Agencies don’t want to think about hosting. They just want to know that the sites they build for their clients will function as intended, no matter what.
Paradoxically, being able to forget about how your sites are hosted requires a lot of thinking first. And the more critical a site is to your client’s business, the more thought is needed. According to Saad Khan, senior product marketing manager at managed cloud hosting specialist Cloudways, there are 10 fundamental questions agencies need to ask about potential providers.
What infrastructure will I be using?
It’s vital to have transparency around the type of servers your sites will be hosted on, their capacity and scalability. It means you know what you’re paying for, which helps you compare providers. More importantly, it means you know when you’ll need to upgrade beforehand, rather than finding out when everything crashes.
What’s their billing policy?
Will you be paying a flat monthly fee, or by how much capacity you use?
How do they approach updates and patches?
To maintain the security of your sites, it’s crucial that your hosting provider operates a schedule of application updates and server patches, as well as handling on-demand changes. They should also be able to patch at both OS and server level.
What level of support will they provide?
Continuous, round-the-clock support should be the industry standard now. Your provider should also offer support across multiple channels, so that you can use the one that works for you, rather than the one that suits them.
How do they handle backups?
What do they back up, and do they store those backups offsite as well as onsite? Complete offsite backups mean operations can be restored rapidly in the case of an onsite catastrophe, which is vital for mission critical websites.
How easy is it to increase – or decrease – my requirements?
Sometimes you can predict peaks in demand – Black Friday, for example, if you run an ecommerce site. But sometimes you only know there’s a surge when it’s happening. How will your provider deal with each of these scenarios? How quickly can they respond, will they be able to keep you on your chosen infrastructure, and how will they charge you for scaling?
Do they offer a staging environment for development?
Marketing’s adoption of agile methodologies has made it more important than ever to have a place where everyone involved in a project – client as well as agency – can see the impact of every iteration before it goes live.
What level of security do they offer?
With mission-critical sites, every second of downtime brings the collapse of the business closer. But even a less sensitive site going down can have a serious impact in terms of brand and reputation. Can your hosting provider identify Denial Of Service (DOS) attacks as they start and and block them immediately, for example?
What kind of monitoring do they offer?
Do they allow you to proactively monitor all the websites and applications you’re running and see which ones are having problems, even if they’re all hosted on the same server?
What’s under the bonnet?
Managed hosting companies typically use servers from a number of different providers. These are the ‘engines’ of hosting. Knowing which ones a hosting company uses will tell you a lot about how reliable and robust their service is likely to be.
Answering the questions
According to Khan, Cloudways has always aimed to be a trusted partner for its agency clients, providing answers to these questions.
“We aim to become their go-to devops team,” Khan said. “Besides that we offer the assurance that we’ll be there when and if things go wrong; proactively through our bot system and reactively when they come to our support team with server or application issues.”
The company recently took a step further, unveiling a Partner Program designed for agencies. This is currently in private beta testing with 50 members. Agencies can join the waiting list for the program now, and will be notified when it is opened up early in 2021.
“Our Partner Program will support agencies through all their hosting problems,” Khan said. “We don’t just handle the complexities of hosting but go beyond them, so our agency partners can focus on their clients and growing their own business.”
All agencies will be eligible to join the Partner Program, whether or not they are existing Cloudways customers. Membership will be free, and will be split into four tiers, based on the amount the agency is spending on managed hosting with Cloudways. Agencies across all tiers will benefit from having a dedicated partnership manager working with them, while the higher levels will also qualify for Cloudways’ Advanced or Premium support packages.
“Partners on the Advanced and Premium support packages will have improved SLAs and can always access senior support engineers. They’ll have alerts from our proactive monitoring, and we’ll help them troubleshoot and customize the apps they’re hosting with us,” Khan said.
“And the most important thing is that as a partner agency increases its business with us, we’ll offer them different levels of discounts so they can grow without worrying about their hosting bill.”
For full details of the Cloudways Agency Partner Program, go to https://www.cloudways.com/en/agency-partner-program.php.