daily backup. I’ve never paid to have a backup pulled, and I think $150 is a rather high price.

– What happens if your server gets slammed with traffic? Can they handle the load? Yesterday I saw someone’s site go down because the traffic that they got was overwhelming to the server. They couldn’t recover fast enough. If your business is online, you’re dead in the water. You want to get traffic. They need to be able to monitor the load hitting the box and recover – it is a scramble for them (and you should let them know you appreciate their hard work!), but make sure you won’t be shut down just because you got discovered on or you blogged about a celebrity wedding.

– How can you reach them if your site is down? Do they have a helpdesk? Is it hosted with the rest of their servers? Do they have a phone number you can call? I’ve always contacted HostingMatters through their Helpdesk, and their responses are always timely. They have a status page that isn’t hosted with all of their other sites. They have ways that you can contact them if everything else is down.

You are trusting your hosting company with a lot of responsibility. Make sure they deserve your trust. And no matter what, find out what you can do to do a FULL site backup – including Flash sites, MySQL databases, your entire blog including your blog theme, comments and posts – so that if your hosting company lets you down, you’re prepared.

Wondering who I think you should use? Obviously, I recommend Hosting Matters. I’ve also heard many great things about Bluehost. (Not to be confused with BluDomain – they are two different companies!)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go back up my site…

Geek Love

The Initial Steps of Setting Up a WordPress Blog…

I was talking yesterday with a client about setting up a blog for her, and she was asking how what I was going to do was different then the theme she was looking at. I was going to install WordPress. She was looking at a WordPress Theme.

For those of us that have been blogging for a long time, these things are two very different things. But you may have just started blogging. Or maybe you’ve always used Blogger or TypePad. Either way, it is unchartered territory. I want to help you out. Really, it is ok to have questions — matter of fact, please ask them in the comments, because I’m sure other people would love to know the answers too!

So when you decide that you want to kick your rankings up higher in Google, or you’re just tired of not having control over your blog (a whole post is coming on why you should host your own blog), you will want to move on to a self-hosted blog. As you might have already guessed, I’m pretty biased and I highly recommend WordPress. (I wish I got royalties every time that word was uttered. Do you realize how rich I would be?!?) WordPress is all kinds of awesome because it is open source, which basically means everyone can have access to the code and create things to improve upon the code, like plugins. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. Lets focus on the basics. So the other perk? WordPress is *free*.

But before you can set up WordPress, you need a hosting account. I’ve been with Hosting Matters since 2002 and they make my heart sing. They are among the very, very best. Personalized service that just can’t be beat. More importantly, they pay attention to what their clients need. Photographers? Well, we need a LOT of storage space, especially if we host our own image galleries for client photos. So Hosting Matters has come up with the perfect solution, virtual data room … but you have to know the right people to get in on the deal. Lucky you, I’m one of those people! Click here to learn all about their “Unmetered for $10/month” plan.

You may already have a hosting account if you have a Flash portfolio for your website. Some, but not all, of the portfolio hosting companies can host your blog as well. Last I checked, BigFolio and BluDomain can. Livebooks can’t. I don’t know about ShowIt. This is why some people have separate URLs for their blog then for their portfolio. From the whole Google love perspective, I don’t recommend that. You want people going to one URL. It will help you in the long run as far as Google, and it will make things easier for your clients too.

You’ll also most likely need a domain name. I use GoDaddy for most of my domains. I don’t buy them through a hosting company because I want to make sure I own it – not them.

Once you have hosting, you can then download a copy of WordPress and set it all up. It isn’t that hard, but it isn’t everyone’s thing. There are lots of instructions out there on how to do it. Don’t want to do it yourself? Does the thought of MySQL databases make your head spin? Let me know by using the contact form — we can hook you up.

Then, once you have WordPress up and running, you can start to think about themes to use to make your site all pretty, or plugins to add to make it all cool and fancy. The hard part is over and the fun has just begun!