If I as a web developer could impart one piece of advice to businesses with regards to their websites, it would be this.
Please do not buy the cheapest web hosting you can find.
It is a sure fire way to spend more money in both the short and long term. As well as being a likely cause of issues for you, your customers and your web developers. As it is in day to day life cheap products often have little in the way of value and return, particularly in relation to business. Traditionally web hosting for the most part is no different.
With the cost of developing high quality bespoke websites having increased in recent years, the idea that you would invest in the best website you can only to cut costs on cheap web hosting is fairly incomprehensible. If you are looking to get a website built, budgeting for quality web hosting that delivers value is important.
If your budget is strictly limited either as a startup or small business looking to move online, then I’d suggest starting with a website which is your minimum viable product. Then invest what has been saved into appropriate web hosting to deliver a fast and secure service for your customers. As well as modern development practices for your web developers.
The beauty of websites is that they can continually be built upon. Everything does not have to be done in one go. You can make small iterations and improvements to features as you go, as and when budget becomes available. Customers will see this as continuous improvement as long as you can deliver on your unique selling points. However a slow website which isn’t secure because of ineffective hosting solutions might well turn your potential customers off.
So what are the reasons to avoid cheap web hosting?
Shared web hosting splits resources and limits security
Low cost web hosting is often shared hosting. This means that the server your website is hosted on is shared between multiple websites and users. So the available resources are also split and options to upgrade them will be limited. Security is decreased, and would likely be a stumbling block for PCI compliance for e-commerce. There’s a good summary of security concerns regarding shared hosting by Pyramid Staff over on Medium.
Web server resources matter where website speed is important
Web hosting costs are predominately based around resources. So if you want more CPU’s, more RAM, more storage, better throughput and latency then you will likely have to pay extra. Therefore the cheapest hosting is unlikely to have much in the way of resources. These resources matter as they affect your web servers ability to process information at speed. If the performance is insufficient for the needs of your website, perhaps a large blog or e-commerce portal then the result will be slow a slow site. Poor website performance has a direct effect on your customers experience and conversion rates. So much so that Google has an entire arsenal of tools available to help you identify these issues.
Hosting package features are important
The features and functionality available with web hosting packages are typically tied to their monthly and annual costs. Such features might include (but are not limited to) automated backups, website statistics, free domains, temporary performance boosts, visitor numbers, email accounts. It’s worth considering if that cheap package is really going to meet your needs if it doesn’t provide key features to help you.
Above all though a lack of automated backups is the biggest omission with cheap hosting. If you’re website was hacked, became corrupt, or the data was lost, what would you do? Having regular automated backups for any business which is driving revenue through it’s website is essential. Losing your data, your customer data, sales figures, order information etc is unimaginable – and inexcusable.
Best working practices for web development
Modern web development generally follows this simplified work flow:
- Develop the website locally
- Push the website to a staging domain for client reviews and testing
- Deploying approved changes to the live website
This approach is essential in developing websites as it keeps all potential breaking changes away from your live website when new features are being created. A good quality WordPress host will have options for creating safe staging environments. This allows good working practices and efficient ways to test and deploy. Therefore avoiding costly mistakes and potential down time on your website.
Hosting solutions where staging and production environments aren’t available have the potential to increase development time and costs. As well as frustration and mistakes.
Unmanaged servers, or limited low priority support will leave you frustrated
Broadly speaking web hosting falls into two categories, managed or unmanaged. It’s quite common for cheaper hosting solutions to be unmanaged, this will leave the majority of the web server management tasks in your hands. Such responsibilities might include creating FTP user accounts, applying SSL certificates, adding domains, setting up backups, sorting firewall rules, managing PHP versions and modules, and more.
With a managed option your often paying increased costs for automated solutions, or for technical support to resolve these concerns for you. Managed options might cost more but they are saving you time and some potentially steep learning curves. Knowing your limitations when it comes to server management is important.
You may find with particularly cheap hosting that technical support is limited, or that you are in a low priority group. Apart from the frustrations of having to wait longer to get help, this doesn’t bode well for critical issues on websites.
In conclusion cheap hosting actually costs you more in the long term
These are a limited set of examples on why cheap web hosting is best avoided, but it should be clear that simply choosing the cheapest web hosting isn’t the best option for your business. You want to be spending your time on managing and growing your business. Not managing your web server, or continually paying out to rectify issues that could have been avoided to begin with.
Poor decisions in selecting web hosting can lead to a need to switch hosting platforms for better features, sourcing a new supplier, and even requiring more input from your web developers. These scenarios are all going to incur your business additional costs, time and resources.
As appealing as cheap hosting might be. You will likely find the invoice for time and effort from your developers to transfer everything to a new supplier, or rectify hosting issues is more than the cost of buying higher priced quality hosting to begin with.
By investing in high quality (not necessarily expensive) web hosting to begin with, you can lay the foundations for hassle free website maintenance.
I am planning on writing a follow up article to this, detailing the importance of taking ownership of your hosting. And on how to determine what hosting is suitable for your WordPress website. So keep an eye out for this soon. If you have any questions in the meantime feel free to get in touch.