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Who Manages Your Web HostFor your web site to go live, you need to have web hosting in place. This is not an article about best web hosting services; this is about who should register, manage and maintain the actual hosting account.

First of all, you should realize that very few web designers or web development firms do their own hosting. Web site hosting requires a large investment in hardware and a commitment to maintaining that infrastructure and offering technical support. Your web designer probably does not do that. In fact, I’d question why any small web firm would want to offer their own hosting.

But your web design firm probably has one or more hosts they like to use. They may just use affiliate links and get referral fees, or they may have a hosting package for themselves with server space that they divvy up and resell to clients.

Here are a few options and some insight into the pros and cons of each arrangement.

Web design firm pays for hosting, marks it up, and bills client

Many of the web hosting companies have programs for affiliates or resellers because they know that the web design and development teams are frequently the ones to recommend the host. As a web design firm owner, there was a time when I was enticed by the fact that web hosting is something I could markup and make a small, but easy, profit on.

So, I would setup a client’s hosting and then turn around and invoice them with a markup. This is preferred by some clients who don’t want to take the time to do this themselves, or would be overwhelmed with the process.

However, when I look at the type of work we do, and compare that to the revenues from marking up hosting, it becomes a bit more hassle than it’s worth. Also, occassionally I’ve had a client go the host company and see there was a markup and take issue with it. To answer that, I feel that anytime you’re streamlining someone else’s work I don’t have a problem adding a fee to do so. But it does bring me to the next option.

Pros: Web design firm, who has experience selecting and setting up hosting accounts, does the work. Web firm gets a bit of extra revenue.

Cons: Extra fees to the client. Hassle of invoicing for the web firm.

Client sets up their own hosting

Clients often want control of their own hosting. Sometimes, it’s because they’ve prepaid for a hosting package and want to take advantage of it. Or, they carefully watch their expenses and don’t want to pay a markup for something they can get cheaper by buying direct.

As I said previously, profits from web hosting are not central to my business model, so I’m OK with the client registering for their own hosting. I don’t miss having to bill for hosting, or being in the middle of following up with an expired credit card, etc.

However, there have been times when a client has chosen a host that we have trouble with. Usually this is when we are doing a web site redesign and the client currently has hosting for their existing site. Either the hosting platform is inadequate or the tech support is so bad we waste hours trying to setup or straighten things out. In situations like this, they may need to forfeit money (or try and get a refund) and start up new hosting.

Pros: Client is direct billed.

Cons: Client may have chosen a less-than-optimal host.

Who is really providing support?

When your web site is down, it can feel like an everlasting crisis.

Once you realize that very few web firms are actually doing hosting themselves, you understand that when there is trouble, you need to get to the source and get answers there. The actual web host will need to be contacted to evaluate many issues that arise when a web site shows an error or stops functioning correctly.

Many clients prefer for their web team to be the contact because they are the experts. While this makes sense, you need to realistic about the turnaround time and support. Nearly every reputable hosting company offers 24/7 technical support; most web design firms work more traditional working hours. If you are working with a freelance web designer, they may be even more difficult to reach if they work a day job or go on vacation.

So it is best to be clear about what happens when there is an issue with the web site hosting. Make sure both the client (web site owner) and the web team have contact information, login credentials and authority to contact the host.

This brings up the final gray area. No matter who pays for hosting, both parties should be clear about whether or not the web team can bill out for being the go-between with the host’s tech support. Some web firms who markup their web hosting, are using that markup to cover the time they spend providing this service to their end client. Other times, that fee does not realistically cover the time it can take to sort out web site outages, and a client should be prepared for additional bills.

Let me know what arrangement you prefer. Are you a client or a web designer, and do you prefer for the web site owner to pay for hosting or for the web design firm?

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