Managed hosting is a common option for many businesses - it's not just for small companies and those that don't have the resources or expertise to run things themselves. If done correctly, it can be a cost-effective way of running key operations and ensuring everything is properly developed and maintained.
If done badly, however, it can quickly turn into a nightmare. If firms don't ask the right questions when selecting a partner for this, they could find themselves locked into a lengthy contract where they are overpaying for poor service and harming their overall business.
So how do you make sure you avoid these pitfalls? Here are a few key considerations you need to be looking at when talking with any potential managed hosting providers, and if they can't sufficiently answer any of these points, this is a red flag that should lead you to look elsewhere.
1. The provider doesn't own their hardware
A key early question should be 'does the provider actually own their own hardware?' Some don't, relying instead on reselling servers from another host. But if this is the case, it can lead to many issues. If the provider isn't in control of their servers, it may well take longer to respond to any problems. It could be they don't have any spare parts available, or don't have physical access to the data center to fix anything. This means longer wait times for any issue resolution.
2. You can't contact them in the way you want
You should also be able to specify how you want to get in contact with the provider to report any problems. Ideally, you want a provider that offers full ticket support, as this documents every stage of the process, and you should be able to speak to an expert by phone. If a provider is only offering IM chats or Skype, there's no guarantee you'll be responded to quickly or your issue tracked.
3. There are hidden costs/exit charges
It's especially important that you have a full understanding of all the costs involved before signing on the dotted line, and your provider must be upfront about what these are. If you have to dig deep into the small print of your contract to uncover extra costs or cancellation fees, you should look elsewhere. It also pays to do your own research, as some providers, especially those offering cheaper services, may not mention these at all, leaving you to rely on other customer reviews to spot any red flags. If a headline price seems to good to be true, it probably is.
4. The provider doesn't understand your solutions
It's important you determine how familiar your provider is with your CMS, applications or IT framework. If the company doesn't know much about the specific tools you use, it will be impossible for them to provide adequate management. If they are turning to Google to solve any issues, you might as well be doing it yourself!
5. They don't offer true 24/7 support
The internet doesn't work on a nine-to-five basis, so being able to contact your hosting provider for support with an issue at any time is hugely important. But are you sure your managed hosting provider’s claims of 24/7 support are as they should be? If you don't get clarity on this, you may not realize until it's too late, especially if '24/7' only covers basic issues and anything more complex requires an engineer visit that’s restricted to business hours. If this is the case, you could find yourself offline for hours or even days if problems occur at the weekend.
6. They rely on testimonials
Part of any firm's due diligence should involve looking at what managed hosting partners have done for past customers. If they only offer a 'testimonials' page on their website with glowing reviews from happy customers, be wary. Anyone can make up a short snippet of praise and you have no way of knowing if it's real. What you really need is in-depth case studies that offer specific examples of projects the company has worked on, with named customers, that can showcase in detail how the provider met the customer’s expectations. If these don't exist, ask why not.
7. Your company cultures don't mesh
Finally, sometimes, it's simply a case that the culture of a provider doesn’t match up with your own. In these situations, there may be no specific performance-related red flags to cause concern but a general impression that the company isn't the right fit. Are the answers they’re providing too vague or incomplete? Did they take the time to understand the unique needs or your firm or just offer a standard quote? These can all be indicators that the company isn't fully committed to you.
A good hosting provider should be seen as a partner, not just a vendor, so if there's anything making you feel uneasy about the relationship, listen to your gut - it could save you a lot of hassle in the long run.