July 6, 2006, 12:00 AM

When web hosting companies go down the drain

Multi-channel PortableSink.com endured numerous problems with different web hosts. It washed its hands of them after a more focused hunt for a reliable host.


For multi-channel PortableSink.com, a competent web host along with shopping cart and content updates are the most important factors for the company because its e-commerce site is its primary source of revenue, says Joseph Mosis, president of Monsam Enterprises Inc., which operates PortableSink.com, a retailer of sinks that provide hot and cold running water without plumbing. Competent, however, is not the word the retailer would choose to best describe its previous web hosting companies.

“We’ve changed our web hosting provider several times during the last few years. Communication was always a problem,” Mosis explains. The retailer tried big web hosting companies that advertise all over the web and small local firms that promise to do what no one else can, he adds, but what the hosting companies said and what they did often were two different things.

Mosis asserts that good communication is absolutely central to the retailer/host relationship. “We needed an easy way to communicate with a hosting company. With previous hosts, we sent e-mails that never got replies, and we were on the phone for hours.”

In addition to poor communication, timing and accuracy were problematic in the past. “When we request an update or change to the site, we need it done now-and I mean now. But I sometimes waited 48 to 72 hours for site updates, and that affects sales,” Mosis says. “What’s more, sometimes after waiting all that time the update wasn’t done right. Links led shoppers to unknowingly order the wrong items, for instance. This meant additional expense in shipping, having to replace the wrong product as well as a drop in customer satisfaction.”

With past experience under his belt, Mosis began his hunt for a new web host with three tasks at the fore: more research, hypothetical scenarios and spelling things out.

“This time around we conducted more research, reading all the fine print on the vendors’ web sites, asking for multiple references, investigating the vendors on the Internet,” he says.

In meetings with potential hosts, PortableSink.com asked many questions and created numerous e-commerce web hosting scenarios to find out what vendors would do, as well as what they wouldn’t do. And it asked suitors to spell out in great detail, in writing, services and costs. “Ultimately we measured the efficiency of each vendor by asking ourselves four questions. Do we like the way their web site looks, and is it user friendly? Based on our research, how long do we think it really would take them to respond to requests? How does their company rate in various search engine listings? And what is our impression of the proficiency of their representatives?”

In the end the merchant went with IPower Inc., which has been working with PortableSink.com since November. The company helped the retailer fine-tune then test the new site. The major part of the fine-tuning was a new shopping cart that is easier for customers to manage, Mosis says. The retailer then dropped its former web host and launched anew in March.

“In our experience so far, I like that our new host’s plan has been tailored to fit the needs of a small business and help the business operate smoothly,” Mosis says.

As for the communication problem, though there isn’t much telephone talk, Mosis is pleased with the method his new host has in place to cure communication woes. “Today it all is being handled very efficiently through a customer relationship management system on the host’s web site.” After PortableSink.com logs a request, he explains, the host fulfills it usually the same day and then quickly sends a notification that work has been completed.


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