Picture of a frustrated person

InMotion Hosting’s Frustrating Backup Manager Release

InMotion Hosting recently released its new Backup Manager service which replaced its previous paid backup options and courtesy backup options. Frustratingly, InMotion charged its customers for this service after a 90-day trial unless they manually opted out.

InMotion sent me two emails about the service before charging me. Neither of the emails’ subject lines made it clear that I would be charged for an unexpected service unless I took action. Web hosts commonly send promotional emails and other communications that are unhelpful or unimportant. I assumed both emails from InMotion were of that sort, so I initially ignored them.
I expect many of InMotion’s other customers did the same.

The first email came in April and had a spammy title: “Your Account has been selected.” There was nothing special that caused my account to be selected. Every account like mine got selected. The content of the email also had a spammy feel:

Screenshot of an email from InMotion

Only in the fine print of the email was there an indication that I would, by default, be automatically enrolled for a paid service:

Opt-out trial subscription is a common way to try our products before you buy them. You are not charged anything during the trial. During that time, you have access to all features of the product. If you benefit from Backup Manager, you can continue to use all features until the end of the trial period. Automatic billing will occur once the trial period has expired and billing will occur to the form of payment listed on your InMotion Hosting account for the remaining months of your hosting agreement.

In May, I got another email. This email’s subject line was “Your Backup Manager is active! Here’s what you need to know.” The subject line didn’t have the spammy vibe of the first email, but it still was not clear that I was going to be charged for something.

The content of the second email was much more helpful for understanding changes InMotion was making:

Historically, qualified hosting accounts were backed up as a courtesy and only for disaster recovery purposes, with additional paid backup storage options available…we made the decision to replace our current courtesy and paid backup solutions with our new Backup Manager service. We understand that not all website owners will have a need for the new Backup Manager service.

The email went on to explain that users would automatically be charged for the service unless they manually opted out:

We have traditionally introduced new products and services on an opt-in basis. This basically means that you, our customer, must initiate the order associated with new product or service. However, with the Backup Manager service, we decided that due to the added protection the Backup Manager service allows, an opt-out approach would be more appropriate.

I think InMotion is right that backup service may be more appropriate for automatic opt-in than many other services. That said, I’m inclined to believe InMotion’s decision to release Backup Manager in the manner it did was largely motivated by a desire for more revenue. If InMotion had emailed me a few days before charging me with a subject like “Unless you opt-out, you will be charged shortly”, then I might feel differently.

I reached out to InMotion’s support team after being charged for Backup Manager. Fortunately, they agreed to refund the amount I was charged for Backup Manager. I expect InMotion knows that most people who were unexpectedly charged won’t bother to reach out for a refund. I probably wouldn’t have done so if I wasn’t running a business evaluating web hosts.

Shared Hosting Introductory Rates vs. Renewal Rates

This post didn’t go public until early 2019, but the data in it is from the middle of 2018.

It’s common for shared web hosting providers to advertise introductory rates that are far lower than the long-term rates for hosting packages. I figured it would be interesting to try and quantify how big the difference is between the introductory prices and the prices upon renewal.

I couldn’t find a good third-party list of the most-used shared web hosting service, so I created a list of 10 popular web hosts off the top of my head:

  1. GoDaddy
  2. HostGator
  3. BlueHost
  4. DreamHost
  5. InMotion
  6. iPage
  7. FatCow
  8. A2
  9. SiteGround
  10. Yahoo1

I figured that the difference between intro rates and long-term rates might differ between a single provider’s plans, so I pre-committed to relying on the most prominent plan displayed on each provider’s website. If you want to verify my work, the links in the list above all direct to archived copies of the most relevant web page for each company.

Here’s what I found:

CompanyIntro priceRenewal pricePercent difference

Renewal rates were on average 2.28 times as expensive as introductory rates.5

In many cases, the best discounts on the regular rates were only available with long-term plans. For example, Hostgator offered its 60.5% discount with a 36-month billing term, 55% off at 24 months, 33.52% off at 12 months, and no discount with shorter billing cycles.6

The data in the table above might understate the difference between the initial rates people get and the long-term rates. As I closed out of a BlueHost page, I received an offer dropping the introductory rate from $3.95/month to $2.65/month. I expect that consumers frequently use coupon codes that lead to rates in the first billing cycle that are even lower than the advertised rates.

It’s worth noting that listed renewal rates might not match what customers purchasing packages today will actually pay for renewals—hosts may change renewal rates in the future. On FatCow’s webpage listing renewal rates, this possibility is mentioned explicitly with a note that “prices are subject to change.”7