A Small Business Guide to Picking a Web Host Provider - Page 2

By Pam Baker
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You Want to Talk to a Real Person for Tech Support?

Yet another gimmick among Web hosting companies is to claim 24/7 support, which all-too-often means you can't reach a living person -- ever.

"For the most part, Web hosts offer automated support. Even their help desks try to provide automated responses before you can access a human," said Rob Skelton, founder of Affordable Web, a web design firm, and a former Google employee.  

The problem is that maintaining a support staff cuts deeply into profits. "It's easy to understand that if their profit margin on a $7 per month account is $1 or $2, they don't want to spend any man hours keeping that customer happy," said Skelton.

One unhappy customer or one server with ongoing issues doesn't really affect the rest of the host's business; those monthly subscription dollars keep rolling in.

"Without integrity," said Skelton, "Hosting companies are tempted to provide poor service knowing that they will get away with it in the short term. Of course in the long term they get a bad name, but that doesn't seem to cross their mind."

Skelton has cancelled about half of the hosts he has used in the last 15 years because of poor performance or service. "It is always a big call to make, because it takes a lot of effort to find a new host and transfer your sites," he said.

It is extremely important to research how well a hosting company actually provides support before you sign. The whole point of using a hosting service is to relieve you of the need to hire a bunch of in-house IT staff. But if no one's home at the hosting service, you still don't have the IT support you need.

"Tech-support response should be a small business owner's number one priority," said Chris Waldron, founder of his eponymous Web services company. "Up-time and costs are so competitive these days, there is no sense in saving a penny now only to waste employee hours later dealing with support to get something fixed."

So how do you research how well a hosting company delivers support?

"I recommend testing out the support system with a few basic questions before committing to a company," says Review Signal's Kevin Ohashi. "If you aren't very satisfied with their customer support as a potential customer, you will be furious when something goes wrong and you're an actual customer."

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This article was originally published on May 01, 2013
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