Last week, my post on developer licenses sparked a lot of discussion on maintenance plans, web hosting, etc.
I also got several emails with comments and one person asked a question if it is a good idea to host your client websites?
So I wanted to follow up and answer the question: Should you offer web hosting to your clients? Along with sharing my thoughts, I also asked 5 industry experts for their thoughts on whether developers should offer web hosting to their clients.
In short, the answer is NO you shouldn’t offer hosting to your clients. It may seem like a good idea in the short run, but it’s not in the long run.
Let’s take a look at the Pros and Cons of hosting client websites on your server.
Pros of Hosting Client Sites
It’s true that when you resell hosting, you can charge a premium for it and add an additional source of recurring revenue to your business.
When you first start out, it seems like a great idea because your VPS / Dedicated server costs get covered, and you make extra $$$.
What could go wrong you ask? Let’s take a look at the downsides.
Cons of Hosting Client Sites
When you host your client websites, you’re their first line of tech support. If they install a plugin that broke the website, they will call you.
If your hosting provider has an outage, they’ll call you. Not to mention, you also get most of the blame too because you’re their web host (not the company that you’re reselling).
You have to be the sysadmin and regularly monitor the server load to ensure that no one website is hogging the resources and slowing others down.
Aside from all the support liability, you also have legal liability.
When starting out, most freelancers don’t think about getting proper legal contracts drafted up. This opens you up to all sort of liabilities (data loss due to hardware failure, loss of sales due to network outages, etc etc).
All it takes is one bad incident, a pissed off customer, and a lawyer who’s willing to work on contingency.
Yup, you should probably tell your business insurance company about all the services you’re offering if you want proper coverage. In other words, get business insurance if you don’t have one already.
It’s always better that you specialize and focus on what you’re good at.
Let the web hosting companies do their job.
Refer your clients to companies that you have relationships with and think would be a good fit for your clients’ needs.
After that, you can sell them a maintenance package that doesn’t involve hosting (so you actually make decent $$$ without being the first line of support).
Here’s What Other Industry Experts Think
I decided to ask this question to 5 top WordPress experts, and this is what they had to say:
Developers should not host their clients because they are developers. There’s a figure of speech that is very relevant here: Jack of all trades, master of none.
You hired a developer, or team of developers, because they are experts at what they do, which is developing. Your developer should be a master at developing awesome websites, but that doesn’t mean they are a master at hosting awesome websites.
There are many different hosting companies that specialize in hosting websites, and that’s all they do and they do it very well. Leave hosting to the hosting experts, just as they should leave development to the development experts. Be a master at what you do, not a Jack of all trades.
I provide value to my clients because I am an expert in what I do (development). I don’t offer any design services because I am not good or an expert in the field of design. If a client needs design work, I help them find a designer who is qualified.
I look at hosting the same way. I am not an expert at hosting. While I know the in-and-out of cPanel, I wouldn’t consider that being an expert or having deep knowledge in web hosting. I don’t know Linux well, can’t effectively fine tune Nginx or Apache configurations, and most importantly can’t rapidly scale a site if needed. I’m perfectly OK with not knowing these things, but I don’t pretend to know them. I am transparent to my clients about my skill set.
Instead, I talk to each client and find out their specific hosting needs their site. Then based on that information I will offer recommendations that will serve them well.
It seems like such a good idea initially – to offer hosting to your clients. It’s like free money. You pay someone else for the server and then you rent out the space with your own profit margin rolled in. And initially it works. You get cash without having to do anything. Maybe it even feels like it will work in the longer run because you’re not just selling regular VPS, maybe you’re selling Managed WordPress Hosting. But the issue isn’t when a single client has an issue. The problem arrives when there’s a larger internet issue, a virus, or a denial of service attack on your hosting provider. Because suddenly you have 5, 10, 25 customers all calling you – all demanding immediate service – and you can watch all that profit disappear. Ultimately, I think it’s a bad idea because I think people just hope nothing will go wrong. Given enough time, something will. And hope isn’t a strategy.
I’m not in the hosting business. I’m in the development business. By agreeing to host a client, you’re agreeing to be their first (or maybe only) support contact when *anything* goes wrong. Server goes down. Site speed is meh. Things aren’t working right. Or, they begin to feel like they’re paying too much. Do I recommend hosts? Absolutely. Do I host it for them? Hell no.
I don’t want the 3am phone call that the client’s website is down. Large hosts have 24/7 support, so the client always has someone they can call or email and get a quick response. They also have the experience to quickly identify the issue and get the site back up.
Most hosts offer generous referrals. As a developer, you can help your client identify the best host for them, and be compensated for that through the referral program. The client can then have a direct relationship with their host.
In case you don’t get the theme here:
Do you host your client websites? Did you use to host your clients and switched away? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.