Technology

Don’t get burned by cheap web hosting

David Hancock /

It’s easier than ever to get a business website up and running quickly, but remember that you get what you pay for when it comes to web hosting.

Whatever your business does, it’s pretty much essential these days to have an online presence.

Not everyone can afford a fancy website with all the bells and whistles, but it’s easy to create something basic to tell people who you are, what you do and where to find you.

If you’ve built a website on the cheap then you’re probably not keen to spend much on a hosting service to get it online. You’ll find plenty of budget web hosting deals, for only a few dollars per month, but read the fine print carefully to make sure you know what you’re getting for your money.

These days many web hosting services offer both unlimited storage and unlimited traffic. This seems perfect, letting you add as many pages as you need, upload lots of images and cope with rising traffic as the customers start to come in. What hosting companies don’t tend to talk about is the “resource usage” clause, which covers how much of a load your website puts on their server in terms of memory and CPU usage.

If you’re on a dirt cheap hosting plan then you’re almost certainly relying on “shared hosting”, which means you’re sharing a physical server with other websites. Lots of other websites.

A cut-rate hosting company’s aim is to cram as many websites as possible onto the one physical server, in order to keep down their costs. It’s good for their bottom line but can be terrible for yours.

As soon as your website becomes too demanding they’ll shut it down before it has too much of an impact on the other websites relying on the same server. They often take a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach, so the first you know of it is when your website disappears.

This usually happens just as you get your first traffic spike, which is the worst possible time for your site to go down.

When you’re on a budget hosting plan with minimal tech support it can take a long time to get an explanation as to why your website is offline. Sometimes they’ll even lay the blame on your site design rather than acknowledge their resource policy.

Meanwhile, potential customers are staring at an error message and thinking the worst about your business.

The hosting company doesn’t care; especially if you’ve paid upfront for a long-term contract. They’re hoping that you’ll bite the bullet at this point and upgrade to a business-grade hosting plan.

There are good shared hosting plans to be found, and it’s probably the best option if you’re starting small, but make sure you ask the hard questions up front. They might be reluctant to tell you exactly where they draw the line in terms of server resources, but at least find out what the policies are when you cross that line. Some hosting companies will scale back the resources available to your site rather than taking it offline completely, to help you ride out the traffic spike with minimal disruption.

Shop around before you commit to cheap web hosting for your business. When things get busy you want a web hosting provider that’s going to work with you, not against you.

David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national on-site computer repair and support company.

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David Hancock

David Hancock is the founder and managing director of Geeks2U, a national on-site computer repair and support company.

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