We’ve all been spoiled by the generation of “bargain website hosting.”
And nowadays, we’re more spoiled than we’ve ever been before. Hosting is such a common and widespread service that you can score packages as low as $0.99 a month.
Trust me, I get it—if you’re investing in a website, hosting might be the last thing on your mind. You’ve hired that website designer to build the website and you’ve secured your domain name. The last thing you might want to do is spend another premium on your website hosting.
We’ve Been Misled
Unless you’re someone who spends the majority of their time developing websites—or you’ve been burned—you’re probably not aware of the stark truth behind a lot (most) of the mainstream website hosts out there.
Low Cost Doesn’t Equal High Quality—the World Doesn’t Work That Way
The mainstream hosts have taken over the market and all of the communications. Their price tags are low and they talk a big game. They make it sound like in the world of hosting all you need is any host you can get your hands on, so the biggest and cheapest hosts are the best options for long-term success.
I’ll admit—they’re talking a good talk. They spend millions pumping up the looks and feels of their own brands. Some hire supermodels to scantly fill the television screen (cough, cough GoDaddy), others rely on their bold claims of quality and service.
Unfortunately, they’re misleading us all.
Much like anything in life, you truly get what you pay for. Low prices and high-quality returns on that small investment isn’t a rule of life that’s ever proven true. This is especially true when it comes to website hosting nowadays.
Why High Quality Standards Matter for Hosting
OK—so you get what you pay for. So why does the quality of hosting actually matter? Why pay more than the average?
There are a lot of layers to answer this question:
Let’s dive in.
Layer 1: Security
Security is something you need to care about and is a mission critical topic for any organization to evaluate. In today’s age, “it’s not if, but when” when it comes to cyber attacks.
The Bottom Line on the Cheaper Options: They’re Cramming You in Seedy Neighborhoods
If something’s cheap, the provider behind that service is making their money somehow. At the end of the day, you’re dealing with entities who are doing business.
For the sake of business, the low-cost hosting solutions take your website and put it on a shared server with other websites. Cramming you in the same environment is how they make their money.
- You can identify this by looking for “shared hosting environment” in the fine print
The Average Low-Cost Hosting Environment
The reality of the average low-cost hosting environment is that your website is living within a compartmentalized environment among a neighborhood of 200-ish websites. That’s not even counting sub-domains, which could yield a thousand more.
Bottom line—these environments are overloaded and overcrowded. If one website is taking a lot of bandwidth then all of the websites in that neighborhood are effected.
Hosts really don’t care who they’re putting in these “neighborhoods” either. Your website could be living among pornographic and sleazy websites. Hosts really don’t care. From a metaphorical standpoint, these websites could be living right next door or across the street from you.
The premium hosts don’t cram as many possible websites into these neighborhoods as possible. They minimize the neighborhood for optimal performance and separate them with complicated security algorithms.
So rather than a crammed neighborhood with house on house—where a neighbor could literally crawl in their next-door neighbor’s window—you have fences, alarms and security guards (metaphorically) maintaining separation, order and safety.
Dedicated IP Addresses Won’t Save You
OK—so you might’ve read the above and may think a dedicated IP may save you. That’s not the case. Not only can the expense for these be put towards better hosting, at the end of the day, that dedicated IP is handled by a lower-quality host.
It’s the host that matters when it comes down to it. The non-premiums aren’t staying up to regular date with security maintenance, finding vulnerabilities and repairing those vulnerabilities on the go. Again, you’re just not paying for this kind of service, which brings me to our next point.
The Security Maintenance Isn’t Always Up to Date
These big, crammed shared hosting environments aren’t always properly maintained. Again, these hosts are just trying to make money and they don’t pay a lot of attention to these environments.
There might be known security vulnerabilities or attacks that affect the entire neighborhood. If one website is hacked, there’s a chance that all of the websites in that shared hosting environment are at risk.
A lot of these attacks are subtle involving scripts that get injected, run and then delete themselves without going detected.
- The truth is that the “largest,” “cheapest” hosts in the world haven’t invested in world-class security that’s regularly updated. Again, they have to make their money somehow.
- Yes, you could invest in a third-party solution for security that might help. Bottom line? It will cost more than just investing in a premium host out of the gate.
Premium hosts are on top of their security. The top-notch hosts disallow particular technologies that have known vulnerabilities to exist in their hosting environments.
With them, the security starts with infrastructure. They build things more secure from the ground up. They continue with vigilant monitoring and live updates to continuously keep the system at the top of its game.
FTP Rather Than SFTP
The average everyday host—the mainstream ones like HostGator, Godaddy and Bluehost—offer their users the File Transfer Protocol (FTP). The FTP is the method users can use to transfer files between their computer and a server (where their website is living).
This is a common method of managing and building websites. The problem though is that FTP is not secure.
Premium, high-security hosts utilize Secured File Transfer Protocol (SFTP), which is fully encrypted.
Shared File Management
Although you might get promised “unlimited space,” all of your files are most likely living within a share environment with all of the other files from all of the other websites. Secure? Definitely not.
Making a Website HTTPS
A SSL certificate—and some development effort—turns a website from HTTP to HTTPS.
A website is point A and the user is point B. A non-secure website (HTTP) doesn’t encrypt outgoing and incoming communications between point A and B. This means anyone can intercept those signals, which in the case of credit card info or sensitive data is a crisis in the making.
HTTPS encrypts that communication.
In order to set up HTTPS, you need the SSL certificate and you need it to be associated with your website. The non-premium hosts make you jump through hoops and vendors to purchase and apply SSL.
The best premium hosts? It’s usually purchased and clicked on from the same dashboard.
Layer 2: Speed
Speed is one of the absolute most important factors effecting the long-term success of your website.
Search Engines Use Speed as a Ranking Factor
Search engines take speed into account as a ranking factor.
Users Care About Speed
If you’re presenting a website that takes 10 or more seconds to load each page, users aren’t going to have a good time hanging around your website. This can be especially frustrating if someone’s using the website for something tactile.
Case and point—one of my new insurance carries offers its members a nifty online portal. Once you get into the portal, you have everything you need from ID card to bill pay. You know what’s frustrating? It not only takes an average of 30-45 seconds to login, but each page takes that much time to load as well. To achieve simple functions, what should’ve taken 15 seconds takes five minutes. My—and anyone’s—reaction? Frustration.
Cheap Hosts Aren’t Fast—It’s Just Not Possible
The cheap hosting packages promise speed. It’s all part of the gimmick though and is never, ever proven true. You can’t expect the cheaper hosts to offer lightning fast speed, especially for larger websites. You’re just not paying for that service, no matter what they say.
- It doesn’t matter how well you build your website either (a big contributor to the speed equation). The host is the root of all speed.
Back to the neighborhood example. In these shared hosting environments, imagine every website in the neighborhood has access to a limited power source. If one website is using boatloads of that power, the rest of the websites will suffer. Bottom line, what you’ll experience with the cheap hosts is horrible service and regular downtime (which hosts like HostGator are notorious for).
Premium Hosts Offer Significant Speed That Can’t Be Beat
One notable, premium, WordPress-only host comes to mind. I’m talking WP Engine.
WP Engine is significantly more expensive than your regular ole host. Do you know how much faster a website hosted on WP Engine is though?
The difference is absolutely jaw-dropping. Websites on WP Engine experience no down time or delay. Everything is always in absolute prime condition, especially with their Evercache technology working in the background.
- I’ve pitted WP Engine against my own developing capabilities. I took an el cheapo website environment and gave it my very best effort. I reduced HTTP requests to the bare minimum, minimized page size and implemented the best caching plugin there is—WP Rocket. Even at it’s peak, this didn’t even compare to the lightning-fast speed of the same website hosted on WP Engine. It was like a teenager going up against The Flash in a sprinting contest.
Layer 3: Support
What happens if you need help? If service goes down? If you break something?
Support for a hosting package couldn’t be more important. Again, the largest, cheapest hosting providers promise the most responsive 24/7 support you could ever wish.
Trust me—it’s all a bunch of lies. I’ve been the victim of being on hold for hours with both HostGator and GoDaddy. Not once. Not twice. Not thrice. I’m talking to the tune of dozens.
Premium hosts, however? Wait time is at a minimum. I’ve never waited more than 15 minutes to get on with WP Engine support, and that’s on a bad day.
And the support technicians? Well, they look a little bit like this …
Layer 4: Backups
Out of the box, hosts like HostGator and GoDaddy don’t provide backups.
If you’re dealing with the right development help, they’ll probably implement something to help out. End of the day though, these backups have to be manually configured. The protocols driving them can breakdown and that data still needs to be stored somewhere.
Premium hosts make it a best practice to save your database every night. Backups are also maintained regularly without you having to worry about it.
With a high-quality host like WP Engine, you can easily log into your portal and activate any of your restore points if you make a mistake that destroys your website.
My Number One Choice for Hosts
We primarily develop WordPress-platformed websites. It’s the Content Management System (CMS) we’ve found most useful to our clients and their needs.
In the early days, I experimented with HostGator, GoDaddy, Network Solutions and Bluehost. I’ve fended off countless hack attacks, service downtime, performance issues and gripes with each of them. Getting introduced to WP Engine was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.
It’s my number one choice for WordPress-built websites. It’s the most secure, fastest, supportive and backup-centric host I’ve come across.
Your Choice of Host Matters
Your host matters. It can mean the difference between an amazing website and one that quickly presents all kinds of headaches.
Do yourself a favor—do it the right way first. Protecting your website is one of the best investments you can make.