Written by Beth Downey

When we look at business owners, a lot of times we tend to think they’ve got it figured out. We see a lot of successes — but oftentimes don’t see the bad decisions that come into play. Every business owner makes them. I’ve made them & I make them more than I’ve ever discussed. Until now.

I’m in the midst of cleaning up a mess of a bad decision I made with the refresh of a legacy website. I’ve done this before and said “never again.” In an effort to hold myself accountable, I’m writing about it and coming clean.

The long and short of it is this – a website I am refreshing is being hosted by a really terrible web hosting company. Why are they bad? First of all, the interface is outdated as well as the processes to move from a production site (the public facing website) to a staging site (the non-public facing site where the work is done, tested and approved to go live when the refresh is done).

The negotiations that took place to land the job involved a conversation that went something like “hey, we know this web host is awful, but we just renewed and we’ll change to better when it expires.” In an effort to not be difficult – because that’s part of my full self I bring to the table (good and bad!) conditioned as a GenX female in the Deep South to be a people pleaser, I agreed to work under this really terrible plan.

Once the design was signed off on, I began the process of creating a staging site in the hosting cPanel (this is the control center of the hosting) — the cPanel has a way to access email, the PHPmyAdmin (where we build and manage databases), where we can acess the files of the website as well as create FTP access to easily create and edit the website templates. Yes, I realize this is probably a lot of “inside baseball” stuff. That really doesn’t matter.

We have the technology to not have to do things the hard way. Websites are built of two things – a database and files. In the old days – say 2011 when I was learning to build WordPress websites – to make a staging site we had to download the database file along with the website files. Next, we had to create a subdomain (a subdomain of this website might be subdomain.permeliamedia.com, for example) to build the staging site, along with a database for that subdomain, finally connecting the two to talk to one another. The staging site should be a copy of the live site – so finally we’d upload the database and files from the live site to the subdomain area to make a copy of the site we’re looking to alter.

Present day, when we use good hosting (WPEngine, Flywheel or Pantheon) we have a one click solution. You literally click a button that says some variation of “copy environment to staging” (when we’re looking to make a copy for editing or fixes) or “copy to production” (when we want the staging site to go live).

What I should have done is say “I’ve dealt with your host before. Eat the money, change hosting environments, and this will go much faster and smoother for all involved.” Instead, I nodded my head, all the while knowing this was a bad idea.

I spent over ten hours so far dealing with migrating this site to staging, then dealing with plugins not working, to page load times being painfully slow. I’ve wasted almost three days time because of a terrible tool. Finally I called my contact and had a heart to heart. Fortunately I was heard and advocated for. New hosting is in place.

So how am I getting myself out of this mess and how do I not get into this mess again?

    1. I’m hiring someone to migrate the site from the old hosting to new.
    2. I’m altering my contract as well; going forward, I will not work on a website outside of three specific hosting providers.

A loss is a learning experience if we have a plan to move forward while learning. Additionally, if my transparency regarding my own mistakes helps someone else not make this one, great. Better yet, if I program myself and other business owners out of our people pleasing tendencies regarding client work, all the better.