Rob Cairns sits down with Owen Greaves the founder of Billy Host to talk about how to choose a web host.
- Everyone’s web host needs are different.
- Should speed be the number one deciding factor.
- Support matters.
- All hosts and hosting plans are not equal.
- Web Hosting security.
From the center of the universe, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This is the SDM show with your host Rob Cairns. The SDM show focuses on business life productivity, digital marketing, WordPress and more. Sit back, relax, grab your favorite drink and enjoy the show here is Rob.
Hi Everybody, Rob Cairns here. I’m the founder, CEO and Chief creator of amazing ideas at Sunning Digital Marketing. One thing I’ve talked about time and time again, is your web host needs to be your partner in your business, not just the vendor. So today I sit down with my good friend, Owen Greaves, , who’s the owner of a web hosting company called Billyhost, Billyhost is my web host. And we talk about what to look for in choosing a web host. And what’s important. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the podcast.
Hi all Robert Cairns here. I’m here with my good friend, Owen Greaves, who’s also my web host . How are you today?
I’m great. Thank you.
And I thought today I bring all one on. And anybody who knows the space in the drum I’ve been beating in the last little while, is you really got to look after your web host. And your web host has to be your partner. And I’ll get to a situation that happened this week. But when How did you get into the web hosting business?
A long time ago, was about 2007. And I was actually spit out of the corporate world and forgot, you know, went home and then decided I was being recruited. I had a headhunter working for me. And he was recruiting me for three large organizations. But they all wanted me to move to Toronto. My wife said, enjoy the commute. So that answered that question. So I said, Well, why don’t I just started my own business. And I was already using Hostgator at the time for my personal website, and was having nothing but issues with them. So I actually went into their reseller program, and then that was, you know, a huge failure because they had more downtime than anybody else. I knew I never ever did go to GoDaddy, but just had heard too many horror stories. And I tried. One other company, I ended up going into a dedicated server situation was setting up Billyhost. Because I just wanted to help people, I wanted to make web hosting simple and easy. And I also wanted people to know that they could contact me if they needed help. So I started this thing really small. And at the time, I was out doing public speaking and workshops on the future of business, because I study where things are going. And I was speaking for the world future society, and had done the big, big conference in Vancouver, and I started holding workshops, and I was selling Billy host in the workshops. And that’s how I got a client base started. And then it just kind of started growing from there. Now, I’m still a small company and the grand scheme of things. I think I’ve got about 200 to 300 clients, you know, in my circle, and I know them all, pretty much personally, there’s a few that I don’t because there used to be some from the UK and whatnot. But it just kind of snowballed out of being spit out of the Corp world, and then just starting my own business. And I was a tech guy was former CIO and CEO of tech companies. So it just seemed like a natural fit. And I’m a bit geeky and highly relational, which is an unusual combination. But that’s how it got started.
Yeah, it is, it is a unusual combination. And thanks for sharing that story. I think it’s really important. You know, you say you had problems at Hostgator. And I think most of us in the dev world, or the design world have been the Hostgator route at one time before endurance bought them, which is now new fold mistake, and they are the same company folks. And I think, you know, a lot of us and you know my story I’ve been through the one in ones of the world as well. I’ve never hosted with GoDaddy fortunately. And there is a big difference between good hosting and lousy hosting. Do you want to talk about some of the things that you should look for and I haven’t before we get there, I think the number one thing for me is support.
Well, it’s it’s out They’re like everybody has their own opinion of what a good web hosting company has to do or has to have. And so the laundry list changes based on what’s, what your worldview is of what’s important in web hosting, I think most people, if support isn’t number one speed is. And I think speed is a red herring, it’s a misleading thing. And the only reason speed is a big issue now is because Google has been flexing its muscle. And so everybody’s getting distracted from doing business to trying to make their site fast. So I, I mean, I’m expand, I don’t hold speed is number one, I think it’s important, but it’s not number one, I think supporting your client is the only thing that will a develop your business, bring new business. And also, I would say Garner and and build strong solid relationships. Other Other than that, you know, then security now has become a huge issue. So we’ll talk about that in a bit. But if that’s another one of the top things, and for me, I like to make things as easy as possible to use. And also, I’m a cPanel supporter. From that perspective, some people think it’s not easy to use, and I can’t speak to that. But I like ease of use so that they can navigate, learn how to do things easily, they can monitor their email, they can figure out what the errors are on their website, and all that stuff is in cPanel, you just have to know where to look for it.
Yeah, I would agree. One of the things that reminded me how much I like cPanel. And that type of interface, I’ve been on one and one, they are not a cPanel company, they never have been. I was in on a siteground control panel today. I don’t know if you know, but siteground actually charges a premium because of all the cPanel increase in rates a couple years ago. So if you want a cPanel interface, they’ll give it to you, but they charge you more. And they’ve now got hit with that, too. Yeah. And they’ve now gone to a regular control panel. And I have to tell you all in from somebody who works in a cPanel world, it’s awful. And you talked a little bit about support and make it at ease. And I think, you know, you and I went through at the time of this recording a situation where you helped me out in a problem. And I said to somebody, a friend of mine, who I am out of Toronto, who I moved to Billy host and my friend Brad. And I was saying to him, and this is why I like dealing with you as a hosting provider is I got support when I needed it. Even though I admit I was sleeping on the job.
Yeah, everyone has offsite and everyone will do something and forget that this happened last time. And the reason it was you know, in this case, it was just a disk base issue, which is an easy fix. But it also can cause other problems which we experienced. But sometimes, and I’ve said it over and over again, you’ll you’ll do a backup and forget you don’t have enough disk space to Yep, and then everything just turns off email stops working website doesn’t work. Like there’s no room for your your account to do any thrashing and moving around to fix things. So it happens. And, you know, I just don’t see it as a problem because it doesn’t happen that often.
No, it’s true. And and you know, I mean supports a big issue, like I said, Yeah, again, myself coming from a technical support background. I think that’s the number one thing. You talk to it a bit about speed. And I think speed is a bit of a misnomer because, frankly, where speed matters more is for things like SEO search engine optimization since Google works for that. But my response to people is you do know you can do what we call PPC or pay per click ads or run Google ads, run Facebook ads, not that I like the Facebook ecosystem but that’s another story for another podcast. Those people know me know I’ve had my battles with Facebook of weight. But But the other problem is SEO is a long term strategy. It is a strategy that to build links to build keywords can take six to eight months and the fastest return on investment. In this actually the pay for rides, and that’s why I personally don’t play. So the emphasis on speed on that one?
Well, again, speed can be a distraction from you doing what’s important. So if someone is not going to buy from you on your site, because it took a second too long to load, probably don’t want the client. I just think that those things are a distraction. I’m not saying speed isn’t important. What I’m saying is focus on what makes you money. If speed is the only thing that makes you money, then you should be investing all your time and your money and speed. But I know for a fact that’s not the case.
Yeah. And so if somebody wasn’t buying from me on an e commerce site, and they were leaving stuff in Checkout, I would be smart enough to send them a actually a coupon code that says, By the way, you left all the stuff in your checkout cart. And if you click here, we’ll knock 15% off the bill, or give you your shipping free or do something to garner that. And, and I’ll be honest, I actually gained the system a little bit where I leave stuff in my checkout and leave it there for six or seven hours, and wait for that coupon code, because I know they’re gonna send me something to get.
That’s just value added stuff, right? Yep. Yep,
it is. So let’s jump on to a favorite hosting topic I have. And that email. And this is a loaded can of worms. Because being a former Microsoft Exchange Admin, I can tell you email can be the bane of existence.
I know chase isn’t always easy to Yeah,
and I know with my clients, I don’t provide email services, I actually say to them, go to Google, go to Microsoft, go somewhere. But I’m not going to provide you with the I’m not going to provide you with email support. But that’s a web host should have to do that. how challenging is email?
Well, as a web host, when you sign up for a hosting account, email is just automatically included. Yep. Now one of the challenges that every web host company has, is being completely on his Google and Microsoft don’t play by a standard, they, they play by their own rules, they do what they want, because they can. Now if I want to block a organization like Microsoft, from sending email to my clients, I can do the same thing. So it’s a double edged sword. But, for example, I recently had a situation where clients are sending out mass mailers, and to a bunch of Microsoft clients like hotmail live.com.ca outlook.com. And then what happens is some of those people that got those emails from one of my clients, but I have no idea that sending them and then they say, Well, this is unwanted email. So Microsoft, their algorithm automatically just blocks anything coming from Billy. And then you have to kind of go and beg and plead and kiss their behind to get them to unblock your IP. Now, there’s a temporary solution to that, but it’s not effective. And all you’re doing is changing your outgoing IP so that it’s not getting blocked. But Microsoft doesn’t, doesn’t make it easy for you to get unblocked. If they think you’re spamming you’re spammy. And it has nothing to do with Billy Haas. But it has everything to do with Billy has clients. So I’m at the mercy of a the client, the whole web hosting client that I have to do the right thing or to stop spamming. Eventually I find them and then I shut them down and reduce their outflow to 25 emails an hour. But I don’t have to do that I’ve only once had to threaten to do that. So which also goes dovetails into a security thing because there is different software companies, for example, like a unify. They have a reputation management part, to their security to their virus scanning software, and it monitoring for you. So every web hosting company has different ways of dealing with that problem, but it is problem I can’t I can’t stop Microsoft from blocking me it doesn’t matter how I can have all the SPF demark all that stuff. But that can still block you. If they think you’re you’re the spammer.
Yeah, and we were talking in the pre show about a situation that I’ve gone through recently where I’ve been, I’m a Google workspaces email user, even though I host my website on bills. And I cannot, up until this morning could not send to any sympatric, or Bell addresses in Canada, because they’re the same company. And a lot of webhose hosts and internet service providers are upping their security to on neron, the forced people to be even more careful when sending in.
Yeah, and I think that I’ve really seen on the radar screen lately, as a lot of this two phase stuff, which is the the login security. I think that is probably going to happen more and more and more, because the algorithms of the hackers up there is getting much more complicated.
Yeah, it’s so true. I think, two step authentication is kind of the key. The Type I prefer, personally, is through an authenticator app. So I use as a rule I use bit Warden as a password manager, but choose one. And I use generally Google’s authenticator app on my phone tied for two step but I also use Microsoft’s authenticator from Microsoft services just because you know it’s a little easier but I think that’s the direction we’re going because I hackers and we all have
the Google app on my phone. And it works pretty
seamless. Like once you have it set up it’s it’s easy to do and I don’t go through any of this all my Facebook accounts been hacked or my bank sync and are very slow to adjust to to step to FA the the Bank of Montreal who I’m with just moved in that direction, like a month ago, so
Oh, yeah, that’s like all the banks here in BC have gone to two Fa? And so has like, if you are using anything like if your investments, like quest rate, and all because they do the same thing.
And even even Canada Revenue Agency is on to a fable event or not so sure. Now,
I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s I don’t, I find it inconvenient, but it’s because I, you know, they went from never doing it to to all of a sudden everybody’s doing it. Yeah. So it’s it frustrates you because you go, nobody warned you or said hey, we’re going to be starting to do this. They just implemented it.
That’s right. So I think that’s a big deal. So while we’re on the subject to security, I always and one of the things I preach to clients, and I preach to people is your web host is your partner in your business, not a vendor, first of all. And I always say they’re your partner in security. And by that I mean, there’s many web hosts, and I’m going to, rightfully or wrong, take a shot at New fold big. And say one of my biggest corms of them over the years is they sell you a plan. And then they say, oh, by the way, if you want proper security, we’ll just charge you more. And we’ll sell you a service called psych Walker. And if you go and you go and you work, who on site Walker, but he he new fold high stake in it, and unlike what’s just be transparent, and say, we’re gonna do an upsell and stop playing this game. And then when you go to them and say, I need some help, they say oh, security’s not our you’re our problems, figure it out yourself. I disagree with that. Your web host has to be your partner and all of this. Thoughts on Yeah.
I think I hear you’re talking about a philosophy and or a business plan of each organization and what they decide is the best route for them to go in supporting that particular situation. And it could be that they don’t have the resources to, you know, go deep on the security side of it and support side of it that everyone had. I can’t it’s so hard. Everybody has a different view on it. Yep. And I don’t pretend to say that there is a one size fits all. But I think as an industry, we should be doing a better job helping the client.
I would agree. And we were talking briefly show about a host out of Quebec and I’ve written about in my newsletter, the clients called wh, C out of Montreux that actually got shacks so bad that their backup server was hacked. And that is, is concerning when your backup server gets hacked as well.
Yeah. And again, that that has to do with an infrastructure and the fact that the backup server was actually accessible. Yep. So and I’ll say this. When it comes to security, there is no 100% sure fired way of stopping someone from breaking it. Yep, you could, because it’s kind of like Swiss cheese. The more layers you have, the harder it is, it’s like instead of a, you know, a 10 character password over an 18 character password, obviously, the 18 is harder to decipher. So as things progress, the more complicated or harder those passwords have to be, the more frustrated the end user gets a great. So you really got to draw a line. So like a billy host, it’s not a matter of how many characters it’s, it’s a number. So like 70 is the threshold, that means you’re probably going to have to have a 12 character password. Yep. I could max it to 100. And you have to have 18 characters, then, because you’re never going to remember those passwords, because it has to be extremely complicated. You need a password manager. Well, if you’re using a password manager, you’re using something that’s outside of your organization. It’s a third party product. And as the they’re not secure, and they’re not updating their product, you’re still at risk. I agree. So it’s a conundrum. There’s just no one simple answer for it.
No, it’s not. I have a theory of my business. And it’s something I’ve said to many people for a long, long time, is it’s no longer if you’ll be hacked, it’s win. And it’s how do you recover from that hack?
Yeah, the biggest thing, and it sounds like I’m beating people up that people do not use complicated passwords, and then they get compromised, and they can’t figure out why. You know, like, what I said, because you’re you’re you’re being too simple in your security thought process. Your usernames are too easy, your passwords are too easy. All those things. You know, when it comes to say WordPress for example, I’m there’s this there’s two sides of the fence here. And there’s two arguments. To me, you shouldn’t have to worry about securing WordPress if the web host has got all the security in place. Now, the only way your website your WordPress should get hacked is either you’ve got a faulty plugin, faulty theme, or WordPress core is compromised. If all of the security levels are in place on the web hosting, and in most cases, I believe, I know in my case, I use Cloud Linux, which is a hardened operating system that uses a hardened PHP, it puts everything in a cage called CF cage. And so that if you get hacked, the hacker can only play in your box in your container. You can’t go anywhere results. Now, I’m not saying it’s not possible, I’m just saying that the percentage of that person who hacked your site going someplace also on the server is like nil. And not it’s really, really hard. But they can make your site a living hell. Now, the only way to solve that problem is to make sure that your ID and your passwords are really, really complicated.
It’s so true. And I don’t disagree with that at all. I think random passwords are, are probably the best thing there. And I think I think keeping stuff from the hosting perspective in a container is a lot better than the old days where people would hack a shared server. And then they’d hack one side on a shared server and a shared servers just basically server with multiple accounts on it, and they’d go what I call cross account. So once they got in the backdoor, they go right through the server. And when you start to put stuff in containers, that becomes harder to do and is actually more secure for the end client, correct?
That’s right. So for me, I make sure that servers are as, as locked down as I can possibly make them. And then I make sure each account is locked down as much as I can possibly make them. I can’t prevent an end user using easy passwords and ease or usernames, I can’t stop that. I can change them, but I can’t stop it.
And in the WordPress world, away from the hosting site, the number one cause folks have your WordPress websites being hacked, are easy to guess passwords. What do you don’t understand is, these kids are hackers that run around have little devices that just try password after password after password. So the easier the password, the sooner they’re going to go through that password.
We call them script kiddies because it’s not usually just a person, it’s a script that’s running in is just running multiple combinations for up to 24 hours a day, and wait until it figures it out. So the longer your password is, and the more often you change your password, it takes some blogger.
And if you don’t believe Oh, when I try and experiment, jump onto Discord. And believe it or not, the hackers hang around in groups, create a fake name, get into hacker groups and watch what’s going on. That’s all I
can do that on all the platforms not just as good.
Yep, they’re all communicating out there and trading the scripts all over the place. And they’re bored. Right now, if anybody thinks the pandemic has helped hack attempts, they have another thing coming. Because I can show you sites that I manage that the hack attempts have gone up by 200 300 400%. Since the pandemic, so so. So security is a big deal we’ve talked about
it is you know, and part of security is also backup. It’s the same, it’s under that umbrella, like you want to secure things, make sure you got healthy backups.
And that you can restore those healthy backups before you need them, folks. So
and what most people don’t realize is that when you purchase web hosting, it’s your responsibility to make sure backups are happening. You’re either paying for that service with your web hosting, or you’re using a third party service outside of your hosting. But it’s your responsibility. It is not the web hosting company’s responsibility.
That is correct. And that’s why people like myself, offer care plans to clients to get their sites backed up that we can restore it, they have a problem. And it happens more than not and it’s it’s everything from I made some changes. And I screwed up my site to I played with a plugin or a piece of software. And I cause grief, or something else happened. And it happens all the time. And point in chat going back to having good backups. You worked with me on a problem at the time of this recording a couple days before. And because of a healthy backup, there was an easy way out of my problem.
Yeah, and again, I provide free automated backups with web hosting. And but again, do you still have to download those things to get them off the server, they’re still there, you’re just taking a copy of it. So it’s important that you at least have backups someplace else, not just all in one basket
I, I were talking in the pre show with my clients and my stuff. And I’ve got personal sites on your server, I got couple client sites on your server, and then I got stuff on some of the big ones out there. And I download backups three days a week. And people laugh at me and you know, most care plan providers only do that weekly and say and people said why do you do it three days a week? And I said the reality is the demographics changed and the how things happened change the minute the pandemic started. So I think I think backups are so key. And by the way, if you’re doing backups and you’re not sure, test someone to either make sure they actually work. Because I’ve seen cases where somebody says to me, I have a good backup. And at the end of the day the backup is at work to displace the store. And so we talked about backups, we talk about that. For some people. Resources are an issue. So when we talk about resources, we talk about disk space, we talk about memory, Alec We talk about things like for a developer PHP calls. What do you have any discussion on resources? Besides you get what you pay?
Well, I monitor resources carefully, especially on the shared hosting side of it. Because it is, it’s, it’s a conundrum because you’ll have spikes, for example, that will slow your account down. All my accounts, all web hosting clients have their own resources, they just don’t know what they are. They see in their cPanel, whether they’re using percentage of CPU, and they see their disk space, they see their database disk space, they see all that stuff. But I have a tool, it’s in cloud Linux in it, it’s a manager that allows me to monitor who which account is maybe causing a problem. Or if there is a problem, like Currently, there are no stats, there’s nothing on my servers showing that there’s a problem. So everybody is within their range of resources. Nobody gets 100% CPU usage. That’s not wise. No, right. So you might get 80%. So when you hit 80%, things start to slow down. But that rarely happens. Like the most often you will see slowdowns as with resellers where it spikes on memory or in the speed drops or something like that. But it’s usually a very short lived one off spike that happened, because I don’t know maybe they were doing backups, maybe they were, you know, doing something that created a heavy CPU usage on their, their container only because each client has their own CPU and own memory allocation. I don’t give control of that to the client. Because that means I got to have a whole bunch of other administration to go with that. So no, I
agree. And you probably should. And again, you’re talking about spikes where people forget is on a shared server side. All it takes is one spike on that box. And then that will show down all the all the other sites on that box correct.
Not always a spike may only impact one cage. And each cage has an allocation of CPU and memory. So it will impact that container that client first before it impacts anybody else. And it depends on how heavy the spike was. Right? But typically, spikes are like nanoseconds. Yeah, like they’re not usually long lasting. The biggest thing that creates a long lasting CPU usage is just to have PHP, you know, memory leak or something like that. But that doesn’t happen.
It’s so true. So besides so we’ve talked a little bit about resources. The other resource we said toss in is bandwidth. Now. Your servers with your plans right now are unlimited bandwidth, if I recall, I should know. Yes, many hosts, depending on the plan, you are actually charged by the amount of bandwidth they give you how
I could do that I don’t see an advantage.
You see, you don’t see an advantage of for you, that’s a bit of a what I would call in this business and inside Vantage are what makes you different because you don’t do that.
Well, the reality is is that you know when I say unlimited bandwidth, you know, as a whole as a company, I have, you know 20 terabytes let’s say a bandwidth. So, the usage bandwidth usage by a client is so low i mean i per website, I can risk saying Unlimited, give them unlimited bandwidth, not limit them and say you only get you know 20 gigs or whatever. But if say all of a sudden, all of the bandwidth is getting used at 20 terabytes, I have a choice. either start walking it down and don’t make it unlimited. Or I just got buy more bandwidth. Yeah. Yeah. So for me, it’s the cost of doing business. I would rather that the client not have to worry about it. I would
agree, is there anything else hosting wise that people need to think about?
Now I, again, everybody has different specific needs. So even yourself, when you’re, you’re deciding who you’re going to use, you have a shopping list in your head, or you’ve got it written down, say that it has to meet this criteria. If it doesn’t, then you tend to keep on looking. So everybody has their own idea of what they want from a web host. Unfortunately, there can be a lot of unrealistic expectations. Because no web hosting company is perfect. And Billy host is just another out there. We’re a small company, I can move faster than a GoDaddy or hostgator. Because I don’t have the big bureaucracy. But at the same time, I have to be cognizant of the financial side of it, you know, what’s cost effective? and what isn’t?
I would agree, and that’s what anybody for their business needs to work at is what’s cost effective and hosting what isn’t? And what’s the cost of their website or the web property going down, and how that will impact their business. And I think that’s a discussion that a lot of people don’t look at is when they’re choosing a host, you know, to say, Okay, if I’m running any, say, an e commerce store that brings in five grand a day in sales, maybe you want to be a little more careful than a website with a brochure site, and maybe that factors into your decision. So,
yeah, yeah. And again, it’s different for everyone, they have a different perspective on things. This is what I want to say, you know, a lot of people in the web design speed is everything, speed is everything. And I’m calling Well, actually, no, you think client when they are looking for web design, that they’re worried about speed? No, they want a fancy looking at what
they do, and that’s what they’re after in there. And, you know, again, you got to figure out what your customers are what your visitors will tolerate when you’re making these type of decisions, too. Because that has an impact on the kind of decision you make. And you know, what we are, I agree, we think is we always look at stuff from our perspective, and not our customers perspective.
Well, for myself, I always try to put the client first and say, Okay, what is it that you think you need? isn’t what what do you need is what do you think you need? And I try to see things from their side of the table now. If I can’t see it, I have to keep asking question. No, I
would agree. Yeah, thanks, Shawn. For this conversation. I hope that helps some people as you know, Billyhost is at billyhost.com. If somebody wants to get ahold of you to discuss hosting what’s the best way?
Well, they can contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com I c an easily be found on the internet. My name is Owen Greaves. You just Google it, you’ll find me so one way or the other. You can find me.
Thanks, everyone. Have a great day, and talk to you soon.
Thanks, Rob. Always fun. Thanks.
A very special thank you to Owen Greaves, the founder and owner Billyhost for joining me on today’s podcast to talk about what to look for when choosing a web host. I hope this conversation helped you make up your mind on what you need, and help you formulate the things you need to ask when checking out different web hosts. I would suggest if you’re unsure go back and listen to it again. Because there’s a lot of gold in today’s episode. Thanks so much for joining. Thank you for listening to this edition of the SDM show. This podcast is brought to you by studying digital marketing for length to stunning digital marketing and Rob Cairns please go to stunningdigitalmarketing.info. This podcast is dedicated to rob site father Bruce Cairns. Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars make your business succeed. Bye for now.