As a WordPress digital agency, your success hinges on being able to provide development, design, and marketing services to your clients. But more than that, you’ll need to provide reasonable rates.

After all, the digital agency landscape is a competitive one. More and more clients are asking their agencies to tackle additional projects, including increased SEO optimization, content creation, social media campaigning, and even mobile web design.

Unfortunately, this competition forces many agencies trying to establish themselves as leaders to cut corners in an attempt to satisfy their clients and save money all at the same time.

When this happens, the type of hosting they use for their clients is one of the first things to become compromised.

Today we’re going to take a look at how self-hosting your clients’ websites may seem cheaper initially, but ends up costing your agency more in the end.

Self-Hosting versus Managed Hosting

Hosting is one of the most important elements of any online business. It’s the way content is delivered to your clients’ site visitors, the security needed to protect their biggest assets, and the way they grow their businesses and make money.

That said, there are significant differences between self-hosting your client websites and using a managed hosting solution.

Self-Hosting

In simple terms, self-hosting is a solution where your agency is responsible for hosting your clients’ data and files on a server you rent from a company or own yourself.

You own the files that are being stored, have the freedom to make any changes you want, and can determine exactly how your clients’ websites are built from the ground up.

You also enjoy these additional benefits:

  • 100% Customization: you will have full control over the development and design of every client website, meaning you can add any design element or functionality you want. This also includes the ability to install any software you want without any restrictions.
  • Server Maintenance: with a self-hosted solution, you have the freedom to source, set up, and manage the hardware infrastructure and operating system your clients’ sites run on. That said, you’ll also be responsible for any server outages or issues you run into.
  • Complete Access: since you’re in charge of setting up and maintaining the server your clients’ websites are hosted on, you’ll also have direct server access.

Managed Hosting

Managed hosting is a solution where your agency hires a third-party company to host your clients’ data and files on servers they maintain.

With managed hosting, you lose some control since the servers aren’t yours (and other customers are being hosted on them too) and you don’t have access to the code. However, you don’t need to set up the server, install software, or deal with operating systems.

You also enjoy the following benefits:

Control Panel: you’ll have access to a control panel and some server configurations for making changes if you want. For instance, you can install a new OS, change the root password, and even obtain server stats and real-time usage data.

Security: your hosting provider will have built-in security features to protect your clients’ site content and visitor information. There will be services such as proactive network monitoring and threat remediation, firewalls, SSL certificate installations, DDoS prevention, antivirus and malware scanning/removal, and more.

Site Backups: managed hosting providers perform routine backups of websites and store them in secure, offsite locations. They also typically have easy one-click restore options.

Technical Support: if at any time your server malfunctions, or your clients’ sites experience downtime, your hosting provider will handle the issue right away. The hosting provider will also take responsibility for any software that’s installed, bugs, patches, and unexpected server outages.

The Real Cost of Self-Hosting Client Websites

Initially, you might think that self-hosting client websites is the cheaper (and better) option because managed hosts provide so many services that have to cost more.

However, when you take a closer look, you’ll realize that the cost of self-hosting your client websites actually exceed most managed hosting solutions, including ours here at Scale Dynamix.

Let’s take a look.

Development Stages

When it comes to developing client websites, there’s a lot of work to be done. And if you don’t hire someone to help you with some of the basics, you’ll end up investing a lot of your own time and wasting money.

Here are some of the top things you’ll be responsible for when self-hosting client websites:

  • Site development and staging + server setup
  • Git workflow setup and planning
  • Code building and testing
  • Production server setup
  • Cache setup and tuning
  • Site backups, monitoring, and APM setup
  • Training and documentation

Monthly Tasks

In addition to developing sites for your clients, there will be monthly recurring tasks that you’ll be in charge of when you self-host their websites. For example, server and content management system updates, security scanning/log reviews/threat remediation, backup testing, and restoration during downtime.

All of these things, and much more, fall onto you as an agency once you agree to self-host your clients’ websites.

Of course, if you’re knowledgeable you could handle all of the technical tasks that come with self-hosting client websites.

But doing so pulls you away from other tasks that your clients demand such as social media and email marketing, online brand development, SEO optimization, and more.

So what does this mean for you and your agency?

It means you’ll:

  • Provide subpar service to your clients that are paying you well to manage it all (and possibly lose clients as a result)
  • Have to hire more employees to handle the workload
  • Invest in third-party companies to take care of major tasks such as security and other IT responsibilities

No matter which option you choose, you’ll end up spending a lot more than you would if you invested in a managed hosting solution for your client websites.

On the other hand, if you agree to enlist the help of a managed hosting solution, you’ll pay a monthly flat fee to handle things like:

  • Server maintenance
  • PCI compliance
  • Security monitoring
  • Site backups
  • Routine updates
  • Website uptime
  • CDNs
  • And more

Having a managed hosting provider for your client websites not only frees up your time, it eliminates some of the sticker shock when something goes wrong with one of your client sites.

When there’s a problem with one of your clients’ websites, the managed hosting provider will handle it as part of your agreed upon monthly service fee. Plus, with managed hosting you never need to worry about code, customizations, or server maintenance, making the learning curve a lot smaller.

In the end, self-hosting your client websites is not always the most affordable option. There are many hidden costs, a lot of knowledge required, and room for security breaches that can take down your entire agency in an instant if you’re not careful.

If you run a digital WordPress agency, and are looking for a reliable way to scale your business and protect your clients’ sites so they continue to use you for their development, design, and marketing needs, take a look at our enterprise WordPress solution.

We can oversee anywhere between 1-20 servers so your clients’ websites are secure and managed at all times. We implement automatic scaling and resizing, offer reliable speed and security measures, enable advanced caching solutions for your eCommerce clients, and aim to make web development, maintenance, and operation easier on you.