While there are a handful of reasons why I don’t generally think that Squarespace is the best option as website/blogging platform, the main issue I have with Squarespace is the same as I have with sites like Blogger, and far outweighs things like not having full control over your design. (Although, I think that’s a pretty big issue too, let’s be real.)
The simple fact of the matter is, with sites like Squarespace and Blogger, you don’t own your content. Which is why it blows my MIND to see so many businesses on Squarespace.
Now to be clear, if you’re a new blogger and you’re just getting your feet wet, great! Explore every possibility there is, make sure you find what’s right for you, and that blogging is something you’re going to stick with before you invest a ton of money into something. We all started out somewhere and there’s always possibility and room for growth to a self-hosted solution in the future.
For a business though? Come on, now.
The Difference Between Squarespace & A Traditional Host
Yes, you pay for Squarespace, just like you would pay for a host, but you’re paying for an easy ‘do-it-yourself’ all-in-one solution, rather than a company that specializes in specific areas of technology meant to keep your site afloat.
Squarespace is not a hosting company and what they specialize in is not the same as what a host would specialize in. They have their feet dipped into all areas of the pool, rather than just focusing on one specific thing.
So, let’s take a look at some of Squarespace’s Terms of Service, compared to a traditional host’s Terms of Service. The following excerpts were taken from Squarespace’s Terms of service, and each section is noted at the bottom of each term.
- Services may be terminated by us, without cause, at any time.
Notice of termination of Services by Squarespace may be sent to the contact e-mail associated with your account. Upon termination, Squarespace has the right to delete all data, files, or other information that is stored in your account.Section 12. Termination
- WITHOUT LIMITING THE FOREGOING, NEITHER SQUARESPACE NOR ITS LICENSORS WARRANT THAT ACCESS TO THE SITE, THE MATERIALS AND/OR THE SERVICES AVAILABLE ON OR THROUGH THE SITE WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR-FREE, OR THAT DEFECTS, IF ANY, WILL BE CORRECTEDSection 15. DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY
- IN ADDITION, SQUARESPACE IS NOT RESPONSIBLE, AND MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES FOR THE DELIVERY OF ANY MESSAGES (SUCH AS EMAILS, POSTING OF ANSWERS OR TRANSMISSION OF ANY OTHER USER GENERATED CONTENT) SENT THROUGH THE SITE TO ANYONE.Section 15. DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY
- IN THE EVENT OF ANY PROBLEM WITH THE SITE, THE SERVICES, THE MATERIALS, YOU AGREE THAT YOUR SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE REMEDY IS TO CEASE USING THE SITE, THE SERVICES AND THE MATERIALS.Section 17. EXCLUSIVE REMEDY
- We may modify, replace, refuse access to, suspend or discontinue the Services, partially or entirely, or add, change and modify prices for all or part of the Services for you or for all our users at any time and in our sole discretion. All of these changes shall be effective upon their posting on the Site or by direct communication to you unless otherwise noted. We further reserve the right to withhold, remove and or discard any content available as part of your account, with or without notice if deemed by us to be contrary to this Agreement. For avoidance of doubt, Squarespace has no obligation to store, maintain or provide you a copy of any content that you or other users provide when using the Services.
Section 18. Termination/Exclusion
So based on the above excerpts from Squarespace’s Terms of Service there is a myriad of things that Squarespace can do to your site, which as a business owner who doesn’t use them, still makes me sick to my stomach to think about.
termination of your site
They can terminate your service with no warning and upon doing so, delete all of your files – they MAY email you, but they don’t guarantee or promise that they will or that they’ll make any sort of extensive measures to contact you about deleting YOUR ENTIRE WEBSITE.
Furthermore, they can suspend or discontinue their services at any time and the only way you’ll know is because they’ll post it on their website (or email you, but that’s not required.) If your site does go down, or servers crash or any cataclysmic things of that nature and you lose your information, they have no obligation to store, maintain or provide you with any of the content you had on their servers. Despite the fact that there is probably a 99.99% chance that they do daily and nightly backups.
bug fixes + uptime
If there is a error for some reason, they make no promises to fix it, or that if they do fix it, that said fix will be adequate or acceptable.
They don’t guarantee any sort of uptime, or any sort of compensation for their services being down, or causing you any sort of loss of profit. If their service goes down and you’re unable to access/use your site, your only option is to… stop using the site.
emails / contact forms sent through squarespace
If that isn’t enough, they also don’t guarantee that any emails sent through their service will make it to you. Wait, what? YUP. If you’re running a business on Squarespace, and you have a form where your clients can get ahold of you, book a project, request a meeting, etc – Squarespace makes NO guarantees that you will get those emails. And since you don’t have actual access to your “hosting” you can’t even check your /maildir to see if there are any sitting in there that got lost in process.
Since it’s what I’m familiar with I will be using my host’s (Dreamhost) Terms of Service as a reference point, but I can’t guarantee that any other hosts will have the same or similar points in their Terms of Service. Your best case is to just… read the Terms of Service for your host.
Now, to be fair, my host does have some similar items in their Terms of Service, but not quite so severe. The two biggest differences is that Dreamhost’s TOS not only protects them, but it protects me as well. Also, it’s pretty damn simple to read, unlike Squarespace’s which looks more like a legal document rather than something it’s users need to be able to read and navigate.
- This contract may be terminated by either party, without cause, by giving the other party 14 days written notice.
- DreamHost guarantees 100% uptime. A failure to provide 100% uptime will result in customer compensation pursuant to guidelines established herein.
- Customer is entitled to compensation if Customer’s web site, databases, email, FTP, SSH or webmail become unusable as a result of failure(s) in DreamHost systems for reasons other than previously announced scheduled maintenance, coding or configuration errors on the part of the Customer.
- Customer will receive DreamHost credit equal to the Customer’s current hosting cost for 1 (one) day of service for each 1 (one) hour (or fraction thereof) of service interruption, up to a maximum of 10% of customer’s next pre-paid hosting renewal fee.
- DreamHost’s assessment of downtime begins when Customer opens a support ticket to report the problem.
Dreamhost does also have a termination clause, but unless you’re doing something illegal or haven’t paid them, they give you 14 days before you have to GTFO. And if you forget to pay them, or just can’t right now, you have something like 60 days (two billing cycles) to catch up on your bill before they’ll actually shut your site down. (That last bit is from personal experience, not in their TOS.)
bug fixes + uptime
And while Dreamhost does say that they make no ultimate guarantees of service (which is understandable since they are a company and need to protect themselves and their employees), they do promise uptime, and compensation if for some reason not only my website isn’t accessible, but my email, FTP, databases, etc. So the problem doesn’t have to be my website as a whole, but any integral part of my hosting service in order to qualify for compensation – which is usually a discount on my bill.
Now, according to the last clause that I mentioned above, you are only compensated if you report downtime. If you don’t make a report of it then, to them, you didn’t experience it. However, there is only one time I can remember the servers being down for any period of time that I noticed and Dreamhost emailed me and offered me a discount on my bill for that downtime, even though I never contacted them.
email + contact forms
This isn’t in their TOS, but it’s a personal experience that I’ve had with Dreamhost wherein I was having issues with my email, and contacted Dreamhost to see if they could help. Little did I know at the time it wasn’t a Dreamhost issue at all, but they still went through the trouble of helping me solve it.
But Self-Hosting Costs More!
Month-to-month, Squarespace costs $12 – I pay $11 at Dreamhost. If you pay yearly, Squarespace costs $96, Dreamhost costs $107, and they include a free domain with every new plan that lasts for the life of your hosting (ie, have hosting with them for 10 years, you have a free domain for 10 years).
That’s at the lowest plan available for Squarespace, whereas that’s the only plan available for Dreamhost (outside of dedicated servers or DreamPress, which is not required at ALL for WordPress sites). With Dreamhost you can have multiple domains, subdomains, a shop, you can sell as many items as you’d like with full access to your FTP/files/backend, ability to hook up Google Apps, without paying more.
Not to mention if you find someone who is hosted with Dreamhost they can get you a pretty badass code for up to $97 off of your first year of hosting. For real. In fact here you go: STAYAWESOME – use that code when you sign up, $97 off! (This is technically an affiliate code, BUT since it’s the maximum discount provided, I don’t actually make anything from it.)
Updated October 13th 2016: Dreamhost no longer allows the use of promotion codes, or do they provide the oppurtunity for you to hand out codes/links to give full discounts on their plans. You can still save $30/$50 on your monthly/yearly hosting plan through Dreamhost by using this link, but it is a affiliate link and it will give me a referral bonus.
And yes, if you have to run maintenance and stuff then your site on a self-hosted platform (WordPress or otherwise) it will take more time. But if you’re a business, and you operate through your website – either as a shop or onboarding clients then the value of your website is technically… all of the bills it pays. I’m guessing the 2-3 hours a month you’d have to spend to maintain your self-hosted site or the $300-400/yr you’d pay someone to maintain it for you pales in comparison to what your site makes you.
But I Don’t Know How / Don’t Want To Have To Deal With Updates
Well sometimes, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. No one said owning a business was going to be easy and I’m sure there are other things you have to deal with that you don’t particularly want to. But you do, don’t cha? Because you have to. Accounting, anybody?
I view online businesses like I do any other business (ie, offline, brick and mortar, etc)
If you want to open a bar, you need to learn about health regulations, licenses, trademarks, distances from other properties, and hours of operations and a whole other slew of things, and maybe you don’t know how to do any of this at first, but if it’s always been a dream of yours, you figure it out or hire someone to figure it out for you.
Every business has things that are required of it that you might not like doing, but if it’s a part of how your business functions then I think you need to be aware of how it works, how to handle it, and to properly control it. If you don’t then you can’t really complain when something happens to it.
I think if you own a business that pays your bills, and puts a roof over your head, and having a site is an imperative part of that, then you shouldn’t be opting for the ‘easy’ way out just because you don’t want to have to deal with something. Businesses are an investment, of time and money, and I think it’s incredibly sad that we live in a world that facilitates taking the ‘easy way out’ for things that feed our families, and keep our bills paid, especially when realistically it’s not the best option.
You don’t have to listen to ANYTHING I’ve said in this post, you don’t have to take into account what could happen with your site on Squarespace, or the insane Terms of Service they provide – I mean because the likelihood of them dying and never coming back is low, right?
Most of the second half of this post is an opinion, and just reasons myself that I don’t think that Squarespace should be a viable option for businesses. Because if something does happen and you’re left with no website and all of that hard work you put into your site is gone… it’s really not going to matter what you’re paying, that they handle maintenance, how clean the designs are, or how easy it is, is it?