The Heroik Hour Podcast 020 -Overcoming The Digital SlumLords & The Protection Racket

Before We resume your regular scheduled podcast content, – I wanted to get into alignment of vision, strategy, goal setting and tactics, but in light of recent events, felt it important to create a special techisode first.

On this episode I’m going to share share a story that will help many of you. I know a lot of you are entrepreneurs, starting and refining businesses most of which relies on the web these days and having a great website. Your website is often at the foundation of your business and your webhost is a neglected part of that foundation. And I’m going to share a story that will hopefully teach you the importance of having the right foundation, but also give you a leg up on the majority of people who aren’t going to have access to the information I’m about to share with you.

I went through another round of technical hell over the holiday season that stopped me in my tracks. And though it was rough, it’s part of my job, my brand, my character to go through these brick walls and share better ways with you, and I hope you appreciate that I’m sharing this with you. I hope it helps you – in fact I know it will.

I recently came up against a big challenge, faced it and came out on top, better positioned than ever, and I want to share what happened and what I learned in this very special techisode. I’ve tried my best to keep all the tech talk simple and this story entertaining and informative for all you non-techies out there. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy this little Tech Noir style and get something out of it.

Anyway, let’s get started.

Imagine if a small fire broke out in your office, and you go to reach for a fire extinguisher and your landlord slaps your hand down and tells you that you can’t use it to put out the fire, and you need to pay him and his buddy to take care of it now and protect you in the future for an ongoing fee of course…

Now imagine if your office was all of our domains and websites, the people shaking you down were your web host (digital landlord) the commercial partners of your web host and a cyber security partner.  If you were to give in and pay up, the two of them probably split the revenue 50/50.

We were almost the victims of such a scheme – and I don’t want this to happen to you, or any good-willed, hustling entrepreneur and business owner I know. So read this all the way through and I’ll explain what happened, and how we avoided it so you can protect yourself and not get exploited if it happens to you.  

Just before we all went off to drink booze, enjoy family and unwrap Christmas presents, about mid-December 2016, the Heroik community (including this site) got hacked. Malware got in, and all of our sites got shut down – not by the hackers mind you, but by our former web host, Bluehost. I had to divert attention away from the podcast and other work for weeks to address it.

Before I describe what happened next, I think you should know a little something about cyber attacks, hackers and malware (oh my). It’s not as scary as the media and other folks make it out to be. Or more specifically at least, it’s not some rare event like a shark attack.

Dealing with cyber attacks and malware (from China, Russia, and all over the globe) is incredibly common. It’s more common than getting a flat tire. Bots and hackers attempt to access sites on a daily basis. Most people and non-techies don’t know this. Fixing these issues is usually as easy as closing your oven to stop an oven fire or using an extinguisher.

But something different happened this time around. Instead of letting us repair our sites ourselves (which you grow accustomed to doing, like cleaning bugs off your windshield), they locked us out of our sites by taking them offline and force us to chat with a 3rd party who they’ve partnered with, to try and sell us their solution. And the only way to get them to fix the immediate problem is if you SUBSCRIBE for a full year commitment.

JUST HOW BAD IS THIS DIGITAL SHAKEDOWN? $1,200 PER YEAR, PER DOMAIN.

That’s right $99 a month to fix it and keep it online. If you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur, you probably own more than one. And this is 1200% that’s right, (twelve hundred percent) increase in web costs.

This felt very similar to every mob-movie moment you’ve might remember from your favorite noir story. An enforcer and his buddy shake down some business owner to pay protection money for his knee caps. It’s really similar. You see, the host and security service provider are commercial partners and split the profits. I don’t know what the split is, but I bet it’s 50/50.

Now, I know that most people don’t know how to fix these issues, and I don’t want to get technical just yet, but, as a good-willed geek, I’ve seen my clients, when they’re hurting and their business is offline. They feel vulnerable, and in a moment of need because wouldn’t you want and need to have things fixed and back online ASAP?

There’s just one problem- we were cut off from all the familiar simple solutions we use to fix things. This limits your options to performing more complicated tasks or paying a lot of money for a simple solution.

Things aren’t getting bad to make a buck in the hosting business, it’s just that the digital slumlords don’t want to pony up the dough to deploy standard best practices to keep their servers secure, and they’re clients safe but they still want the masses to fill up the place.

This is where things get more interesting, because it’s not just one host we’re talking about. This one host is a subsidiary of a major company that owns over 60 other hosts, whose names you’d probably recognize. That’s something that most people don’t know when they switch from one host to another hoping they escape the digital slum lords.  For example, EIG who owns Bluehost, HostGator and others, owns over 50 other web hosting sites. Think of a low end, WalMart product with the customer support quality of Comcast, and you’ll have the kind of operation these digital slumlords are running.

For example, EIG who owns Bluehost, HostGator and others, owns over 50 other web hosting sites. Think of a low end, WalMart product with the customer support quality of Comcast, and you’ll have the kind of operation these digital slumlords are running.

Now to make sense of all this, let’s go back into story mode.

Imagine each webhost is an apartment building in a big city. And one person owns all the slums in town. Imagine all of the lower end apartment buildings not being up to code, and every fire or health hazard is an opportunity to shake down the tenants for more money. The tenants themselves don’t know how to lock their doors, so they attract criminals which creates yet another pressure point for a shakedown and protection racket. So the slumlords keep the front and back doors to the place unlocked and vulnerable to criminals, because they make more money that way?

Do you think the people making bank off the shakedown are incentivized to take care of their tenants? Heck no! They’ve found a racket to make crazy cash off the backs of the naive, ignorant, non-techies, and the authorities can’t help because they too are just as ignorant of how technology works.

Would you trust your digital business to the digital slumlords? HECK NO.

They have a conflict of interest when it comes to keeping their servers secure, and on the shared hosting side, preventing malware from spreading from account to account like roaches or bed bugs in an apartment. It’s not really even a conflict at all when you compare the benefits. They have a direct incentive to see your business disrupted and taken down. They make 6x more money minimum (if you only own 1 domain) if your site gets attacked. You think they’re going to lock the doors and windows for you?

This is the kind of activity that can kill a city, or be a big deflator for a local economy. The best way to address this issue is to not go anywhere near these digital slums.

So where do you go? Where did we go?

When it comes down to it everybody wants and needs the same thing from a webhost – fast, secure and sexy. At the very least the host should know that these are goals, to have a fast, secure and sexy website. That means you need horsepower, a bitchin security system, and not be weighed down in glut.

So, I did my research. I was an IT Consultant turned pragmatic business person (a nerd with people skills who doesn’t have time to geek out on the keyboard 24/7). After hours of digging and more hours of vetting and reviewing the reviews and reviewers. And after 2 hours of chatting online – I found a hosting provider who was cheaper, faster, more secure, friendlier and superior to my previous digital slumlord in just about every way that I care about. I ran a pilot project by moving one site over and testing it for speed and stability. I tested the support staff and put them through their paces.

Here’s the answer:  MOVE TO SITEGROUND – It’s faster, more secure, more knowledgeable, no backdoor or slumlord pricing schemes. $8 -$15 a month, perks galore. And their team will help you do everything. I can’t say enough good things about them – but I’ll try. If you know me or have heard the podcast, you know that I know my tech, and I champion discernment (choosing the great over the good). So here’s an affiliate link to SiteGround, check them out, tell them I sent ya – make the move- and get far the hell away from the digital slumlords.