Choosing the right website host

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Commodity hosting providers: You get what you pay for

There are many high profile hosting companies that sell bargain basement web hosting. These “commodity hosts” primarily sell hosting on shared servers, meaning they host hundreds—sometimes thousands—of websites on a single server or hosting platform. While the upfront cost savings can be attractive, as with most everything, you get what you pay for. 

If we’re going to name names, we’re talking about GoDaddy, Dreamhost, HostGator and others that offer a great value proposition for a low price. The way that these hosts are able to offer these plans is based on the proposition that very few of their users are going to utilize more than a small fraction of the promised resources (such as disk space, visitors, bandwidth, etc). Because the majority of their clients are utilizing the low end of resources, they can commission much less in the way of hardware and software than would be necessary otherwise.

The commodity hosting model does not account for manpower, sufficient security or a number of other things you might take for granted. Support incidents beyond the most basic may incur additional fees. Especially those services that might require a timely response such as restoring a filesystem backup. Your site may also be hosted on a server with “noisy neighbors”. Those are sites that are polarizing in some way and may draw negative attention such as DDoS attacks or other hacking attempts that may spill over to your site. 

We have seen many cases where a company whose website is hosted by a commodity provider will engage us to:

  • Fix a site that was infected with malware or hidden SPAM links
  • Migrate a site(s) to a new, up-to-date platform after the commodity host informed the client that their current platform had reached end-of-life and would no longer be supported
  • Resurrect a website from a backup after a catastrophic hardware failure

All of these scenarios can occur with any host. Technology breaks, ages and gets hacked for all of us. However, commodity hosts tend to have a special blasé approach that comes from having too many customers and not enough time to worry about any one in particular.

It goes without saying, then, that the savings afforded by using an inexpensive commodity host can be quickly eaten up when you’re having to fix one or more problems in a rush. And, when you account for other hard and soft costs such as website downtime, reputation damage, and other liabilities, the cost of using a cheap hosting plan from a low end hosting provider really adds up. 

Commodity hosting may serve you well for a time, it certainly seems to work for the millions of customers that keep these host companies in business. But it will serve you well until it doesn’t. And at that point, you may have to scramble. In most cases, when those problems arise, you won’t be able to rely on your commodity provider to get you back on your feet in a short amount of time. Your emergency is not their emergency unless you are willing to pay extra for it. Even then, there may be limited resources available.

Protect yourself

If you do make the decision to host your web presence at a commodity provider, there are some things you can do to mitigate the possibility of disaster.

Backups

If you are hosting with a commodity host, you’ll want to take backups into your own hands. An unnamed provider quoted us $200 to restore a mysql database since managed backups were not part of the hosting plan. The restore process only takes a few keystrokes but their hosting model is not built on providing any services that require hands on operations by their engineers. 

Filesystem and database backup restoration is not typically part of a commodity host’s entry level plans. With managed hosting offerings, database and filesystem backups are part of the service plan. A managed hosting provider covers most of the things that commodity providers charge for.

Content Delivery Networks (CDN)

You should deploy your website over a CDN for an additional layer of security, performance and redundancy benefits for your website. Additionally, some CDN providers offer a service that is intended to keep your website available even if the server at your web host goes down. There are a number of CDN providers that offer slightly different services and products from one another. The right provider depends on your needs of your website.

If you have questions about moving your site to a CDN or just want to pick our brains on the best type of hosting for your website, reach out to your Tenrec Account Manager or account_services@nulltenrec.com for help on this and other topics.

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