The Hidden Costs of Cheap Web Hosting

Not that long ago, I wrote about why cheap web hosting is a bad idea. We believe that cheap web hosting is still a really bad idea, yet we continue to hear from some new or prospective customers why they want to stay with their cheap web hosting provider: They think it will save them money.

We in the industry know that this is not true, especially for small businesses. This is further validated by our customers, who finally convert to our web hosting after months or years with a cheap web hosting provider: They inevitably lost time and money, and gained in frustration and hassle. So we want to revisit the hidden costs of cheap web hosting, and why working with a managed web hosting service provider is the better path to a successful business and stronger business relationship.

With cheap web hosting, you get what you pay for. Consider this:

1. Support.

More than any other aspect of cheap web hosting, support — or lack of it — is the biggest issue. Do you often feel like a number? Do you feel as though you are not being heard? Do you find that issues with your web site are not resolved? A cheap web hosting provider is the culprit.

I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you what it’s like being the customer on the other end of a customer service call, support ticket, email or chat when it comes to a third party web hosting provider. Often, you are on hold or receive an automatic email, and you often wait for a long, long time. Then, you hope that you are in communication with the right person, one who can help you amend your issue, but it is likely that you are not. You are often transferred to someone else or are still waiting for an appropriate response, and must reexplain your situation, which you don’t know how to do exactly, because you are a business owner, not a web developer or in IT.

Many of our customers believe that we — the company that built their web site — are responsible for security and domain issues automatically, but this isn’t true if a third-party web host is involved. In fact, it creates an “out of scope” situation for those that built your web site. It can take a long time to migrate a site and get it from development to production when a third party is involved, because we have lost an aspect of control that is crucial to timing. If you choose a cheap web provider, or you stay with the one you have, it can tie the hands of the company that built your site. If we don’t have access to your site because of a third party hosting conflict, there is only so much we can do to expedite the success or launch of your site.

Work with a company that can build your web site and mange it, too. You will feel important and supported, and you will know that your web site is up to speed and and up to date.

2. Page speed.

In most situations, web hosting providers have thousands, even millions of customers; you are just one of many. Unless you pay premium fees to be at the top of that list, your web site will be one of thousands in a queue for service. Their overloaded servers will be responding to millions of page requests at a time, which only slows down your web site’s overall performance and adds to your frustration. You are not a priority, unless you pay for such designation.

You are a priority in a company that builds your web site and hosts it, because the company is successful if you are successful. You are not one in a thousand or a million, you are one in a network of good relationships that company has nurtured with its customers. It will manage your web site so that you can get back to work.

3. Website backups. 

This is one of my favorite topics when it comes to discussing cheap web hosting. Most business owners realize way too late that they need to back up their web site on a regularly scheduled basis. Problems arise when this fails to occur. If you haven’t backed up your data regularly, you might not remember how to do it, even forgetting your password, both of which happen often to customers in such a situations.

This leads to a technical version of the broken window theory. You forget an update or break some code, but wait to fix it, or don’t, and/or you assume that your web host has it covered. It goes unresolved. More problems arise because of the errors or glitches. Now the time has come to make sure you back up your information, but you can’t find the password and you don’t remember how to work the system. More problems occur. You are now in the rabbit hole, and who is responsible for getting you out of it? Is it you or your web host?

In my previous post about cheap web hosting, I quoted a popular web host, who says, “You are responsible for your backups and web content. We create our own backups on the shared servers, and we can restore from those. However, this is NOT a procedure you should rely on to keep your content safe.”

When was the last time you backed up your web site? Do you know if or when your hosting company backed up your information?  What if your hosting company hasn’t done it and you have to go back to customer service? If you think your hosting company is taking care of it, think again. How long will it take you to find out? How secure are you?

The web is modernizing faster than ever. Backups are critical to maintaining a smooth, secure web site. Working with a hosting company that has built your site understands you and your company’s needs. It will ensure that your back ups are scheduled and secure, and you won’t have to wonder or worry whether it is being done. It’s a package deal.

4. Hosting plans.

To their credit, more web hosting providers have become better at managed web site hosting, which is great for the overall health and security of the Internet. The problem is that their onboarding systems (the sign-up process) are fully automated and allow you to pick plans that are not a good fit for the assets you are storing on them. It’s like using a Mini to haul heavy cargo. There are better custom fits for each business, and you should choose carefully.

All hosting companies have several plans available to their customers, and most of them are compatible with most popular software platforms. Some even work really well. It’s possible that the plan you chose doesn’t cover the software used to build your web site, but this is not always the case. However, if it is, it will require an upgrade, which generally costs more in time than in dollars. Also, it will delay the installation time.

Choosing a hosting plan is like choosing personal health insurance or a health care provider. One-size-fits-all doesn’t really work well in health care, nor does it in hosting a web site. Choose a company and a plan carefully for the health of your online presence and your business.

We hope that this post provides a detailed understanding of why building your own web site can lead to a number of headaches for a small business. If you continue to build sites for yourself, choose a partner that has you in mind. Better yet, choose a company that can build your web site and host it. It will save you time, energy and money in the long run.


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Scot Rumery

Business advisor, database engineer and web developer specializing in technology implementation.

I have always been interested in how things work. I’m excited about making things better and I am deeply interested in the process, taking the time to understand why and how, listening and learning. Why is something set up a certain way and what makes it work? How can we make it better?

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