3 Reasons Good Hosts Go Bad

If you run websites for long enough you will likely find that at some point, a host that started out as good begins to degrade, eventually becoming a host that is bad enough for you to want to move away.

It isn’t a change that happens overnight. After all, a single incident of downtime could be cause by just about anything and has nothing to do with the overall quality of the host. However, over weeks and months you may realize you aren’t as satisfied as you once were with your support, uptime or speed.

There are many reasons that this can happen and several warning signs that you, as a customer, should look out for to warn you that it may be time to start looking at other options; jump off of the sinking ship before you find yourself underwater.

So why do good hosts go bad? Here are three common reasons and how to watch out for them.

1. Hosts That Oversell

Pretty much all shared Web hosts oversell, it is a fact of the industry. For example, if a physical machine has 1 TB of storage, or 1,000 GB, they might put 500 accounts on the server and promise each account 10 GB of space. This means there is a total of 5 TB of space promised.

Hosts do this for both bandwidth and storage. The exception is VPS and dedicate hosting accounts, which is why you pay more for less promised space. The reason hosts can do this is because they know the vast majority of customers will never use near their maximum bandwidth or storage allotment. If each of those accounts only really, on average, use 1 GB of storage, not the promised 10, then only 500 GBs are actually used, or half of the server.

Unfortunately, as hosts add customers they often don’t add servers at a fast enough pace, taking that promised 10 GB to 20 or 30, eventually overloading the server in every regard. This affects all customers on the server in a variety of ways, none of them good, including slow downs, downtime and general unreliability.

Warning Signs: From a customer standpoint, there aren’t many good warning signs. You may be aware of the problem but not what is causing it. The most common sign is that random server issues become increasingly common. Also, if planned downtime to move your account to a different server becomes almost routine, it could be a sign they are shuffling you from one physical machine to another to keep themselves afloat.

2. Hosts That Don’t Invest In Support

For most hosts, the single biggest expense is their people. Hiring trained people with proper certifications to run servers, provide support, etc. is an expensive proposition and, when it comes time to make a cut in costs, it is the people who often get cut first.

However, even if people don’t get laid off, the company might not invest in enough new personnel to support and maintain their new customers as they grow, essentially falling behind their own growth.

This can have many negative effects, but the most noticeable is in the area of support. Fewer people to help means slower responses and that includes the responses to emergencies. In short, this can mean more problems and less help when those problems arise.

Warning Signs: Hosts that are scaling back will usually let you know something is up because they will try to compensate for their lack of staff through technology. If there’s is a sudden shift to a new support system, even when the previous one was more than serviceable, it might be a sign. Other than that, keep an eye on your trouble ticket response time, especially at night when staff is likely to be minimal, and you can see if there is a growing problem.

3. Hosts That Are Out of Date

Finally, most hosts pride themselves on having the latest and greatest technology but not all actually do. Some let their hardware slide but the large problem is the software side. While hardware may be expensive to buy, new software often requires new training, redoing tutorials, etc. that can be even more expensive.

Either way though, servers begin to move slow and suffer from being out of date. Even worse, the latest and greatest tools may not be available to the customers on the server, limiting the applications they can use and the sites they can run.

This can make a once-modern host feel like a dinosaur and leave customers scrambling to find a host that’s more up to date and able to do what they need.

Warning Signs: As mentioned above, software is often the first warning sign of a host slipping behind the times. Check and make sure your control panel, PHP and applications are up to date. If they are running versions significantly behind (and without a good reason), it may be a sign that your host isn’t keeping up with either software or hardware changes. Though it may not stop you from running WordPress, it may limit what else you can do with your site.

Bottom Line

In the end, even if you are happy with your host currently, you need to be aware that things can and, very likely, will change. Though some hosts are able to provide a consistent level of service, others are not and some even go through ebbs and flows of good and bad times.

Your best bet is to be vigilant and watch your host carefully. If you see warning signs that things may begin to be heading south, it may be best to start planning an exit. This includes lining up another host, making sure your backups are current and that you have a strategy for leaving.

If you wait until the need is urgent, you may find that it is too late to do so and keep everything you’ve worked on. Looking for warning signs and reacting accordingly is crucial to making such a transfer quick, painless and successful.

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