Home > Dave On Web Hosting > Choosing a dedicated server hosting provider – Part 1: Focus on Support

Choosing a dedicated server hosting provider – Part 1: Focus on Support

February 23rd, 2010

Customer Service Support SkeletonSo you’re looking for a reliable, cost-effective dedicated server hosting provider. With thousands of web hosting companies offering dedicated servers and dedicated server hosting solutions, which one do you choose? Which one is best for your business, organization, or personal use? Should you choose unmanaged, semi-managed, or fully-managed dedicated server hosting solutions?

Yes, choosing a dedicated server hosting provider can be frustrating, time-consuming, and in some cases, a costly mistake. But you can avoid the frustration, save time, and get the best value for your money.

Support ranks high

Bottom line - how do you choose the best dedicated server hosting provider? I met with four leading dedicated server hosting companies and simply asked, “What are the top three things a customer should look for when choosing a dedicated server hosting company?” They responded with some great answers.

I received enough feedback from four dedicated server hosting providers to create multiple posts. That said, the common theme among all the dedicated server hosting providers I interviewed is support. From initial price gathering to all out technical support, customers need to look closely at a hosting provider’s support options.

Support for today and tomorrow

For example, William Toll, Marketing Director at NaviSite, says, “Today, customers are running complex applications that have feeds and service feeds to multiple other systems and when issues arrive customers need to know that there is a team to help solve issues.”

Toll recommends customers review the following aspects of a dedicated server hosting provider’s support:

a)      Methods and time availability of communicating and tracking support requests.

b)      Depth of knowledge and training and certification of support personnel.

NaviSite Dedicated Server HostingWith that in mind, the quality, depth and flexibility of offerings are important when it comes to getting support from a dedicated server hosting provider. According to Toll, “There are many dedicated server hosting companies, but there are few with multiple platforms of enterprise class compute/storage and networking options.”

Toll says, “A simple dedicated server with one power supply, one hard-drive, and one or two Internet connection providers is common and sure to disappoint. Customers should look for servers with multiple hard drives, RAID, SAN/NAS storage options, affordable disk/network based backup solutions and lastly multiple connections to the Internet.”

Toll concludes, “Moving providers is difficult and costly. Selecting a provider that can support today’s needs as well as tomorrow’s needs is best done at the outset.”

Sales support is important too

Daniel Salcedo, VP of Communications at SingleHop, agrees that support is important, but takes it a step further by including sales. “Even if you have the world’s best network supporting your server, without a responsive sales and technical support team you will be at a loss.”

singlehop-logoSalcedo suggests that you keep track of how long it takes for the web hosting provider to respond to you when you are requesting quotes, pricing, or calling their technical support line. A happy long-term relationship with your hosting company will heavily depend on how much focus they put on keeping in touch with you.

In addition to reviewing response times for a dedicated hosting provider’s support, Salcedo points out a common question his sales team receives often: “What kind of software is supported?”

“As far as software is concerned our stance is very simple - we will assist in installing any program, even third party software that we don’t sell ourselves. But we only support software that we sell ourselves,” says Salcedo.

Salcedo also says that some clients with limited technical knowledge move up to dedicated servers and expect expert knowledge and help with all types of software. In order to make sure the support team can provide software support for those customers that need additional help, Salcedo’s team works with “several close industry experts that can assist in ensuring that no matter what software is involved, we can assist the customer.” However, note that support on software not sold by SingleHop costs extra.

Going beyond sales support

Karl Zimmerman, President and CEO of Steadfast Networks, says you should look beyond the initial sales quote, pricing or call. “A company that values customer support, not just the appearance of customer service on the sales side. This is often hard to determine, but looking through reviews should help you determine the actual support levels you receive once you sign up.”

steadfast-logoAccording to Zimmerman, there are companies that spend significant resources to make you feel comfortable to sign-up, but all that vanishes as soon as you become a customer. He recommends you find a company that values you as much, if not more, once you become a customer than before you become a customer.

Zimmerman also says that longevity and stability are important support factors. “One of the easy ways to tell is by how much your host is invested in the business. If you’re dealing with just a reseller, they can just leave their customers hanging without support and service with basically no risk and have no direct control over your operating environment.”

Zimmerman recommends you deal with a company who has been around for a while and operates their own facilities; find a company that controls their own operations, one that will be able to provide support and services to you for the long-term, one with real value and emphasis on customer care.

More than tech support

Adam Wills, President and CEO of Turnkey Internet, says any company you plan to purchase a dedicated server from will claim to have support. He recommends you test the phone number, live chat, and response times. But Wills suggests you also take it a step further by looking at add-on options available by the hosting provider.

turnkeylogo_slogan“Look to make sure the company offers (or includes) premium managed support and backup service options,” says Wills. “While managed support or backup services may be an add-on charge, make sure the company has those options available.”

Wills says if a company is not able to offer options like Server Hardening, Firewall Setup, or Backup Services, it’s a sign the company is not a full-fledged dedicated server hosting company. Wills also says that even if you want the lowest price, and want to skip paying for any backups or support to keep your monthly cost rock bottom, you still want to know the company you selected is capable of such options later on should you choose to use them.

Wills places emphases on helping potential customers understand the benefits of dealing directly with a company that owns their infrastructure, servers, and data center. “Doing just a little research on your potential new web hosting company can make sure you will be dealing with a reputable business and enjoy a long and reliable hosting experience.”

Conclusion

Based on dedicated server hosting industry experts, the number one thing you should look at when choosing your next provider is support. For those of you looking for a dedicated server hosting provider today, start by doing research online for dedicated hosting providers. Read what people are saying about sales and technical support. Then contact the providers directly and ask them as many questions as you need in order to make an informed decision on your purchase.

Part 2 of this series will discuss pricing, quality, technology, management, and more.

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