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What is 24-7 support?
24-7 support is a commitment made by many hosting providers to have technical support available to their customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It represents the highest degree of support availability possible, and is offered by most large hosting providers.
The details of what this commitment includes vary considerably from one host to the next. It’s important to understand these details before counting on a hosting provider’s support team to be there for you if you need them in the middle of the night or over the weekend.
Types of Support
There are four basic types of support offered by hosting providers:
- Live personal support
- Written personal support
- Community support
Live personal support is the most desirable form of emergency support for most hosting customers. Live personal support may take the form of live chat or a phone call. With live personal support questions can be answered and issues resolved quickly. Live personal support is best for addressing issues that don’t require a great deal of research.
Written personal support takes the form of email and support ticketing systems, and is the form most hosting providers prefer because it creates a written documentation trail that both the customer and the host can refer back too. Also, written support is best for complex issues that the hosting provider will need to research in order to address.
Documentation in the form of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), tutorials, how-to guides, and training materials are first stop for most common recurring support issues. If an issue does not require immediate resolution, and there is time for research, written documentation is an effective way to gain a lot of useful detailed information.
Community support in the form of discussion forums is also offered by most hosting providers, and is an effective way to address many types of general hosting questions that don’t require specific action by the web host. Some forums are very active and may even provide answers more promptly than an email or ticketing system. An added benefit to community forums is that they create a searchable repository of past issues, which can be helpful to customers who encounter similar issues in the future.
Things to Look For
When evaluating a hosts 24-7 service offer you’ll want to dig into the details. Unfortunately, every host seems to put the details of their support availability in a different place. Some include detailed support information in their Terms of Service, the document that defines the hosts responsibilities and may be called a Service Agreement, Terms and Conditions, or something else along those lines. At other times the details will be located at a Support or Contact Us page. If you can’t find the details anywhere else it’s always ok to contact a host prior to making a purchase to request support details from them.
The details you’re looking for in order to make an educated evaluation of their customer support capabilities include:
- Types of support included at no additional cost in the hosting package under evaluation
- Day and time availability of personal support (chat, phone, email, ticketing system)
- Typical hold or wait time for phone and chat support
- Typical response time for email and ticketing system support
- Location and employer of the support team (in-house or subcontracted)
With that information in hand you’ll be prepared to make an educated evaluation of the merits of the hosting providers 24-7 support claim.
How to Evaluate a 24-7 Support Offer
When evaluating a hosting providers claim to offer 24-7 support there are some red flags to watch out for.
Check the hours of availability for your preferred support method. It is not unusual for live support (phone and chat) hours to be limited. In those cases it’s pretty typical for off-hours support to be provided by email or the ticketing system. However, it also isn’t unusual to see typical email and ticketing system response times of more than 8 hours. In those instances, while the host may have support staff on hand 24 hours a day, off-hours support may be so delayed that it really isn’t adequate to justify a 24-7 support claim.
While some outsourced support teams may do a fine job, overall they do not have a positive reputation. Generally speaking, in-house support teams are considered superior to outsourced support teams. If the support team is not in-house be sure to follow some of the additional steps we suggest later in this article to get a sense for existing customers’ experience with the support team.
If you plan to make heavy use of live personal support, particularly phone support, you may also want to verify the language fluency of the support staff. Some hosts boast a support staff with multilingual capabilities, and if you are worried about avoiding language barriers this may be an important factor for you to consider.
One of the best ways to determine if a host’s 24-7 support is as good as it sounds it to read customer reviews at websites like WhoIsHostingThis?. Since support is an important factor for most customers it is discussed in many user reviews of hosting providers. The benefit of checking reviews at an independent site like WhoIsHostingThis? is that you get to see reviews without having them pass through the hosting company’s hands first, so you get a more accurate picture of customer experience.
It’s always worthwhile to take a look at the hosting provider’s community support forums during this process. While some hosts keep these forums private, and only accessible to hosting customers, others make them public. A quick scan of recent posts will give you a good sense of how quickly issues are addressed, and how satisfied customers are with the support offered by the host.
Lastly, check out the hosting providers social media pages. Frustrated customers will often take to social media to vent their anger. While you should take posts on social media with a grain of salt, you may also find posts with both positive and negative insightful things to say about the host’s support capabilities.
Wrapping it Up
Customer support is one of the most important factors in a hosting package for most customers. Many hosts boast of 24-7 support availability. However, it’s important to understand what type of support the host offers, the times each type of support is available, and to gauge existing customers’ experience with the support team. With that information in hand you’ll be able to decide for yourself if you can count on their support team to help you out 24-7.