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Changing blog hosts can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Ideally, you’ll never have to move your blog. If you did your homework before creating it, chances are you’ll be fine at your current home. But not all hosts are created equal. If you aren’t satisfied with your host, you should absolutely switch. After all, you are the client. If you are not happy with your service, and if the company is unwilling to change that, then you should vote with your wallet and find a host that will meet your needs.

Web Server

[via Flickr]

When Should You Switch?

Every blog will run into issues from time to time. That’s the price we pay for hosting our blogs on outside servers. That gives us less control over the day-to-day operation of our sites. But it also lets us continue operating those sites even if we don’t have the technical know-how to do so. Still, there comes a point when enough is enough. Here is a list of reasons why you should switch web hosts.

  • Your hosting is too expensive. It’s easy enough to bargain shop on the web. If you feel that you’re paying too much for your hosting, and your host isn’t willing to offer you something better, it’s time to pack up and move.
  • Your site is moving too slowly. High load times can come from a number of sources. Good hosts will work with you on this. But if you’ve submitted support tickets and still haven’t seen any results, you’re better off switching.
  • Your site goes offline frequently. Again, if your site goes offline frequently, customer service should be attentive to the matter. If all they do is reset your Apache server, then you need to switch. They’re merely treating the symptom rather than solving the problem.
  • You’re treated rudely by customer service. You are the client. You are paying the host for a certain level of service. Included in that cost is customer service. If they are not living up to that end of the bargain, it’s time to leave. Customer service is normally our only liaison in these relationships. If they’re not helping, no one will.

The ultimate reason to switch will likely come from a combination of the above. For instance, in late 2010 one of my blogs saw a surge in traffic. It’s normal for Decembers in that industry, and we had warned our host ahead of time. Still, we saw massive downtime — 8 hours straight at one point, during the busiest time of year. Out host seemingly gave up after resetting our server. Since they refused to address the root of the issue, we had no choice but to go with another host.

How to Find a New Web Host?

If you’re ready to switch, you’ve already found one bad host. You do not want to find another. Again, I can relate a personal tale here. Two years before we actually switched servers, we had decided that we would. We were growing a bit too big, and a hosting package at our current host would cost too much money. So we did some cursory research, found a relatively well-known and high-volume host, and bought a package from them. Big mistake.

What we found later is that they were unwilling to help us make the move. They were a big company, remember, so they cared about volume more than anything. Adding one site wasn’t going to make a difference, especially since we’d already bought the hosting package. They were getting paid one way or another. We asked for help, but they said it would cost us — and then they gave us an outlandish price quote. We were done with them right there.

The moral of the story: do extensive research before finding a host. In fact, I have one bit of advice to impart, which has worked well for my company:

Don’t use a big-name host

This isn’t to say that big-name hosts — the kind you see advertising on various blogs with 125×125 ads — aren’t good. For starter sites they can be great. It’s a mostly hands-off experience. But as sites grow their hosting needs change. You probably need a host with some serious data center power, but at a more reasonable rate — and with more attentive customer service. It’s time to start looking local.

This doesn’t have to be local to your region, per se. It might be easier, since you can tour the data center if that’s your thing. But finding a local company, in general, can provide better results. In my experience they’ve been far more attentive than bi-name hosts. An actual human picks up when you call, and programmers actually get to the roots of problems rather than simply resetting your server. Furthermore, they appreciate your business more, because they typically don’t have a huge volume.

My advice is to conduct searches for web host, followed by a state or region. We searched for web host New Jersey to find out host. It’s worked out exceedingly well for us.

Agree to terms before singing up

Another problem with big-name hosts is that they have all of their sign-up forms on the web. While they do have a number you can call, the temptation to sign up right then and there is great. It’s so easy. Problem is, it’s also a big mistake. You need to work out the details of your move before you sign any contract. Again, I reference a story above. We signed up for our hosting package and paid for it before talking to anyone. Whoops. No wonder they didn’t help us migrate our data.

When you sign up make sure that data migration is part of the package. You can learn to do it yourself, but that’s a time consuming process. Even then, you can’t build expertise overnight. There is a good chance something will go wrong, and at that point you’re stuck. You’ve spent time learning how to migrate data, but you’ll end up having to pay someone to do it for you, anyway.

Another tip when signing up: get them to waive any up-front fees. It might sound perfectly reasonable for them to want money up front, but most of the time if you hem and haw enough, they’ll waive the fee. They’ll be glad to, in many instance, if you’re bringing them a high-traffic blog. You can also, in many cases, negotiate down the monthly cost. You probably can’t get a huge discount, but there is usually room to maneuver with local hosts, rather than big-name ones.

Moving web hosts is no one’s idea of fun. It can cost time and money, two things that we hate to waste. Do it wrong, and you might have to move again in a year. Do it right, though, and you’ll have a host that you can grow with. Not only that, but you also have a host that you can work with on future projects. If you’re growing dissatisfied with your host, start researching now. Switching hosts is something you want to do only once.

Author Bio

Joe Pawlikowski writes and edits BBGeeks, a site dedicated to helping BlackBerry users get the most out of their devices.

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