Looking for a new web host for your website? Or you’re going to move your website to another web host? Well, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has a list of four questions to ask when hiring a web host provider. The effort here is applauded. But, unfortunately, the FTC didn’t exactly get all the terminology right, which would lead to even more questions. Or a small business looking dumb in front of their web host provider. Here’s the graphic they put out, and here’s their tweet.
- Is TLS included in the hosting plan? paid add-on? Will I set it up myself or will you help me set it up?
- Are the most up-to-date software versions available with your service, and will you keep software updated? If it’s my responsibility to keep software updated, is it easy for me to do?
- Can my business email use my business website name? If so, can you help me set up SPF, DKIM, and DMARC email authentication technology? (If not, consider looking for a provider that does.)
- After the website is set up, who will be able to make changes to it? Will I have to go through you? Will I be able to log in and make changes on my own? If I can log in to make changes, is multi-factor authentication available?
Wow, after I just typed up those questions, I realize that this is actually one of the most confusing graphics that I’ve ever seen. It actually will confuse small businesses MORE by reading these points. Let’s first look at the fact that the United States FTC has confused web host providers with web designers and websites with domain names. A web host provider (like HostDime, Host Gator, or WP Engine) is a web HOST. Those are not web designers or web developers. A web HOST only hosts your website, they typically have nothing to do with setting up the website or making changes to the website. And, honestly, TLS is probably not one of the most important questions to ask. I’d want to small business owners to understand if their website is going to be HTTPs or HTTP. Just mentioning TLS is probably going to be confusing for most small business owners. Or just have them ask if it’s going to be a secure website or not, and who will set up the SSL certificate.
Email and setting up SPF, DKIM, and DMARC is important. But the FTC shouldn’t be calling a domain name a “business website name”. That’s confusing. It’s a domain name.
Web host providers do keep the server software up to date–but you have to pay extra for that level of service. Web hosts don’t keep the CMS, like WordPress up to date. Your web designer, web developer, or even your SEO would do that (for an extra fee).
And, frankly, you’d look dumb if you asked your web host provider if you have to go through them to make changes to the website. They don’t do that. Web host providers don’t make changes to sites, either you do that yourself or your web designer, or SEO firm/consultant/agency will do that.
I really applaud the FTC for their effort here–it’s important for small business owners to ask questions. But these are clearly the wrong questions to ask a web host provider. And calling a domain name a “business website name”? Really? Call it what is: a domain name.