Why we no longer host client sites and the advantages it brings

For a while now, to keep things simple for clients we have offered to host client sites on our servers. Increasingly over the last few months this has become more and more a problem for us. In this article I will outline why we took the decision not to host client sites anymore, and what benefits this will being our clients.

What is web hosting?

For some readers of this post, it may be that this is the first time you have heard the term “web hosting” and therefore I thought it best to understand what we mean.

Websites that we produce, built with WordPress, are essentially a collection of files. There is the WordPress files, your sites theme (this is what gives it, its look and feel) and any custom functionality we have built for you in the form of a plugin. There is also the sites database, which for the purpose of this definition we can refer to as another file.

In order for visitors to find our website “online” all these files have to live on a computer, that can serve these files to a visitor when the visit your websites address. This computer which serves the file is the web hosting.

Web hosting is some space on a computer (called a server) which sends you the requested pages, images and videos etc. when you visit a particular web address. All websites need somewhere to host them.

Why we have hosted client websites for over 2 years

When we started out as a business we made the decision to host our client websites should they wish us to do so. We found that clients wanted an all-in-one solution from us. They could simply pay 1 company an invoice for getting their website online and then keeping it there. It also made their admin much easier to deal with as they were invoicing usually once a year to one company.

There were other benefits too of course. We made a little bit of profit from hosting websites (although not a lot!) and also it made the admin from our side much easier to deal with. We have a control panel giving us access to all our client sites hosting areas rather than having separate logins for each and needing to be provided these by the client.

Another benefit was that because the hosting account was ours, any issues with the hosting that needed our help, we could communicate directly with the hosting company without any authorisation needed from the client.

Dedicated WordPress hosting with SiteGround

We have hosted our websites with SiteGround for the last 5 years and they have proved a very good platform with good customer service. We would recommend them to anyone wanting to host a WordPress site.

Find our more (affiliate link)

How we offered hosting to clients

Hosting websites is a complicated affair and the technology and knowledge involved is very different from actually building websites. For sure, it helps for developers to know a bit about hosting and visa versa and we have that intermediary knowledge here at Highrise Digital, but we are by no means experts in that area.

Therefore, like most agencies who are offering hosting to the clients they build their websites for, we choose to resell hosting from popular hosting providers, taking advantage of their expertise in that area.

We choose to use a well-known hosing with a good reputation for hosting WordPress sites called SiteGround (referral link). All of the hosting is done by them and we did not host any websites ourselves.

What has changed? Why are we no longer offering website hosting?

So after many internal discussions, we have taken the decision to no longer offer website hosting to our clients. For a while now it has not felt right for us to operate in this way and I wanted to outline the reasons we have taken this decision, something which we have mulled over for some time.

  • Lack of expertise – We want to offer services were we feel we have a good expertise in that area – WordPress is a good example of this in that we know it inside out. Web hosting, for us is at the other end of the spectrum. We simply don’t know enough about it to offer it with any confidence to clients.
  • Lack of value for customers – because hosting is not our expertise, we are not providing any added value to our clients in this area. We were simply passing a service onto the client without adding that value. It is important to us, as a company that we provide a good service to our customers and give them real value for money, something which we feel we were not doing with hosting their sites.
  • Ability to deliver a good SLA – when you purchase hosting from dedicated hosting company, usually they will offer some sort of service level agreement (SLA). This is their guarantee that your site will be online. Being a small company, we simply can’t deliver this level of service. It is usually down to me to deal with client hosting and if I was on holiday or ill for example, we couldn’t guarantee that sites could stay online – something which we feel would be letting customers down.
  • Lack of honesty from clients – although we have never hidden the fact that we don’t actually host client websites, we have not entirely be active in telling clients our hosting setup. Something felt wrong with this and it felt wrong to tell them that they are buying a service that we are just passing on to someone else. As a company we thrive on transparency and honesty and we needed our hosting arrangements to change to align with this.

What does this mean for our clients?

Well in truth not a lot needs to change for clients apart from the obvious in that you will need to find a new host for your website. However the good news here, is that we are happy to migrate your site for you, at no cost assuming you want to move to where the site is currently hosted, with SiteGround.

There are other benefits for you too:

  • Better value for money – it is likely that when you purchase the hosting with your own account through a dedicated WordPress host, you are likely going to pay a little less for the hosting, saving you a few quid!
  • Support from Highrise Digital – we can still support you with your website is the same was as we have always done, whether that is through our website care plans, a monthly retainer contract or whether it is through ad-hoc or pay-as-you-go support. We are here to help as always.
  • Better SLA in place – unlike us, your new host should be available 24/7 to help make sure you site is always online. Of course if you want us to help communicate issues with your host, we are aways here to help and support you.
  • Autonomy of your site/data – being hosted with your own account means your website is no longer tied to an agency (not that we would every treat it like this of course) and you can move your site and have others contribute to it as and when you like.
  • Complete transparency – this way you have all the experts focusing on what they do best. We can assist with development requests and the host can help, through us if you wish us to manage that for you, helping keep your site up and running and handling hosting related issues.

All current clients on a hosting plan with us will receive an email shortly however this change will only take place on your sites renewal date. As always if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

About the author

Mark is the lead WordPress developer at Highrise Digital. He has been working with WordPress for over 15 years, way back to 2005. He focuses on back-end development, integrating the website build with WordPress so everything can be editable.