Before I list out some of the most common mistakes people make when choosing a web host I should detail what the common types of hosting are.
What are the basic types of hosting?
Let’s begin with the premise that there are are three basic types of hosting :
- Virtual Private
With shared hosting everyone is sharing all of the resources of a single dedicated or virtual server if one of the other shared hosting customers on the same server is getting a lot of traffic or running a resource intensive process the performance of everyone else’s web site on the same server is going to suffer the consequences. The companies that sell shared web hosting will often put thousands of websites on the same server. This is by far the most popular hosting option because of the price. Shared hosting is often incredibly cheap however it’s also incredibly unreliable. This may be an acceptable hosting option for a vanity blog or uploading some photos of your kids but it’s unreliable and I wouldn’t want my business to depend on it.
Virtual private server
A Virtual Private Server is usually referred to as a “VPS”. The way that a VPS works is that there is a host Operating System or “OS” that is responsible for managing the communicate with undying hardware for each guest OS that is assigned to a customer. Typically the resources of the server are allocated in different proportions to each guest. For example lets say that the underlying hardware is an 8 core CPU with 8GB of RAM an 80 GB hard drive. There are eight VPS hosted on this server and they each have 1 cpu 1GB RAM and 10 GB of hard drive the possibility of having a bad neighbor that hogs all of the resources is minimized. However many VPS hosting providers will sell that same server as either 8 core cpu VPS with 1GB RAM and then you’re back to having the same bad neighbor problem you had with shared hosting. It can be hard to figure out what you’re actually paying for with a virtual server.
Dedicate hosting is also often referred to as collocated hosting. With a dedicated server you’ve got the server to yourself most of the time you won’t need more than only a few percent of the resources and there’s no one else to share the bill with. If there’s a hardware failure it may take a while to get things back up.
So now that we’ve defined what we’re talking about what are the common mistakes that people make when choosing a web host?
Common mistakes made when choosing a web host.
Letting a domain name registrar host your website.
I’ve never heard of this working out well for anyone and I’ve heard numerous horror stories. I’ll admit that it’s easy and cheap but when it comes to stuffing as many shared hosting plans as possible ( and often time far beyond ) domain name registrars are among the worst offenders. I’ve already mentioned why it’s a bad idea to depend on shared hosting if you’re dependent on your website for either revenue or marketing but to reiterate it’s often slow and unreliable due to the fact that you’re at the mercy of every other website that’s being hosted on the same server.
Choosing a service based on price alone.
Not all hosting is created equal. If you’ve found a hosting package that costs $15 a year it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to have any luck getting in contact with the support department if your site goes down at 3 am on a Saturday. If you’re fine with your web presence being slow and unreliable then by all means go cheap. If you would like something reliable, plan on spending between $15 and $30 a month for a moderately low traffic web site with a host with a fully staffed support department.
Paying for services they don’t need
If your website takes up 100MB of disk space and averages around 300 daily unique visitors and is only of interest to people in Boise Idaho looking for a dentist, you don’t need to pay for a 100GB of disk space on an 8 core VPS with with 32GB of RAM and a global content distribution network. The salesman on the other end of the phone line at the hosting company is not someone that should be trusted when it comes to what you should be paying for. Paying too much for hosting is almost as common as paying too little. Spending several times more for hosting for services that you will never use will not result in any better outcomes for your website. At least 90% of you should be spending $15 – $30 a month on hosting. I’m hosting this web site on a $10 a moth VPS with a $2.50 a month backup plan and it’s capable of handling 15,000 page requests per minute. How much traffic your site can handle will depend on what your web site is doing behind the scenes and how it has been configured.
Getting in over their head.
An unmanaged VPS is going to be much less expensive than a managed VPS, but if you don’t know what you’re doing and you are either unwilling or unable to dedicate the time to learn your’re going to end up bring you site down or getting hacked. Be honest with yourself. If you’re not in the business of keeping servers secure and properly configured you’re probably much better off with managed hosting. You may be limited in how you’re allowed access to your server and what you’re allowed to do but that’s the trade off for putting someone else in charge of your websites stability and security.
Choosing a host that’s too small.
A small company may have developed your site but they’re probably not be the right choice to host it. You’re neighbor Jim’s cousin John might be a genius but if the server he’s running in his bedroom closet crashes while he’s away on a two week vacation are you fine with your site being down until he get’s back to fix it? Choose a hosting company that has a good reputation and 24 hour support. If you’re planing on switching call or email them on a weekend nigh and see if you get a response. If you don’t hear from anyone until the following Monday their probably not worth doing business with.
Choosing a host that’s growing too fast.
When a hosting company is providing a good product at a fair price the word gets out and the hosting company can rapidly grow exponentially. This is great if you’re the owner of the hosting company, but can often be bad news for the hosting customers. They’ll need to bring on new employees or overwork the employees they have. The new employees may not have the same level of experience as the employees that were working when the hosting company established it’s stellar reputation. In addition to the employee problems the underlying infrastructure may not be able to handle additional load. Their 1GB connection maybe have been adequate when they were 1/10 the size but now the traffic from 10 times as many servers have clogged their narrow pipe.
Choosing a host that is brand new.
Doing business with a company with a good reputation is much less stressful than a company with no reputation. Mistakes happen and they’re more likely to happen at the beginning, when a company and it’s employees are new.
Choosing a host based solely on performance benchmarks.
The majority of websites don’t need to be hosted on incredibly powerful servers. One marketing ploy is to mention the speed speed of the CPU which is useful when you’re doing many complicated database queries but is almost meaningless when you’re serving up static files. For most websites the hosts data connection speed will be more important to their sites performance than the CPU speed on the server. For example this site is hosted on a $10 a month Linode VPS and is capable of serving up to 15,000 requests per minute because of the way I’ve configured it and the fact that my Linode server has a 40Gbps data connection on a 160Gbps network. The raw CPU power is actually significantly lower than what I can find with other VPS providers but many of those providers servers are only using 1Gbps data connections on a 10Gbps network.
Failure to have a backup
Lastly and it’s not a hosting mistake, so I didn’t count it as one but still deserving of a mention. The failure to ensure that there is an adequate backup plan in place. If something goes wrong and you don’t have a backup you are ultimately the one that will be left to face the repercussions. Get a back up of your site and keep it safe. Make sure that your site is regularly being backed up, and make sure you know what is needed to do in order to recover your site from the backup.
Personal non-revenue generating
If you’re hosting a family photo album or a blog that generates no revenue and the possibility of a bit of downtime is something you can live with, shared hosting is adequate for your needs but even then I don’t recommend it. A better option would be to use a $5 per month managed VPS with CloudWays. You won’t have any of the headache associated with managing your own VPS and getting everything up and running is painless.
Small business or individual with sysadmin skills
If you are a small business or individual with the necessary server management skills a $10 Linode VPS with the $2.50 backup option is most likely powerful enough for your needs. This is the plan that I’m hosting this site on.
Sign up for Linode
Small business managed hosting
For small businesses or individuals dependent on their web sites for revenue generation or marketing I’m going to recommend a low budget Managed VPS provided by Cloudways. CloudWays adds management and support to a VPS provided by either DigitalOcean or Amazon. You can choose which underlying hosting company you use at the time of registration. With this option you loose a bit of the freedom you would have with a self managed VPS but you gain security and stability. Based on both Price and Performance my recommendation is that you choose DigitalOcean as the underlying VPS provider and the $30 a month plan should be adequate for most small business.
Larger site managed hosting
For larger businesses and sites receiving substantial traffic that need powerful servers and don’t want the headache of having to manage them, I’m going to recommend Linode managed hosting. Linode charges $100 per month in addition per VPS for management. They also offer sysadmin and development services at the rate of $100 per hour.
Raw performance or large storage.
If for some reason you need a lot of raw performance at a low cost or large amounts of magnetic disk storage Vultr offers VPS’s that have both of those bases covers.
Sign up for Vultr
I think that pretty much covers everything there is to say in this post. If you’ve noticed a mistake, have a comment, suggestion, think I’m a jerk or would like a custom recommendation let me know in the comments. If you would like to keep updated periodically regarding new content please join my mailing list by filling out the form in the right side navigation. Thank you for reading.