Over the past decade of dealing with clients, I’ve dealt with a lot of misconceptions about website hosting. I’ve dealt with all of the major hosts, and many of the minor ones. I have friends at a number of hosting companies. I’ve had good experiences, and I’ve had (really) bad experiences.
The one thing about hosting that continues to blow my mind is the level of price-sensitivity around it. Many clients are so used to seeing that they can get super-discounted hosting for a few bucks a month that they balk at the idea of paying more. I have had clients who were paying over $100,000 a year for development who didn’t want to pay more than $10 a month for hosting. While this is obviously an extreme example, it probably resonates with plenty of other developers out there.
So, why should you pay more for hosting?
- Speed. Cheap hosts are (generally) slow. Or at least they can be. In order to charge you so little for hosting, companies need to be able to get their hard costs as close to zero as possible. To do this, they put your site on a server with thousands of other websites (literally). So what happens if a few of those other sites get really popular? Everything slows to a crawl. Numerous studies have shown that having a slow-loading site is as ineffective as having no site at all, just an extra second on your load time can mean a double-digit decrease in conversions.
- Downtime. When problems happen on “bargain” hosts, they can often drag on for a long time. I once had a site go down for 10 days before they were able to get the server fixed and solid again. How much would it cost you to lose your website for 10 days?
- Support. Want to be able to call someone when you have a problem? Or at least get support tickets answered within minutes? Good luck!
Your website is a major factor in the success of your business. Even if it’s just telling people about your store, it is creating a customer experience before your customer even sets foot in your store, and it’s telling potential customers what to expect from you. Don’t have that experience be “We don’t care about your time.”
What type of hosting SHOULD you choose?
- If you’re hosting a pretty straightforward site (blog or informational website), WordPress.com can be a great way to go if you don’t need much customization, or, conversely, if you have a very large site with lots of traffic (WordPress.com VIP). But if WordPress.com VIP is in the running, shared hosting decidedly wasn’t. (Disclosure, I work for Automattic, where we make WordPress.com and WordPress.com VIP)
- For the majority of self hosted sites, the WordPress Managed hosts (WP Engine, Pressable, Flywheel, etc) provide a great value. At ~$30-300/mo, all three provide great hosting, strong support, and WordPress-optimized technology stacks. Some of the big hosts have also gotten into the Managed WordPress hosting game (GoDaddy and Dreamhost pop to mind), and they’re probably good, but I’ve never used them.
- There are some edge cases for strong traditional hosting– large multisite networks, for example, have historically not held up well on managed hosting. When this is the case, but you’re doing under, say, 1m hits/mo, then I’ve had good luck using cloud-based virtualized servers with SSD hard drives like the ones offered by Storm On Demand, among others. This can also be a good solution for mixed-platform solutions where WP is powering some of the site but not all of it.
- Once traffic warrants it, you’ll need to take the leap to one of the big guys– Amazon AWS, Rackspace, Microsoft. Be sure to bring your checkbook, but hey, if you need this kind of power, you’re doing something right. But also, when you reach this level, be sure to check out WordPress.com VIP.
At the end of the day, I implore you to not treat hosting as a pure commodity, where the lowest price always wins. Evaluate your needs, evaluate your options, and decide on value, not price.