Cheap website hosting exists. You can pay as low as £5 per month with cheap website hosting services.

But is it worth it?

Should you use a cheap website host, or buy a cheap domain name? Does it really matter?

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Cost and speed. Two words to consider when choosing web hosting services. In today’s world, paying for web hosting services is just part of doing business.

So we thought we’d ask: Is this a good area to save money?

Are all web hosting services the same?

If you want to build a speedy website that stands the test of time, then you need to consider how you are choosing your web hosting service and domain provider.

It’s tempting to go for the cheaper web hosting service (at least at first) and then scale up or switch to another service provider after a few months.

So, we wonder:

“Should we buy a cheap website hosting service and then switch later?” or “Should we invest our money and go for the premium hosting service from the beginning?”

If you think scrimping and saving a few bucks will benefit your business, think again.

Downtime or server outage is the worst thing that could happen when you already have thousands and millions of viewers per day. It is one of the main drawbacks to cheap web hosting services and later we’ll tell you more about it.

Downtimes are unprecedented.

Even Amazon, the largest e-commerce company in the USA, was not spared from them. And Amazon also provide their own hosting services. Here’s what happened to Amazon as per the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Amazon.com’s website went down midday Monday for about 40 minutes. The reason for the outage was unclear, although it appeared to have been widespread. The outage could have cost the company an estimated $4.72 million in lost sales, based on an estimate that the company takes in $9,823 every five seconds.

Wow! 40 minutes = almost $4.72 million in lost sales.

You may not be running the largest e-commerce website in the World. But if Amazon – with such robust and high-tech facilities and technologies – experienced it, imagine how much outages can effect mom-and-pop shops and medium-sized companies.

An outage is like a force majeure in the digital world, but prevention is better than not being prepared.

Whether you’re just starting out in business or have purchased a cheap web hosting service due to limited funds, consider these six drawbacks now before you experience the worst case scenario when it comes to hosting your website:

1. Poor Page Performance

According to Hubspot, the ideal page load speed for website’s HTML should be less than 1.5 seconds.

How fast? Think of light that travels for about 1.3 seconds to reach the moon.

If your website loads between 1.5 – 5 seconds or more – you can run a test, analyze it and tweak your code – server response time can be a factor too.

Cheap web hosting service providers usually run shared hosting platforms where resources are, true to their name, shared – CPU, memory, and disk space.

The best analogy for this is a shared apartment. The occupants of the apartment share the available amenities such as the pool, playground, and parking lot.

Which means you cannot tell them “not to use” these facilities because they’re also paying the landlord like you do.

The formula: cheap web hosting + shared web hosting platforms = limited control and use of the resources.

Most of them offer unlimited or free SSD, featured on their pricing plans. But free or unlimited doesn’t necessarily mean you get the perks of exclusive use of the resources.

Think about it, how many serious businesses gives away a great service for free? None.

As the name, itself, shared is still shared. You may have unlimited bandwidth, but once other “occupants” also decide to use the resources, it could affect your server’s performance.

When you run the Google Page Speed test for insights, you will probably see the following:

“Reduce server response time.”

While there are many factors behind it, most web hosting companies would suggest you to “upgrade to VPS or dedicated hosting” to improve the speed.

2. Negative Effects on SEO Efforts and Rankings

Moz explored the website speed and its relation to SEO rankings. Based on the data collected “there is no correlation between page load time (either document complete or fully rendered) and ranking on Google’s search results page.”

But what does this mean?

It’s not the site’s front-end performance that affects the rankings. It’s the back-end where server’s response and performance are crucial in this matter.

Here’s what they found out:

However, our data shows there is a correlation between lower time-to-first-byte (TTFB) metrics and higher search engine rankings. Websites with servers and back-end infrastructure that could quickly deliver web content had a higher search ranking than those that were slower.

The TTFB metrics are affected by these factors: the network latency, web server’s response (if it’s heavily loaded, remember the other occupants are also using the amenities, right?), and how fast the site’s back-end can generate the page content.

There are several ways to improve the performance such as packages for Apache or Source for Nginx or for a more advanced quest, you could look to get started with mod_pagespeed with Apache on a cloud server.

But Moz also gave emphasis that websites rank high because they have invested in high performance, premium servers and deployed CDNs plus optimization of the database layers.

As mentioned in the first point, you can only do so much on shared hosting. Sure it’s cheap and affordable, yet you have limited control over the resources.

The takeaway from Moz is on point:

The back-end performance of a website directly impacts search engine ranking. The back end includes the web servers, their network connections, the use of CDNs, and the back-end application and database servers.

3. Insanely Poor Customer Service

While it’s easy to drop or change website hosting company, out of discretion, it would be best to tell the tale.

Quoting the marketing adage, “You get what you pay for”, let’s discuss what can happen when you choose an inexpensive hosting company and need some customer service.

Here’s a scenario (not mine) of a business that is building a website and has just invested in some prime web development tools to build their website:

Using a drag and drop builder to develop a website, it appears that the shared CPU and RAM can’t accommodate the premium web dev tools we used (a common problem with make-your-own-website builders, but we can discuss that another time.)

When said company tries to reach out via live chat, to solve this problem, what do they soon discover? That 45 customers were waiting before we can talk to the agent. Not wanting to wait in line and waste a day of productivity, they try reaching out via email, and lo and behold, the customer service team replied … after five days!

Yes, five days, saying they have investigated the problem and because we only purchased the shared hosting, they advised us to upgrade to their dedicated server package.

An upgrade? Doesn’t that cost more anyway? What we thought we were getting to host our site isn’t quite the package that will meet our needs, so what is the solution? Spend more money anyway.

As we have discussed many times before on the Canny blog, more often than not, the cheap becomes expensive. If you have a sensible budget in place, talk with a web agency that can help you through making your web hosting decision.

The next time your website’s hosting renewal is due, or you’re comparing services, consider this:

If a web hosting provider invests money into several communication channels (e.g, live chat, support ticketing, email, telephone) then they’re going to be a lot easier to reach out to. Therefore, the response time will be lower, meaning the service is better.

Remember, you do get what you pay for.

We recommend reading the fine print, asking questions before you pre-pay for the entire year, and reading online reviews. A professional web hosting company will respond quickly to your questions before you buy.

4. Pack-One-Pack-All on Downtime Server Issues

Every hosting company strives to deliver the best, and if not the best, the most consistent service.

Just like any technology based service, there is no such thing as perfect service. At one time or another, there will be a period where things get a little shaky, whether it’s caused by an internal or external factor.

There are many reasons why downtime occurs – from external factors such as ISP technical problems, to hardware issues of the servers, to random internal situations within the servers where a customer uses a rogue script in one of its websites that could affect a shared hosting platform – remember the shared apartment analogy, right?

Imagine if the pool at the shared apartment on a sweltering summer was closed in need of maintenance for days. Occupants, even if they want to plunge and relax, cannot. Everyone goes back inside and perhaps turns the air-conditioning on.

Or, they go somewhere else entirely.

The same thing happens with cheap hosting.

If there’s a DDoS attack or vulnerability, everyone on a shared server feels the pain.

The worst could be a DDoS attack on shared hosting services. According to a report, the prevalence of DDoS attack adds to downtime issues for 89% of Top 100K websites in Q4, 2016.

5. No Immunity on Security Leaks

There’s no immunity from security leaks and cyber crimes once you’re active online. This is a very serious consideration, especially if you have an ecommerce site. If you haven’t considered the ins and outs of security for your site, you need to consider all the ways that your site may be vulnerable.

For example, this Cloudflare bug that leaked sensitive data from customers’ website such as HTTPS sessions of Uber, 1Password, and FitBit was a hot topic among security gurus and programmers last February. Cloudfare hosts these internet giant’s technology. And for sure, the services that Cloudflare offer are not cheap or rip-offs.

And recently, it was reported that Wonga, the payday lender in the UK, had 270,000 of their customers’ records compromised.

What if we opt for cheaper finds? Or free hosting?

Either free or cheap – our advice is to stay far away from these words when it comes to web hosting – unless you want to be one of the 13 million customers’ whose passwords have leaked from this free web hosting provider.

And security breaches and hacking incidents will not stop anytime soon. The more we build our businesses online, the higher chances our digital assets are exposed to these incidents. As Wired put it, “The hacks aren’t set to stop in 2017.”

6. Limited Features and Control Over Software and Applications

As for cheap hosting services that run on shared platforms, you simply don’t have the choice on what software or applications you want to deploy.

The software on the cPanel may have limited options. They’re easy to use but not recommended for a company running a huge e-commerce website. If you are not sure what the requirements will be for your e-commerce site, give us a shout. Our expert web development team will be able to help you find the most suitable web hosting options that will last as you grow your business.

Remember that everyone is sharing the same CPU, memory, and server space; installing or running applications may cause your site to slow down and overload the server.

Some hosting providers have a security policy where they only provide limited ports and connections to the customer.

Our Final Takeaway

Cheap website hosting isn’t always cheap. It’s usually more expensive in the long run, especially when you experience the hassle and stress that will also affect your brand’s reputation.

So, the next time you see the steep price of hosting services, we hope you will be liberated from the “Scrooge mindset” and choose the right service to suit your needs. Premium website hosting will free you from the nightmares associated with cheap hosting providers.

If you are not sure if your web hosting service is meeting your needs, or want to learn more about your options as you build your business online, we’d love to talk to you.

There might be some alternatives we can suggest that you’ve never considered!

What experiences have you had with website hosting and cheap website hosting providers?

Amy Aitman is the owner of 8menCan, a content agency based in Toronto, Canada. She works to create content strategies and digital marketing plans for businesses around the world. Away from the office, Amy takes her team out for chicken tacos and martins, extra dirty, extra olives of course.

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