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The surprise 11,500 hosting bill and why you need to check your web hosting terms

Haven’t checked the terms & conditions and small print of your web hosting contract? We can think of 11,500 reasons why you need to check your web hosting package now!

Imagine receiving a bill like this from your hosting company!

 

Imagine the horror of receiving a bill for over 11.5k for only two days of data usage by your web hosting service, when some days you will only be paying for a few pounds worth of data. This was a scenario that one businessman faced for real. We know, because we helped him investigate the causes of this usage.

One of Varn’s services is analysis and investigation of how your website is being used. We recently were contacted by the shocked client, who had received a bill of over 11k by his web hosting service, 1&1, out of the blue. He asked us if we could help him investigate what had occurred – to be presented with such a huge bill.

Two Days Of Downloads

Simon Vowles, Managing Director of GWF Nutrition, runs a highly rated business. He runs one of the only UK based animal feed manufacturers and has a strong online presence but sometimes there are incidents which are beyond the control of the business and it’s important to piece together what has happened when something has gone wrong so that it never happens again.

Mr Vowles contacted Varn to look into this case of a mysterious data usage spike.

The source of the trouble turned out to be an 11MB PDF product flyer. It transpired that the document had somehow been downloaded 160,294 times, thus generating a data charge for 1.8 million Mb at a cost of approximately £11,500.

After analysing the website traffic Varn calculated that there was no way that website visitors could have caused this surge in data usage. In fact, it came to light that on 22 April, £5,095.58 worth of data was used and the following day £5,756.25 of data was used – the day after this the rate fell back down to the normal amount of data for this day.

Based on industry figures we knew that the median click through rates in business emails tends to be around 2.5% which means this email would have to have been sent to over 6.4 million people to have enough downloads to justify the bill.

Since Mr Vowles’ complaint, 1&1 has looked at the evidence and agreed not to charge him for the unexpected spike in usage from an external source – a source that is still being investigated.

They have also stated they are migrating the files to a cheaper, unlimited data package that would mean the company is protected from this kind of scenario on-going.

Check Everything

This later point is worth thinking about. It is wise to make sure you are on the best contract that is most suited to your business and it’s always worth asking if there is an unlimited data package available at a good price. Find out or ask if warning emails are sent to you when usage suddenly changes from the norm, so you are informed of problems prior to requests for payments or debits from your account.

This story thankfully had a happy ending due to the fact that the web hosting service understood and agreed with Simon’s argument and analysis. However, there may well be cases out there with web hosting services with less agreeable conclusions – so our advice is ‘don’t get caught out’. 

Check, ask and make sure you have the most suitable and protective package possible for your company’s financial security.