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The Real Cost of Cheap Web Hosting

By July 14, 2016 September 28th, 2017 No Comments

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Web Development” blog series.

The web is riddled with cheap hosting services. Some are billed as “free” because they come with a web building service (Weebly), others boast a low monthly fee–under $5 in many cases.

But what are you actually getting for these services, and are they really what you want?

Web hosting costs money. Whatever company is hosting your website has a building where the servers are located, bandwidth purchased from an internet service provider, staff that maintain the equipment, salespeople, marketers, and other employees, etc. The proliferation of cheap hosting services has created the impression in our minds that it really shouldn’t cost very much. But if your website is your business, or is critical to your business, you should think about where that business is located and if it is secure, performing, and managed.

The problem with cut rate web hosting services is that you’re also getting cut rate security, performance, and service. Performance is critical. Google ranks web pages based on loading speed, among other criteria. Cheap hosting usually involves a shared server where you’re competing with other sites for bandwidth. We recommend a dedicated server or a virtual private server where your bandwidth is reserved. Also, if you use an open source content management system (CMS) like WordPress, CMS updates, theme, and plugin updates are not aligned and can cause serious malfunctions. Good hosting services manage this and make sure your CMS, themes, and plugins are up to date and compatible.

Security is a huge concern. Approximately 30,000 websites are hacked every day. For most sites it’s not a question of if your site will be hacked but when, and will you be protected? Most bargain web hosting services do not have server-side firewalls or network monitoring to detect and prevent attacks. SSL encryption for e-commerce is also critical. The best hosting services perform regular security audits and code reviews to ensure state-of-the-art security measures are always in place. They also have great back and restore capabilities in the event of a disruption.

Service is critically important. If you’ve ever tried to contact your web hosting service, good luck getting a live person. Most say they offer 24/7 support, but for many that means online Q&A with long waits for chats or phone support if they are even offered. If you use WordPress, there is no CMS support other than online forums. If you’ve ever tried to find an answer to a question on these forums, you know how time consuming it can be. If you’re having issues with your website, you want it fixed now.

Unfortunately, many businesses don’t think about hosting until it’s too late–the site is down due to malicious or accidental activity. All of the sudden, premium hosting doesn’t seem that expensive any more. $29 per month (WP Engine’s base package, for example) instead of $3.33? How much will it cost if your site is down and you can’t reach anyone? How much will it cost if your site goes down for a day or a week? How much is your time worth per hour? And how much do you pay a developer to fix, recover, repair, restore a site? It can cost thousands in developer costs alone to restore a hacked site.

Remember the real estate adage, “Location, location, location?” Well, your web host is your location on the internet. Some neighborhoods are better than others!

The web is riddled with cheap hosting services. Some are billed as “free” because they come with a web building service (Weebly), others boast a low monthly fee–under $5 in many cases.

But what are you actually getting for these services, and are they really what you want?

Web hosting costs money. Whatever company is hosting your website has a building where the servers are located, bandwidth purchased from an internet service provider, staff that maintain the equipment, salespeople, marketers, and other employees, etc. The proliferation of cheap hosting services has created the impression in our minds that it really shouldn’t cost very much. But if your website is your business, or is critical to your business, you should think about where that business is located and if it is secure, performing, and managed.

The problem with cut rate web hosting services is that you’re also getting cut rate security, performance, and service. Performance is critical. Google ranks web pages based on loading speed, among other criteria. Cheap hosting usually involves a shared server where you’re competing with other sites for bandwidth. We recommend a dedicated server or a virtual private server where your bandwidth is reserved. Also, if you use an open source content management system (CMS) like WordPress, CMS updates, theme, and plugin updates are not aligned and can cause serious malfunctions. Good hosting services manage this and make sure your CMS, themes, and plugins are up to date and compatible.

Security is a huge concern. Approximately 30,000 websites are hacked every day. For most sites it’s not a question of if your site will be hacked but when, and will you be protected? Most bargain web hosting services do not have server-side firewalls or network monitoring to detect and prevent attacks. SSL encryption for e-commerce is also critical. The best hosting services perform regular security audits and code reviews to ensure state-of-the-art security measures are always in place. They also have great back and restore capabilities in the event of a disruption.

Service is critically important. If you’ve ever tried to contact your web hosting service, good luck getting a live person. Most say they offer 24/7 support, but for many that means online Q&A with long waits for chats or phone support if they are even offered. If you use WordPress, there is no CMS support other than online forums. If you’ve ever tried to find an answer to a question on these forums, you know how time consuming it can be. If you’re having issues with your website, you want it fixed now.

Unfortunately, many businesses don’t think about hosting until it’s too late–the site is down due to malicious or accidental activity. All of the sudden, premium hosting doesn’t seem that expensive any more. $29 per month (WP Engine’s base package, for example) instead of $3.33? How much will it cost if your site is down and you can’t reach anyone? How much will it cost if your site goes down for a day or a week? How much is your time worth per hour? And how much do you pay a developer to fix, recover, repair, restore a site? It can cost thousands in developer costs alone to restore a hacked site.

Remember the real estate adage, “Location, location, location?” Well, your web host is your location on the internet. Some neighborhoods are better than others!

This blog post is part of “The Ultimate Guide to Web Development” blog series.

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