|We’ve all seen ads for inexpensive Web hosting. It’s even advertised during the Super Bowl! You can get your site hosted for $1 a month. Or even 99 cents a month! What can be easier? Should you use these cheap services? This issue digs into the issues of cheap hosting providers, based on actual experience.
We see cheap hosting services advertised on the Super Bowl. This tells us that lots of people are buying them, and also that they must be quite profitable for the vendors, since they can afford the huge cost of Super Bowl commercials.
We’re talking here about the difference between hosting that might cost, say $6 a month, compared to first-class hosting that you can get for about $20 a month. So the cost difference isn’t great. Does it matter? Is it OK to go cheap on this?
Why So Cheap?
Why is it that companies can charge so little for Web hosting? It’s easy to pay $30 a month for hosting service. How then can some companies sell it for $1? Or $3? Or $6? The answer, as usual, is that the service isn’t the same as the $30 product. I’ve seen three primary areas where the vendors cut costs:
• resource limitations are placed on these sites, particularly cpu time they can use and RAM that they can use to service requests;
• multiple sites may share an IP address; and
• customer support may be limited.
On one occasion I moved a site from a moderately-priced hosting service at a big company to my own hosting service, that’s more expensive but doesn’t put stringent limits on CPU and RAM resources, and the same site, with no changes, loaded twice as fast on a better hosting service.
We all know that speed to load is a factor that Google considers in assigning page rank in search results. Why? Because they’d like to point their customers–searchers–to pages that provide good experience by loading fast. So although loading speed is influenced by many factors, particularly site design,
If your site is hosted on a quality service, not only Google but your visitors will have a better experience when they visit your site.
In a more recent experience, a client was paying $16 a month for hosting service from one of the big companies. When I ran a WordFence security scan of his site to find malicious software, the memory limitations imposed by the hosting service kept the scan from completing. As it turns out, there was malware that was not being detected by the prematurely terminated scans; when the site was moved to a quality hosting service, the malware scan ran to completion, detecting and correcting the problems that went unfixed previously.
Shared IP Address
The very cheapest hosting services will have your site sharing an IP address with another site. Google tells us that a shared IP address will not, by itself, hurt your position in their search results. However, if your site shares an IP address with another site that gets infected with malware, then that IP address may be classified as one containing malware and suffer in search engine rankings. Similarly, if the other site sharing your IP address either deliberately or through malware sends out spam, your IP address may be identified as a source of spam, so that your emails aren’t accepted by many email servers.
A shared IP address saves money, but it’s a bad idea.
The big companies have various ways to limit service. One of them doesn’t provide telephone service at all–you send them an email. If they’re really interested they’ll call you back. Later. But at the moment you’re panicked or having problems–and you site is not delivering your message properly–you may not be able to get help.
You also may find that there is telephone support, but you have to wait a looooong time to reach them! How much is your time worth while you’re on hold? The most annoying part of this is that you’re likely to hear that “Your call is very important to us…” while you know that it’s not so important that they bothered to hire enough people to keep up with the call volume.
Perhaps the most annoying way to chisel on support is to have multi-tier support. You explain the problem first to someone who has limited knowledge, runs you through a script of actions for you to take, to screen out a couple of simple problems. Then you are transferred to someone else who perhaps can actually help you. Here, too, you’re paying for the cheap hosting service by wasting your own time.
The service that you want is a real person who can solve problems for you, available 24 hours a day.
The Bottom Line
Expect to spend $20 a month for site hosting. Use pingdom.com to measure your site’s home page load time. Run WordFence’s security scan on your site, and if it doesn’t complete, upgrade your hosting service or move to another service.
One way to get great hosting service is to use Dave’s Super Hosting Service; there are also other competent hosting providers.