This article is primarily written for and to the typical website customer, but it also has information relevant to web design consultants.
Most website hosting companies offer an economy hosting package with a special first-time signup offer of about $40 to $50 per year for the first year or first few years if paid in advance. Then it’s about $80 to $100 per year after that. However, for another $20 more per year, you can get an unlimited hosting plan. This means you can have as many websites as you like, hosted under a single account.
Having Your Consultant Handle Hosting
It’s common for website consultants to signup for an unlimited hosting plan, and then host a dozen or more websites under that plan. They can give free websites to friends, family, or local charities, at no additional cost to them beyond the domain registration.
This actually works well for everyone involved. The customer gets free or low cost hosting, and they are relieved of all the administrative overhead of hosting their own website. They can still login and manage their own website. The web designer gets quick and easy access to all aspects of running the website so they don’t need to trouble the customer every time something needs to be done behind the scenes.
Easier and More Reliable
It’s common for people to forget passwords, or have expired credit cards, which can cause sites to go down or be lost forever if they expire. For this reason, by having the consultant or web development firm take care of the hosting administration and fees, the result is generally a more reliable and less costly experience.
Monthly Consultant Fees
In some cases web design firms will charge a monthly fee that covers the hosting costs as well as some regular site maintenance. The cost might be $30 to $50 per month. These fees are reasonable to expect. Even when a site isn’t having regular changes made to it, there are updates needed behind-the-scenes to the system that runs the site. This needs to be done regularly by someone. The monthly fee is a way to keep the web designer on ‘retainer’ and that fee usually would cover upkeep and small changes to the site.
Some consultants see these monthly fees as their primary source of income. As a result, they can keep their other fees down, and offer inexpensive website setup packages. Know up front when working with a web design consultant what their expectations are for your ongoing maintenance and hosting fees.
Benefits of Hosting in Your Name
Despite the advantages of having someone else take care of site hosting and maintenance, there are some potential drawbacks. For example, if the web development firm goes out of business, you may have trouble getting everything transferred to another consultant or hosting company. If the consultant isn’t responsive when you need to have work done, you may wish you were just managing the site yourself.
Cost of Hosting in Your Name
The cost of managing your own website involves time and money.
- Time. If you’re using WordPress, even if you’re not doing anything else with your website, plan on at least an hour a month to make sure your plug-ins, theme, and WordPress installation are kept up to date. Some updates can be automatic, but others aren’t, so login to the site Dashboard monthly to ensure everything is updated. During this monthly website health checkup, you may think of other site changes you want to take care of.
- Money. Hosting fees, as mentioned above, can be about $100 per year. If you have several website, then getting your own unlimited hosting package is a good idea.
Hybrid: Self Hosting and Working with a Consultant
There’s a hybrid model that combines all of the above. You can setup your own hosting package with a hosting company, and have everything in your name, but continue to work with a consultant for site maintenance and updates. In this way, you can pay all fees directly and avoid any markup (if any) that might be charged by the consultant. The consultant can do work as needed and be paid hourly or with whatever arrangement is made.
If you signup for an unlimited hosting package, then you can have several websites, and add more along the way, without spending much more money beyond the hosting fees. This is really a great deal for people that have multiple websites or want to setup sites for friends.
If you do get into the position of setting up websites for your friends and family, you’ll want to reflect on the points made in this document to determine what’s the best arrangement for your friends.
Account Administration and Logins
Sometimes people will give the consultant their personal hosting account login information. That’s okay if you trust the person and the login credentials are being stored safely. Just make sure that they are as careful (or even more careful) than you are with your login credentials. A good method for storing passwords is to use a physically secure encrypted database that unlocks using a fingerprint reader. The database should not be ‘in the cloud’ but stored locally so physical access would be required to get to it. The area where work is done should be locked, physically secured, and have a security system that’s monitored around the clock. It’s always good to be a little more secure than one would think is required.
Some hosting companies allow you to assign certain rights to a website consultant. That consultant would have their own personal login to the hosting company’s website. This way they wouldn’t need your own login credentials. Administrative and billing tasks could be done by you, but all other site maintenance could be done by the web technician.
This second option still requires the same security precautions mentioned above, since the web technician’s account would have considerable access to your website.
Improving Website Stability and Reducing Disruption
Those who really want website dependability may want to consider having their websites hosted with two or more different hosting companies — such as GoDaddy, DreamHost, BlueHost, Network Solutions, etc.
It’s not uncommon for reputable hosting companies to have problems:
- Problems with websites going down.
- Problems with email delivery being slow or disrupted.
- Security problems.
- Problems with websites getting hacked.
- Websites loading slowly.
- Customer service problems and long hold times — “We’re currently experiencing higher than usual call volume.”
If all of your websites are hosted by a single hosting company, and that company has a problem, then all of your sites will be disrupted, and you’ll be scrambling to get things going again.
This approach is, of course, much more expensive and involves more administrative overhead, but does offer some additional redundancy and spreads your risk and exposure around.
Just know that no individual hosting company is perfect. Even though most promise 99.9% uptime, that’s across thousands of websites. So, your results may vary. It’s not common, but you might end up having your website down or email not working for many hours.
This can be more of an issue for consultants that have many clients. In those circumstances, having multiple hosting accounts, with different companies, can help create great stability for everyone involved.
There’s no obvious standard ‘best choice’ from the above options. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. It depends on each website owner’s needs, budget, skills, and time availability. Things change over time, so it’s good to re-evaluate yearly and consider if the current arrangement is still working, or if changes are needed. A website that began as a “take care of everything for me” website may later change to a “I want to do it all myself” website. That’s okay. Just know the costs and benefits of each option to make the best decision for your needs.