It’s the role of any reliable hosting firm to take full responsibility for its hardware, software and operating environment so that webmasters can focus solely upon running their business.
If a hosting company is truly committed to this objective, their technical support must be stellar. Customer care therefore is always a major consideration before you chose a Web host.
Since it is a major loss leader, many hosting firms don’t invest in the labor and equipment required to maintain their operation. It is thus the task of wise webmasters to size up the expertise of a hosting company’s support staff before making the fateful decision concerning where to host their Web sites.
Determining whether technical support is dependable is important, because if anything goes wrong with your site, who are you going to call? In an ideal world, it would be your knowledgeable customer care representative. However, in the real world, we know that knowledgeable customer care is hard to find.
Hosting companies claim that they have technicians working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year in their operation centers maintaining mission-critical systems. While this in fact may be true, the most unqualified people in the hosting industry sometimes work in support call centers. Due to the unprecedented demand for IT professionals, many Web hosts can’t find employees that are formally trained in Operating System and network technology. Other firms allot so much money to advertising and marketing that technical support becomes a secondary priority. In both instances, customers suffer because they cannot access immediate or useful assistance. So before you select a host, make sure that you put their support to the test.
First, call up technical support and ask them to walk you through the basic routines needed to maintain your site. Ask the technical support technician whether he or she is available at the office at regular intervals. Ask the technician whether he or she went through a corporate or professional training program in order to qualify for the job. If the technician is assisting you with a Windows NT-based request, make sure to ask whether he or she has a MCSC, or Microsoft certification. Ask the support technician how long he or she has been working with the company.
Determine whether technicians are knowledgeable by listening and assessing their tone of voice. Do technicians at a certain company put you on hold often? Then they may only be employed to answer telephones or e-mail and relay support requests to someone more qualified. Also ask support technicians basic questions about where the company is located, where they are located and the company’s address. This might give you an indication if a hosting company’s support services are outsourced, or whether support representatives are working out of the firm’s server farm or head office. Ask the support representative outright whether he or she is employed on a contractual basis. Also determine how sophisticated customer tracking and billing is by asking the technician to pull information about your account.
This will give you an indication whether the company has automated systems to track technical inquiries. Further, ask the technician whether the firm provides an online “knowledge base” or “technical support center.” If the company does, make sure to inspect its support documentation to determine whether it is specific to the service.
Many hosting companies now offer technical support documentation in hard copy format. You should attempt to determine whether the hosting firm will allow you to download a PDF file with all of its documentation enclosed.
A prospective Web hosting customer should also determine whether a hosting company offers true 24-hour support by e-mailing or calling the hosting provider after hours.
These tests will give you a strong indication whether the technical support is reliable or questionable. Remember that you’ll have to trust any host you select to deliver timely and useful support on issues that can affect your income.