Web hosting is such a difficult topic to discuss. I feel like every time I discuss this subject with my clients they feel that we are trying to sell them on something that they do not need. I don’t blame them, I am often prompting them to increase their budget to $60 per month or more. This is in many cases considerably more than what they are used to paying. Because hosting is one of those things many set and forget, it is easy to think that it is pointless to buy server space at a premium. This however couldn’t be further from the truth, your web hosting is actually the foundation for your entire website.
Security starts with your server! Look at your hosting provider, what is their operating budget? Are they charging a ridiculously low amount for hosting? If so, then most likely they are forced to prioritize system and network health versus security. There are so many possible ways for a site to be hacked and taken off line, using an unsecure hosting company only increases the chance that your site will be taken offline, maybe permanently.
How many are you sharing this space with? Your server or web space is usually carved out of a server farm. Your website is sitting on hardware that is shared by many other website owners. The more websites on the hardware means the less resources available for you when you need them.
Sharing resources is a lot like sharing your computer with someone else. If you have 4 people in a home there will be moments when you want to use the computer but someone else will be using it. An inconvenience for sure, but think about doubling the amount of people, or tripling. In a shared hosting environment, these numbers will grow exponentially. It becomes easy to see that this type of hosting, and the low monthly cost, may seem awesome in the beginning, but it will quickly turn into the bottleneck that turns traffic away. In addition, longer server response times will hurt your marketing efforts, but more on that later.
Low cost hosting and the hardware/networks that they run on! How can they afford to maintain all those systems? It is hard to say how a company can charge so little for something and yet pay to maintain it once it is up. I would think that some of these low-cost hosting providers have the volume, others might be small startups or companies reselling larger white label hosting. Regardless of the company, hosting platforms require maintenance! Picking a low-cost solution could mean more down time due to poorly maintained hardware.
Customer support, this is the one that gets overlooked until you are sitting on hold for 5 hours. If you are paying a couple bucks a month for your web hosting provider chances are you won’t be getting the type of support you are looking for when your server is down. In fact there are a lot of companies that charge a ton for their services and they just don’t provide you with much, if any, support.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. I wont mention the bad and the ugly, but I will say something about the few good companies I have worked with. Liquid Web is still one of my favorite hosting providers EVER! No I am not getting any kickbacks either. If you have a blog or company website and you don’t want to hire someone to set up a server in AWS or at DigitalOcean, this is the way to go. Their support has been awesome, and they will even support things that are outside the support boundaries with their best effort support. In addition to Liquid Web, InMotion, Rack Space, AWS, and Digital Ocean are all great choices. Which one is right for you will depend on your skill set and needs!
SEO and SEM. Essentially all of your marketing plans should start with your choice of hosting providers. Why? Because you will be ranked based on how fast your website responds. Google currently serves up two variations of their search, one for mobile and one for desktop. This is an extreme over simplification, but if your website loads slow Google will rank someone else higher because they will establish that the competition’s web content is more relevant.
How is it more relevant? Have you ever clicked on a website and had it load slow? Have you ever clicked away before a page has loaded? From the time someone reads your catchy AdWords campaign in Google to the time the visitor has fallen in love with you, or the widgets you sell, is measured in seconds. Too many seconds and you are paying for a click and not generating any sales.
In conclusion, this is not a sales pitch or an affiliate marketing piece. These are just some of the cold hard facts learned the hard way. If you are on a low-cost hosting provider currently and are making money hand over fist then you probably have a great provider. If you’re hosting provider is falling short, a move may be needed but buyer beware. Just because the hosting company is not “Low Cost” doesn’t mean they will be worth the extra spend. I guess the only thing that one can really do is research, research and then… more research. Make sure though that you are getting into something that will provide you with fast reliable service and comes with the support level that is most appropriate for your personal level.
For full disclosure, we do have many of our clients on our own VPS hosting solution which is built and maintained entirely by us (self-managed) on Digital Ocean servers. These are only offered to our clients in addition to other work we have done, and only if it is warranted.