Although we offer great web hosting ourselves, many of our clients either come to us with their hosting set up elsewhere – some of which many are great, but a lot of the time they are not. Often people look to skimp on cost for their shared web hosting, but going with one of the number of giant bulk web hosting companies out there. In my opinion, that is a mistake and I’m going to explain why I think that, using a few of our experiences as examples.
We have a client that recently moved their web hosting from one crummy web hosting company to another. Right out of the gate, it was obvious that this new host wasn’t going to go any "extra mile" to help. They would not help with the site migration, for starters, but later when the website was hacked in to, they refused to help and simply said that the hack was do to an old script that needed updated. While, it’s possible that was the case, I later found that this particular hack has affected a number of CMS systems out there and not only that, the host’s install of phpmyadmin was also compromised. And up until that client our CMS has never been hacked by an exploit. So, I had a pretty good hunch that the server was compromised outside of our client’s CMS and more that likely a host issue. Although that was most likely the case, they still refused to help and our client paid us to go through each of their files and remove the virus their site was infected with. So even though their hosting company has a cheap monthly charge, they still had to pay in the end…since their hosting company had crummy support and preferred to point the finger rather than take an honest look at the situation and try to help.
Cheap web hosting companies typically host their servers where bandwidth is cheap, as that is the main cost for a web host provider. The bad part for the customer is those servers are often geographically very far away from them (Often California or Canada, which stinks for us southeasterners), meaning every time someone visits their site, the data has to travel a LONG distance to and back from the server for every page load, which means loading time is usually slow and sometimes times out completely, especially if the site uses a database. Going with a smaller, local hosting provider may cost more, but they usually host their servers closer to their clients (not to mention care who you are, as mentioned below), so you get a faster loading site.
It’s not unusual for cheaper hosting companies to be late adopters of technologies. I still run into hosts that have yet to offer PHP or MySQL 5 support…come on, they’ve been out for a couple years now…get with the program! Since many systems out there require new technologies, you may find that the software you want to run may not on your host. Cheap hosts also severely limit the amount of memory and bandwidth that you get – even though they may claim unlimited bandwidth, you’re getting only a trickle at a time, which can hurt your site’s performance if you have a lot of visitors. And if you have a piece of software that requires a special setting on your server or a decent amount of memory (ahem, Magento) – you can forget about them working with you, as they have to macro manage their system since they probably have a bazillion other people on that same server. And it’s easy to overlook a system requirement for something and not find out the host doesn’t support it until you’ve gone to the trouble of moving all your files over and setting up databases, emai accounts, etc.
Let’s assume the host does decide to do an update to their servers. They’ve got hundreds of thousands of customers…do they know what you are running and are they going to let you know that they just changed a setting that is going to cause your website to go down? Nope! You get to figure out that yourself when you notice your website has been down for a week and you didn’t even know. So then you get to put in a help request ticket and wait 24 hours to hear back from your host (many cheap hosts don’t offer phone support) and often you still have to figure out how to fix the problem yourself, as their technical support people aren’t too technical and are just reading a script or you get tired of waiting for them. If you’re lucky enough to have a host that offers phone support, I’ll bet a nickle that the person you talk to knows English as a second language…and I use the term "Know" loosely. If a company wants to outsource their technical support to another country…fine (I guess), but make sure they can speak English coherently if the majority of your customers speak English!
5. They Don’t Care
When you are one out of a hundred thousand customers, you better believe that the company won’t know your name when you call, what content management system you’re running, what version it is, or the fact that you are on a different time zone than them. And you’ll rarely ever speak to the same support person twice. So this means you have to "Do the Technical Support Dance" every time you call and answer the same questions and listen to the same suggestions that have already proved not to work again and again.
So if you take your company’s website seriously, don’t skimp on your hosting….you’re going to end up paying for hosting one way or another. But at least with a good hosting company you won’t be paying with your sanity as well as your wallet.