Why We Don’t Automate Our WordPress Hosting Business

There are some great platforms out there to automate your website hosting biz:

But we don’t use any of them. Here’s why:

Hosting companies only get worse over time.

Over the years, I’ve hosted websites on a bunch of platforms:

  • Hostgator
  • Dreamhost
  • WP Engine
  • Flywheel
  • Kinsta
  • Greengeeks
  • Siteground
  • Cloudways
  • Amazon
  • Digital Ocean
  • and more!

All of these hosting companies share one thing in common: Over time, they all got worse. Whether it was the way they value business relationships, the speed of their hosting, the support they offer, their security profile, their pricing, or some other of a thousand reasons, they all started to change/suck at some point. NOTE: The one exception has been Siteground, which has somehow gotten better over time (I keep waiting for the hammer to drop there…).

The common tale is that these WordPress hosting companies get acquired by a venture capital firm that merges services, fires support teams, increases prices, increases advertising spend + affiliate marketing, and generally leaves these once-great hosting companies to whither on the vine, sapping our money due to formerly-good reputations.

You never want your customers to be locked into a host due to a billing choice you made.

People want fast and secure and beautiful websites. They don’t want to be stuck with a slow, insecure website due to a billing decision their hosting reseller made years ago. That’s why we have never coupled our hosting and our billing services. Sure, this adds some admin overhead, as people need to contact us to cancel or change services. (Plus, as you know, I see every conversation with a customer as an opportunity to learn more about my biz, my service offering, etc.) But it’s not that much overhead. In fact, maybe it’s one extra contact point per customer per year to update a credit card, maximum – a contact that’s good for business!

You want the flexibility to switch to a new host when the old host starts to suck.

When you couple your billing with your hosting plans, you are stuck with old/crappy/insecure technology. Just stuck. When your customer calls to let you know they’ve been hacked, you can’t switch them to a more-secure platform, because you’ve locked yourself into a billing solution that’s attached to the hosting tech – Agh!

At The Mighty Mo!, it seems like every few years, we’ve had to migrate a whole bunch of customers to better hosting. This is due to the hosting companies changing from good to bad. I want my customers to have the speediest, most-secure websites, and oftentimes I cannot fulfill that promise on our hosting platform – That’s when we migrate them to a new WordPress hosting platform (free of charge, I might add). Sure, it’s a headache and a lot of work and costs us lots of money, but we take care of our customers in that way.

There’s no one size fits all tech solution for websites.

We don’t have all of our customers on a single hosting platform. Some customers require more juice, some less. Some customers require more security, some less. Some customers get millions of visits per month, some get 100 visits. Some are e-commerce, some are basic landing pages. Every customer is different, and, yes, 80% of our customers share the same platform, but the other 20% have very unique setups.

Sometimes you need to charge certain customers more.

When a customer needs extra CPUs or RAM or additional layers of security or has an abnormally-large database, it costs you more money, and you need to charge them more to cover the difference. Oftentimes, these more complex situations need additional layers of support, server software updates, etc. It’s difficult to automate for all situations.

Hosting needs a high-touch tech & human environment.

Some of our customers are comfortable with a 1-size-fits-all approach to support & tech. Others are not. A lot of our hosting contracts offer customized support availability (e.g. 24/7 vs M-F 9-5), and we charge commensurate with the support they need.

Linking WordPress support with website hosting is problematic.

WordPress support is totally different than website hosting support. For example, we support websites on a wide variety of hosting platforms. Sometimes we couple hosting support with WordPress support on the billing side. We need the billing flexibility to give our customers what they need.

Advantages to Automating & Linking WordPress Hosting to Billing

The main advantage of automating your WordPress hosting & billing is simplicity in accounting. For example, maybe you are someone who likes everything in neat little rows in a spreadsheet. Maybe you like to say, “I have 50 ‘Gold’-level hosting customers and that means $X.” I see the advantages to that approach – For example, it’s much easier to sell a business that operates in that manner. My biz will be difficult to sell due to the customized way I bill people for services. Furthermore, I admit that I envy those businesses with buttoned up, rigid billing processes – there’s certainly a calmness to that approach.

If I know that a company can only pay $X for Y service and that’ll work for me, then I like to offer them that win-win scenario. But if I offer rigid pricing, I’ll lose some of those potential customers who aren’t able to pony up the extra cash (even though it might be a win-win at a lesser amount). So I’d need to make up for those losses by selling more volume, which means I need to do a better job marketing and selling to make up the difference.

Conclusion

I’m not here to tell you how to run your WordPress reseller hosting business, but I do think it’s a risky move to couple hosting with billing. That said, I know every situation is different, and I’d love to hear your reasons and ideas for choosing the path you’ve chosen. Hit me up on my contact form if you’d like to continue the conversation.

Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO and WordPress Guru. He also writes for WPTavern.com.