Website Hosting in Michigan
There are all sorts of website hosting services out there, many provided by companies that are famous for their cheap monthly fees or built-in "features" that let you "do it all yourself". Here at Michigan SEO Group, we do things differently, and host our clients' websites with what we call "Business Class Web Hosting." The hosting service is provided through our sister company, Network Services Group, LLC, and as a general rule, we require 99% of our clients to use NSG hosting. Why, you might ask, are you guys so particular about web hosting?
The short answer is: Because we have been in the business for nearly two decades, and we have found, time and time again, that without immediate access to a client's website in an environment we directly control, things just go wrong. And then we have to track down the people responsible for the problem and wait for them to fix it.
Your host provides the very basis on which your website exists and runs. When something goes wrong and disinterested parties wield control of the very root of your problem – when they are unresponsive, inexperienced, or overwhelmed by an enormous client base -- that problem becomes very difficult to solve in any coordinated way.
That's why we're proud to offer what we call Business Class Website Hosting.
Business Class Website Hosting
Within a couple months of starting NSG, Don quickly decided that having sites that work most of the time -- without full control over his hosting environment and servers -- was not recipe for success. He bit the bullet and purchased servers that NSG controls, and all those problems went away. NSG spends a lot of time and money setting them up, hosting them at a data facility, and maintaining them so they continue to run well. NSG controls servers in multiple data centers, so that when something goes wrong, they can switch to another. All have redundant backups, including the servers at the NSG world headquarters here in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Even When Things Go Wrong
We're tempted to say that we have been fortunate that we haven't had any major outages in 9 years, and while that's certainly true, it belies the fact that fortune is only part of it. We plan ahead, based on a great deal of technical know how and real world experience.
No matter who you go with for hosting, there is no guarantee that you won't experience an outage at some point. Even the largest of companies such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft experience outages. But if your website and email are important, you want to make sure that you work with a company that is knowledgeable, has experience, and makes plans and takes actions to minimize any disruptions. People like us.
We go to great lengths to make sure that our server infrastructure is fast and reliable. Our servers are hosted in different tier-1 data facilities, all with redundant internet connections, and backup battery and generator power. Notice we say "different" data facilities.
Nine years ago one of the data centers hosting one of our servers exploded. It blew up, and took down tens of thousands of websites with it. This happened late on a Friday evening, and we became aware of it fairly soon after it happened. Based on what happened (explosion!) there was no chance of this problem being corrected any time soon. In fact, it took over a week before the data center was able to fix it and get people back online.
Think about that. This was a major data center, used by tens of thousands of websites (not just us), and they were all down for a week. But not us!
We had a server in a different data facility. We paid for extra storage so we could have our servers backup to each other every night. We were able to take those backups and make them "live" in fairly short order. This happened late on a Friday night, and we were up and running within a few hours. None of our customers even noticed. Down for over a week, or down for a few hours? Stuff happens, but it tends to happen less to those that are prepared.
Here is an excerpt from an email Don sent to Autumn, our chief sysadmin, at the time (this was Saturday, the day after):
Looks like they are still screwing around over at the data center and don't have an eta for repair. So even though it was a big pain in the rear, I think we probably did the right thing switching over to our backup server last night.
Thanks for jumping on this so quickly. No one seems to have called in or sent me an email, so I'm guessing it happened late enough yesterday that no one even noticed.
So I think basically it boils down to this...
#1) we rule!
#2) our backup plan worked
#3) I'm sure we can discuss some ideas moving forward (based on this experience) to make it even better.
Lesson learned. Don't put all your eggs in one basket, or all of your servers in the same data center.
That's a pretty extreme case, but we've just seen so many instances lately where people made uninformed choices about where they hosted their websites, and it came back to bite them.
How about this to illustrate the point:
We cringe when we read that. It's sort of like the feeling you get when you're on an airplane and it drops all of a sudden, and you get that feeling in your stomach. On an airplane it lasts for a moment, but in a case like this it lasts for days. Helpless indeed. Ugh.
Where you host your website matters. This guy put his trust in people (not us) who failed him. He didn't know he should be asking them about their backup plans - he just assumed that they were taking care of it. They were professionals. They should have taken care of it, but they didn't. It's not his fault, but he's the guy living with the results.
In our experience most people don't think about backups. They don't think about security reviews. They don't think about having servers in multiple data centers, and they certainly don't want to pay for the expense of doing so. But if your website and email are important, maybe you should think about hosting it with someone who does think about those things. Someone like us.
This is why it makes sense to have business class web hosting.
This is why it makes sense to go with a local company that knows what they are doing on all fronts (hosting, programming, design, and SEO), and has your best interests in mind.
This is why you don't let "creative" people create your website on the platform du jour because it's "easy" with little or no thought to maintenance, backups, or security.
It's not that our servers never go down. But it has happened pretty rarely, and NSG goes to great lengths to make sure that they would be able to recover from a failure and get people back up and running on another server relatively quickly.
Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
So think about that the next time someone asks why our web hosting costs so much. $8/month for a site that works most of the time... it doesn't sound so good when you say it like that!
If you're committed to truly doing the best you can for your company, make sure you have:
- robust, redundant web hosting
- a website installed in a professional, SEO friendly, content management system
- automated backups
- a professional website design that does more than just look good, but also utilizes current best practices for user engagement and analytics
- consistent, thoughtful SEO to make sure your website appears as high in the search results as possible and stays there
- and, a dedicated person or team making sure that the technology is monitored, fully functioning, and updated regularly
Just for reference, we typically charge people $400 per year to host their sites. Its not really a profit center for us because of the costs involved in maintaining our robust, redundant services, but we offer it for a variety of reasons, a few of which we'll explain below. By the way, a good friend of ours who has a highly effective website and SEO business in Florida charges $85 per month for hosting ($125 per month for hosting both a website and blog), and it's worth every penny.
We've had people transfer from GoDaddy or one of the other commodity hosting companies and the comments we get are usually something like this: "gee, it sure is nice to have a reliable website for a change!"
We also hear horror stories like the following from callers and potential clients on an almost weekly basis.
Website Hosting Horror Stories
These stories are true, though he names have been changed to protect the evildoers and their helpless victims.
Backups Are For The Weak. The Website Deserves no Backups
Anonymous Marketing Company [AMC]: Hey, Michigan SEO Group, Client X's website is messed up. We think you are hosting it. Can you restore it from a backup?
MSG: Sure, we can take a look at that! Hmmmm, it looks like we used to host it, but you guys moved the web hosting away from us last year. We have backups of what was hosted on our server, but nothing since you redesigned the site using Wordpress and moved the hosting elsewhere. You'll have to check with the new hosting company for recent backups.
AMC: Oh dear, we're waiting to hear back from their web hosting firm, but apparently they didn't sign up for a hosting plan that includes backups.
Why someone would even offer a hosting plan without backups is a mystery to us. Do you see the problem here? There was nobody in their marketing or hosting company with a sufficient professional mindset to make sure the client's best interests were protected.
My Website Keeps Going Down, Help!
We received a panicked call from somebody from a local business whose office is only about two miles away from ours. Their site had been down all day, and their web guys said it was caused by a DDoS attack directed at their hosting company.
After a bit of investigation, we discovered the web guys were using some cheap hosting service, which was one of those "pay us $8.50 per month to host your site" companies like GoDaddy and 1and1. Turns out, this company had servers at the same data centers we did, – but none of our sites were affected by this supposed attack.
Let's apply some high-level mathematics here:
|Data Center||+||Cheap Ass Hosting Service||=||Not Working|
Think you can identify the flaw?
Never Deny the Hungry
One of our clients proffers delectable noms to nearly half the United States. When we took over, they were hosted with one of the larger domain name and hosting companies almost everyone has herd of. And for some reason, their website had an odd habit of timing out or crashing a couple times per week right around 6-7pm when everyone went home and started ordering food online. We transferred hosting to NSG servers and ... the problems stopped.
Here's the crazy thing: The NSG servers even survived their super bowl ad!
Cheap Ass Website Hosting
Have you experienced similar problems? We feel for you.
There are plenty of companies that charge $8 per month (or less) for hosting, and, at first glance, that sounds really good. In fact, when Don Prior first started NSG back in 2001, he signed up with a couple of them. After all, why go through the expense and hassle of setting up your own servers, paying the monthly fees to a data facility (hundreds or even thousands per month!) when you can pay as little as $3 per month per site?
It seems like such a great deal. You pay your meager fee for the first month, and voila! You have a website that works... most of the time.
Then you experience random slowdowns, form submission errors, connectivity issues and a slew of other scattered annoyances that aggravate your visitors, hinder customer communication, and get in your way of doing business. And of course if you call tech support to talk to someone, you are going to be tied to the phone on hold, listening to muzak that sounds like it's been broadcasted from some dingy elevator, only to find yourself finally talking to a "script reader" who, when you get right down to it, really knows nothing about web hosting or servers.
So paying a cheap monthly fee makes a lot of sense, but only if low cost is more important to you than having a robust website with easy access to good support.
Business Class Content Management System
Almost all hosting services, even CheapAssHost.com and its downmarket brethren, offer basically two options for managing the content of your website.
- Program and maintain it yourself (or hire a web programmer to do it)
- Wrap it up in a Content Management System, so non-programmers can make changes when needed
When cheap ass hosts say, "Content Management System," they usually mean WordPress. We're willing to bet that, if you've got a website or you're looking to get one, you've heard of it. Do we offer WordPress?
Wordpress is a clunky, cranky machine wrought with thousands of documented exploitations. Of course we can support it, but we highly discourage it. We won't go into too many details here, but if you can learn more about the dangers of WordPress in a separate article. Needless to say, we offer something better: Our Business Class Content Management System. This is a proprietary, in-house software solution that only exists on NSG servers. It was built from the ground up with three specific goals:
- To load fast, functional websites
- To allow full optimization for search engines
- To give multiple users the ability to add, remove and update website content
— all without any technical or programming knowledge
We'd love to tell you more about our Business Class Content Management System here!
Check out our Michigan Website Hosting Portfolio!
Over the years, we've assembled a pretty impressive Michigan Website Hosting portfolio. We'd love it for you check it out! The majority of these websites represent businesses located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but some are national and even international. Regardless, all take advantage of our Business Class Website Hosting Services and Content Management System. Perhaps even more important is the fact that all our clients know us on a first-name basis.
Or, as one of the great minds at NSG puts it:
One thing people need to realize is that when we host their sites, it represents the shortest possible path between the people who care about what's happening with their site and the people who can really work the magic to make things happen, if there's a problem or if they need something special. With canned hosting providers, there's a very big gap there.
Our focus, first and foremost, is relationships. We market Michigan SEO Group in part on the fact that our clients can sit across the desk and yell at us – if the need is there. What happens most of the time is that they sit across the desk and tell us how much better their websites, social media, and blogs are doing now that we're helping out. Whether they're shouting insults or heaping praise on us, it's always better – both for them and for us – because of the direct connection. We care about their success, and if they aren't our friends when we first meet, many do become friends, so we have a vested interest in seeing them succeed.
It's truly a joy to be around people who are wired to work hard and help others succeed. That's one of the biggest intrinsic rewards of what we do. And because we spend a lot of mental energy on "getting it right," we're lucky enough to be around a lot of those people. So, remember this the next time you're thinking about whether to go the "cheap" route or the "good" route: price is what you pay. Value is what you get. If you're after price, think GoDaddy, 1and1, or another discount hosting service. If you're after value, think quality, think local, and think Michigan SEO Group!
If you'd like to learn more about Michigan Website Hosting, just ask! We'd be happy to discuss our philosophy and answer any questions you might have. If you're interested in website Design or SEO, that's awesome -- we can talk about that too! Just give us a call or contact us from the website. We'd love to have a chat with you, and we'll even throw in a free copy of our book on Search Engine Optimization.
We look forward to meeting you soon!