Why we prefer to host dental clients’ websites

A cautionary tale of a self-hosted website gone wrong.

High quality dental website hostingHere at Dental Media we have a reputation for transparency and flexibility and we strive to work with clients to deliver the most cost-effective and professional solutions in line with their budget.

However, we will always recommend what we believe are the most professional and robust solutions for you, even if these are more expensive than cheaper versions which may be available. Once such example of this is with website hosting i.e. renting the space on a server where your website files are stored and served 24/7 to users via the internet.

We currently manage hundreds of websites for dentists and the vast majority use our hosting servers for this. However, a few prefer to go their own way and select their own hosting provider, simply giving us access to load the required website files and make any subsequent changes. This decision to use a third-party tends to be driven by a couple of things either a) they go for a cheap hosting provider or b) their local IT guy recommends someone and they feel obliged to stick with that. Unfortunately both of those can be ill-advised as we’ll illustrate.

Cheap website hosting – the pitfalls

Website hosting is available for as little as £30 per year and some see it as a commodity where you go for the cheapest you can find. However, this type of hosting really isn’t for business websites and is more directed at the hobbyist who doesn’t need first-class support and who doesn’t worry so much if the website goes off-line regularly. This type of hosting also tends to be overcrowded, meaning that you website pages will load slowly and, often, based in data centres overseas where the response time for support enquiries can be days, if at all.

For a dentist who is reliant on their website as possibly the main source of new patient enquiries, a ‘flaky’ service of this nature is far from desirable. To compare, professional UK-based, business grade hosting provided by Dental Media, is currently £99 + vat per year. More on the benefits of this in a moment.

Using hosting recommended by your local IT support service

On the face of it, this may sound like a sensible move, after all, recommendations can count for a lot. However when it comes to websites, there is a lot going on behind the scenes which relies on the hosting being monitored and managed very carefully. To illustrate this, here’s a cautionary tale of one client who elected to host a site, designed by us, on his IT supplier’s server.

The website in question used a content management system (CMS) which allowed the client to make changes to pages on the website without reference back to us. The client was offered our services to check and maintain the system periodically but advised that his IT guy “had it all in hand” – so we advised our recommended checks and maintenance protocol and left the client to get on with it per his preference.

We didn’t actually hear back for just over a year, but then the client contacted us to advise that he couldn’t access the content management system. What’s more, on inspection, we found that the content of several pages on his website had actually disappeared. When we investigated, we found that the hosting provider had actually switched servers and changed the format of the database and scripting language that the website had originally been configured with. The poor client was blissfully unaware that anything had happened until he checked his website – and who knows how many patient enquiries he also lost in the interim?

Do I need a maintenance contract for my practice website?

At Dental Media, we don’t insist that you take out a monthly maintenance contract with us for the upkeep of your website. Most of our clients prefer our “pay as required” maintenance where we charge for any updates which are needed – saving hundreds of pound per year. This way you don’t waste lots of money on monthly fees when nothing is happening. However, we are still proactive and will advise you if any changes are needed “under the bonnet” or if legislation changes (e.g. new GDC guidance) come into effect. Unfortunately we can’t be as vigilant for clients who elect to use third party hosting arrangements as we can’t manage what happens there – and the result could be as bad as in the case noted above. This particular client has now moved his dental hosting arrangement to us and is safe under our management service.

Summary

In some ways, a website is a little bit like a car in that periodic maintenance is required to keep it running sweetly. For more complex websites, more maintenance may be required. When you choose to host with Dental Media, we will advise you if you need to update your website or the infrastructure that supports it, and we won’t make you take out an onerous monthly contract for the privilege. However, if you elect to host with a third-party, understandably we can’t manage what goes on there and your website is at risk as a result. So for a few extra pounds, it really does make sense to allow us to look after the hosting of your practice website. It’s robust, cost-effective and you can rest well knowing that your website is in safe hands.

If you’d like to know more about the website hosting and email services provided by Dental Media, please call us on 01332 672548 for more advice.