Anyone could get hold of a couple of Dell servers, a broadband connection and start a hosting service from his...
own home, and you wouldn't know, according to Dom Monkhouse, managing director of hosting provider PEER 1. In this interview, Monkhouse runs through the importance of doing your homework before entrusting someone with your business.
What problems have customers faced when dealing with dishonest data centre hosting providers?
Dom Monkhouse: Many of PEER 1's customers have felt the need to change [data centre] hosting providers because they had been lied to in the past and been promised services that never came to light.
For example, one customer said their site was hacked, causing their bandwidth to shoot up. The customer received a huge bill from their provider due to the increase in bandwidth, claiming the security of the site was the customer's issue and not the provider's.
Another example was a customer that had collocated servers with its managed hosting provider and two were decommissioned due to a human error. The client's solution was down, resulting in huge delays for the business, due to an error made by the provider. When the customer called and asked for help, they refused it.
The customer got about £350 compensation despite paying £8,000 a year for the service and up to £2,000 to run it. The provider claimed the SLA [service-level agreement] did not cover the whole solution going down, just the servers that were discontinued, regardless of the company's entire business being disrupted for days.
How important is it to know your service-level agreement (SLA) inside out when working with managed hosting services?
Monkhouse: Some customers have told us that previous providers had claimed the customer failed to read the small print of its service-level agreement and therefore refused to offer compensation or take responsibility for an error.
Even if the service provider knows they have the skills in-house to help a customer, some will not because they claim it is not covered by the SLA. It is unusual for someone to be so dissatisfied with their hosting provider that they feel the need to move -- you have more chance of getting divorced than you do in moving hosting providers, so when clients do move, promises have been broken.
What type of hidden data centre costs could customers find themselves being billed for?
Monkhouse: Customers should not feel threatened if their [data centre] hosting provider claims what they are asking for is not supported in their contract. Many providers fib about contracts. They threaten the customer with legal details that they cannot uphold. Some providers do not explain the contract in full and deliberately allow their customers to misunderstand the details. Do not take their word for it -- check for yourself.
As a customer, you should not be expected to pay for services that have not been provided or services that were planned for the future, but the contract has been terminated -- you cannot be billed for future services that have not and will not be provided.
Some hosting providers fail to notify their customers of downtime; instead, they let the client discover it themselves. Check what the provider's terms are on downtime, too, as they may want it in writing within seven days of your solution going down. If you do not provide this, they will not pay out.
Why should customers keep a close eye on their bandwidth in a virtual data centre?
Monkhouse: Customers should be aware of their bandwidth at all times. It works the same as mobile phone contracts that include texts and minutes; as a customer, you pay for a set amount of allocated minutes included in your contract, but if you go over, you are overcharged.
PEER 1 will call its customers if there is a flux in bandwidth or if they are about to run out, so they can opt to buy a new bundle. The price of the bundle will be less than having to pay for going over your allocated amount.
Dom Monkhouse, is the managing director of data centre hosting provider PEER 1. The vendor-independent company offers colocated managed hosting services, primarily aimed at the U.K.'s small and medium-sized businesses that consider the Internet critical to their business.
Kayleigh Bateman is the site editor for SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.uk.