She was running a webstore on shared hosting without caching, and was upset it was slow. She was using only free products, no HTTPS, and was annoyed people said they couldn’t buy from her and that she could only use PayPal. She was angry that we couldn’t magically fix it.
I sped up her site, improved PHP, and cleaned up some duplicate plugins. And then I asked “Have you considered a VPS?” She ranted that it was our job to make shared hosting better, even if it cost us more, because she certainly wasn’t going to invest in her business. So I complained, on Twitter, that people who use free/ultra-low-budget services for a business and are unhappy with performance get what they deserve.
Then my buddy joked that Danica Patrick said it worked for $0.99! I joked back that he was taking web hosting advice from someone who’s selling skill is “I drive real fast!” As we tweeted, we elaborated it to how silly it was to take hosting advice from someone whose job it was to look pretty, drive fast, and only turn to the left.
It’s funny to us because we know better. If I was going to ask Danica Patrick for advice, I would ask her how she managed to sell her image so effectively. I might ask her if I could learn to drive a race car from her. But asking her what the best setup was for running an ecommerce store? Hell to the no! It’s outside her expertise and I’d be a fool for asking her in the first place!
Which brings me to my point. The advice you get is only as good as the people you get it from.
That’s painfully obvious, right? To go old school on you, you shouldn’t ask the fish guy for advice about pork, you don’t ask the vegetarian for advice about lamb, and for goodness sake, you don’t use the marketing sales pitch as your only measure for what kind of host you need.
Sorry, marketing guys.
Way back in the beyond days of websites, when we all used pure HTML and loved it, I was starting up a fansite. I had an idea that it might be moderately popular, so I reached out and asked some people who ran similar sites. I told them what I wanted to do, and asked who their webhost was, what ‘tier’ of hosting did they use, and were they happy? A wonderful woman named MadDog (I miss her so) was insanely helpful and sent me a breakdown of how much traffic she got, what her spikes were (our actresses were on the same TV show, this was helpful), how crazy the fans got, and then handed me a coupon for her host. “Use it or don’t use it. I get about $50 if you do.” (Spoiler alert: I did.)
When I was looking at getting DSL back in 1999, I asked other people in my building who they used, why, and were they happy. Surprisingly a lot of people hated their ISP except one guy, Quinn, who told me what he used it for, why he paid as much as he did, and how it was worth his money. And he too said if I used his code, he’d get $50. Actually I think he got $150 and took me and my wife out to dinner.
The point is this. I sought out people with a similar experience as I was expecting to have, such as living in the same building. I asked them how they used it, so I could see if their issues would be the same as mine. I asked them if they were happy, because I knew I’d been calling support at least once, and it would be nice to know how painful it would be. I did my research, myself, because it mattered to me.
Your site matters to you. It behooves you to sit down, take stock in your goals, and research the options out there. We can’t always know where we’ll end up or how we’ll get there, but we can make the effort to find people who match our perceived direction and ask them a simple question. We can search for our peers and read articles they’ve written. We can ask them for recommendations. And in the moment those people take time to sit and answer your questions, you need to listen to them. You should thank them. You may even want to go out of your way to compensate them. Because they just gave you some amazing value.
Would I host a business on low-end shared hosting? Sure. To start with. But as my business grew, I learned that I had to invest in order to reach my goals.
And yes. I did.