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Buyer Beware: Web Hosting, Registration, and Site Building "All in One" Package Nightmares
Starting out in any type of online marketing or Internet business can be confusing and overwhelming. There are so many different aspects of a start-up: domain name registration and purchase, Web site host purchasing, and of course, the "building" of the Web site itself. This leaves many consumers looking for an easier way to purchase everything in one place, both to save money and to save time.
This has led to the rise of "total packages" by many hosting and Internet development companies, where everything is included: domain-name registration, software for design of a site or an online method of building a site, professional design of the site, and of course, the hosting. This is quite popular as it whittles down the process of getting a site up and running for many new to the Internet and online marketing.
However, with the convenience of Web-hosting packages of this sort, there also can be inconveniences. No road is paved "with gold" and this type of registration, hosting and design package deal is no exception. There can be problems that surface later on when purchasing a Web design and hosting package that also includes registration. These problems usually present themselves in the following forms:
1. Once a Web site becomes popular, the hosting charges may rise exorbitantly, as the "special" that was presented initially can become inapplicable once a certain amount of traffic or the size of the site changes. This is more of a problem for larger business sites than for smaller business sites or "personal" or "theme" sites.
2. Some "specials" only exist for a limited amount of time, and the charges can rise steadily after that period.
3. A Web site owner may have different needs as time goes on, and the "package" no longer suits the needs of the owner. This can include the inability to change the pages on one's own, or the inability to effectively track traffic, as some come with traffic statistics packages.
4. Downtime (when a site is down and can't be viewed) can be significant enough to warrant a change of hosts or domain name registrars.
5. A Web site, registration, and web hosting package company may go out of business, leaving a client with no way to contact them, and three services to quickly replace. This also leaves a site open to loss of the registered domain name, as well as loss of revenues while the site is "down".
6. A contract may exist which states that the "special" prices are only offered contingent on remaining with a certain company for a specified amount of time (which may be years).
7. The actual "name" of your site may not even be registered to "you" the perceived "owner", but to the hosting and registrar company that initiated the purchase through the package deal. This how the Web site hosting, design and registrar packages "save" money many times for consumers, as they "buy in bulk", registering hundreds of sites per month.
All the above seem simple enough to rectify. Simply "switch" the Web site, hosting, and domain name registrar to that of other companies.
This is the point, however, in which "trouble" can rear its ugly head. Some hosting and domain name registrars seem reluctant to "hand over" a site to any other company, as it does mean the loss of a customer and therefore, revenue, for themselves. The current hosting company and registrar may likewise delay a transfer, or refuse to provide sufficient information to a new host or registrar to effectively conclude a transfer. It becomes even more tangled, if the name of a site has been registered to them.
This is where it is possible for a "nightmare" of subterfuge regarding a site to begin. Sometimes, after numerous contacts, with no reply, a Web site owner will realize that the switching of the site has become a real battle.
Here's an actual real life example of a friend of mine, Katheryn:
After much downtime had occurred, Katheryn wrote to the initial hosting company, and domain name registrar, stating her disappointment in the service. A rather nasty letter was received in reply, telling her that she could either "like it or lump it" and that there was not anything they could do, as a contract was in place that could not be "broken" by any means. The language of the e-mail correspondence was rude and uncalled for, and a phone number was not provided anywhere for more personal contact, neither was the name of the support person that wrote the e-mail.
The site remained down consistently, as well, over the next few weeks, forcing Katheryn to sign up for a different hosting plan with a different host, and also re-register the domain with another registrar. Luckily for Katheryn, the registration of the site was in her name, and a new name did not need to be purchased. At the time of import, however, the previous "problem" host refused to initiate a transfer, claiming that the contract remained intact, and therefore the site could not be transferred. The new hosting company had to "maneuver" the site onto it's own servers without the cooperation of the previous company, costing the client more time and money than was necessary.
For months afterward, Katheryn was billed repeatedly by the previous hosting company for monthly hosting, even though a site no longer existed on their servers, and they were in essence hosting "air" at this point. Copies of all correspondence had to be sent to the billing service to "dismiss" this recurrent billing, which was the only option left to Katheryn at this point.
I'm sure there are many people like Katheryn who at one time or the other have gone through such ordeal.
Some possible methods of avoiding the "trap" of packages such as this:
1. Read all paperwork and contracts thoroughly. The fine print is indeed, very "fine" sometimes, for a reason, and reading everything thoroughly will save frustration and misunderstandings later.
Above all, make sure that the registration will be done in "your name", as the loss of a popular name, with a large amount of traffic, is a HUGE loss. Or better still, register your domain name yourself. With so many online domain registrars, it's very simple to register a domain name online. The only thing you need to do once you have bought a hosting package is change the "name servers" through the control panel provided by your domain registrar.
If at all you are not satisfied with your hosting company and would like to shift to a different company, simply change the name servers to point to the new company. That's it!
2. Make sure there is a contact phone number and physical address for correspondence with the companies if the need should arise. As in the case of Example #1, the lack of a phone number and physical address was detrimental to effective correspondence and resolution.
3. Take the time to research different plans and different companies. If at all possible, ask to speak to some of their other clients to ensure that they are indeed sensitive to the needs of their own customers and are flexible enough to adapt to changes in a site over time.
4. Take the time to correctly ascertain your own needs and the needs of any site you'll be building. The package needs to "fit your needs" explicitly.
5. If at all possible, use different providers for each stage of a Web site: hosting, domain-name registrar, site building. It does take longer to get a site up and running with this method, but the overall control that you will have over the site is well worth the extra effort, usually. If one provider proves to be a disappointment, it is easier to replace one service, rather than try to replace everything at once.
As you can easily see, sometimes "time saving" strategies are not really that, and can lead to heartbreak and headaches. As with everything else, "slow but steady" wins the race, and it does pay to take the time to initiate each stage of a Web site individually.
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