Defining cheap web hosting as $1.99 a month is a simple standard, but it’s an incomplete and potentially disastrous definition. Just like any service agreement, the details are what ultimately determines if the fee is going to turn out to be expensive.
Allison Chaney, Founder and Digital Marketing Director of Bare Knuckle Digital, tells her clients that it’s important to know how their site is going to be used to support their business.
“I always advise my clients to consider the potential in lost revenue if your site goes down, and weigh that against your hosting costs,” she says. “Bargain shopping for hosting will most often not yield good results.”
The reason? In a word, reliability.
“(Web hosting) should include some level of security and reliability and have some sort of backup in place,” Chaney says. “Otherwise, it’s too risky to run a site that might get hacked or go down for an extended period of time, especially (when) revenue depends on it.”
Where to Begin
It is possible to find reliable and cheap web hosting, but it takes some work and careful consideration of details that will ultimately define cheap and dependable. A little bit of prep and research will eliminate the surprise and expense of things like cancellation fees, hidden charges, and unreasonable contract terms (a 60-month is a bad idea) that can drain your bank account.
First and foremost, read hosting reviews and check them out with the Better Business Bureau. Reputation matters, so if a company has complaints or negative reviews, factor that into your decision-making. A search of the business name along with the word “reviews” can yield informative results.
Look at the packages the hosting company offers. Compare elements of different plans such as data transfer rate, web statistics support, email and webmail services, basic after-sale technical support, and server uptime (this should be at least 99.8%). This will make it possible to see not only what value each company offers, but it can also help you clarify what kind of hosting you need.
There are standard approaches to offering services. Just as a mechanic might offer a “package” of services by bundling together common maintenance activities (oil change, tire rotation, checking/refilling fluid levels), web hosting companies typically give their clients options. Here are two common approaches:
Ala cart – Pick and choose from a variety of tech services to customize your own package. Options such as search engine optimization, 24-hour technical support, or web design can cost a little less when you choose to hire those services in addition to the web hosting. Add more, save more.
Pre-packaged deals – Plans bundling together services are frequently offered at different price-points. These can range from a combination of web hosting and monthly updates (adding new links, updating copy, etc.) to hosting + marketing services + tech support + other bells and whistles.
Regardless of which company you choose, be sure to check out their portfolio of work. Look at sites using services or the package that you’re considering. This gives you the opportunity to see how quickly the site loads or the speed of link connections. You can also decide if the way sites with more features might be the way you want to start, or if keeping it simple is the way to go.
After choosing a few possible hosting companies, dig a little deeper into the hosting agreement details. If the package includes a do-it-yourself (DIY) website building option or only minimal security, these things could result in an expensive fix in the future, according to Chaney.
“When a business uses a cheap option to build a site, then want it to rank better in the search engines…they are especially problematic,” she says.
Adding to an initial, cheap hosting agreement for a basic website might require a complete redesign and added features. For this reason, it’s a good idea NOT to GET locked into a long contract. One year is long enough to find out how the hosting company performs and if you need additional services.
A big question used to be blog versus website. Websites were considered superior because of their security and better quality presentation. However, blogs have come of age. They can be used as a static website, and the user-friendly platforms, such as WordPress, enable DIY design and updating. So the caution now is to choose which will best serve your business needs.
Finding More Savings
Another cost savings opportunity is a coupon. Check to see if any of the companies you’re considering offer some discounts.
Cloud computing and large data centers have made web hosting much more reliable and affordable. As a result, the threshold for “cheap” is ever-changing. But Chaney offers a standard that seems reasonable.
“Anything under $10 – $20 a month is cheap, $20 – $75 moderate and over $75 is expensive,” she says. “I’ve found that this is subjective among my clients, however.”
There are numerous annual lists of the hosting companies, such as the “best” or “cheapest.” But matching the services your company requires is the best way to help you determine your definition of affordable.