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How Cheap Hosting Can Cost You


Web hosting comes at a lot of different price points.  It can range from under $5 per month to hundreds per month.  It's easy to think that "hosting is hosting" or think "I'm not doing anything special so it doesn't matter" and go with the cheapest solution.  But not all options are equal.

Let me paint a picture for you.  One of my favorite pizza places (Community Pizza House) serves up a gourmet-style pizza and locally made soda.  The service, experience, and food are excellent.  And you pay for that.  There is another pizza shop around the corner (Vinny's).  It's nothing special but it's good and it's affordable.  And finally there's that stuff in the freezer section at the grocery store.  It's technically pizza and I'll eat it, but it's just not in the same category as the others.

And so goes web hosting.  There's a range of choices (and prices) but they are not all equal.  On the low end of choices (in the freezer section) is bargain hosting.

Cheap Hosting Defined

For this discussion I'm defining "cheap hosting" as those hosting options that are under $10 per month (and usually under $5).  Some examples include the bottom tier of hosting from places like HostGator, Bluehost, and GoDaddy.

I'm not knocking these companies or the product.  There is a place for them in the web world and I'll mention that at the end.

The plus side of bargain hosting is the cheap price.  Who doesn't like saving money?  Anyone enjoy overpaying?  (No hands.)  Here are a couple of downsides to cheap hosting to be aware of before signing up.

Shared Resources

The webserver on a bargain hosting plan is shared among many different accounts.  Each of these accounts may be running multiple websites.  Now I frequently recommend hosting with shared resources but basic economics says that if I'm only charging $5 per month I need to load a lot of accounts on a server to make it profitable.  As a client I'd rather spend a little more to move up a tier or two and have more (and often faster) server resources available to my site.  When a bargain-host is overloaded the websites can become slow, unreachable, or the server itself can crash causing you frustration and costing you more than you saved on hosting.

Clunky Management

This bottom tier is generally aimed at a non-tech audience so they work really hard at making a control panel where everything is just a click away.  However, I find that creates a very clunky and overwhelming interface to use.  Generally trying to navigate your hosting console involves a lot of superfluous stuff and way too much "upselling".  All of that just gets in your way and creates confusion.  This week I spent more time trying to navigate a cheap hosting control panel than I actually spent fixing the issue the client was having.

Unless you're running a non-monetized blog I do not recommend bargain hosting.  The next tier up usually costs around $20 per month and in my experience is substantially better as a starting point for a small to medium organization.  For the majority of those sites the $20/month is a solid affordable starting point.