This post started as a response to an email we received recently. A potential new client was considering our sites and wanted to know how our sites worked with email, ftp, file sharing, and other things that might or might not be included in a traditional hosting account.
How our “Hosted” sites work
First, I should explain how our sites work because people who have owned a hosting account are used to things working a little differently.
While we “host” the BlogSite we are not a “hosting provider”. We provide premium managed hosting of a WordPress site – handling daily backups, seamless upgrades, and development of new features.
We work similar to the way someone like SmugMug or AlbumExposure or Basecamp or DropBox, or any “hosted” web app does – we host that one thing and do it extremely well, better than would ever be possible to sell as a one-off site. Basically it is WordPress as a Service and even more specifically as a service for Photographers.
While we do not host email, you can definitely get email at your domain – in fact we encourage it and help point out solutions for that. Google Apps for business (not gmail but works like it ) is awesome. It works just like gmail and has the best spam protection around. It even has a free version that provides up to 50 emails at your domain for free.
Everyone should own a domain and everyone should have email at that domain. It is a very inexpensive way (around $10/year) to look more professional and provide brand recognition online. firstname.lastname@example.org just sounds much better than email@example.com.
FTP Access and File Sharing
“FTP” stands for “File Transfer Protocol”. It is a tool used to upload and download files straight to a server. Many people are used to using this method with a hosting account in order to share slideshows, pricing guides, images, movies, and anything else. We do not provide any type of FTP access with our sites, but that should not limit the ability to share files with clients in anyway.
Even if we did provide FTP access, we would not recommend using FTP for sharing files from your server anyway. In fact, the terms of most hosting accounts explicitly prohibit that. They may never catch on or do anything about it but it is generally against hosting terms. If that is not enough reason to not do it, how about some good reasons to use other tools? There are some great file sharing services out there like DropBox and You Send It that provide better encryption, security and privacy in addition to faster upload and download times for your clients. The free version of DropBox is often enough for that at 2GB.
We also support our sites with detailed documentation, tutorial videos, email, live chat and a support ticket system that allows us to prioritize and assign everything that we need to address with the sites. But there are lots of places that would describe their support systems that way.
The biggest thing that makes our support a step better is that all of our sites use a networked version of WordPress, where all sites share the same software. When we add a new feature or make an upgrade is gets added for everyone instantly. This also means that when a bug is found, it gets fixed for everyone. Since we first started developing the BlogSites, thousands of users have been testing every aspect of the sites.
Because we have thousands of eyes looking at the sites and can fix things for all users at once, it allows us to provide a level of support that is simply not possible with one-at-a-time sites. We know this because we were building custom one-off sites for several years and it gets very difficult to maintain separate sites.
A word about pricing
A shared hosting account can be found for as little as $5/month. But you essentially get an empty box and you need to create the website: maybe install WordPress (or another CMS), find a theme and add that, add plugins, tweak settings… and so on. And even after all that… How is your site being backed up? Do you need to hire someone to help upgrade WordPress several times a year? Are the settings optimized for SEO? Does your site have built-in caching so that it loads as fast as possible? And on the simplest level – do you have an on call support team that can answer questions any day of the week? Or did you use a WordPress theme that is just a blog, so you still need something to be a portfolio site?
For people that know a little programming, some of those things may not factor in, but when you really consider all that we are providing, I can guarantee you we are one of the lowest price options out there for a full portfolio site, blog, hosting and the level of support we provide.