Many newcomers to web hosting immediately encounter a cornucopia of unbelievably low prices for shared hosting that promise the same performance and capabilities as more expensive hosting providers. Intense competition and the increasing ease of entry into the web hosting industry have driven this race to the bottom. However, the impossibly low prices almost invariably hide an unattractive reality of poor customer service, overloaded servers, and other significant problems
Few serious website masters want to waste their time with inadequate services and technical problems that drag on endlessly without resolution. It’s helpful to be aware of six major problems associated with cheap hosting providers.
Inferior Customer Service
Unlike the rented, low-end dedicated servers that most frequently handle websites for cheap hosting providers customer support from real humans is costly. While it’s not uncommon for a newly established one-person hosting service to initially offer terrific customer service, this is a short-lived illusion. Once enough clueless customers have snapped up seemingly attractive hosting plans at unbeatable prices, the lone individual running the show typically stops responding to repeat support requests and may eventually ignore all support requests.
Even cheap hosting companies staffed by more than one individual cannot afford to spend much time on support requests. The iron laws of economics bend for no one. In truth, the great majority of cheap hosting providers depend on the dirty little secret that many of their customers will sign up for a hosting plan and then abandon their websites after a brief bout of activity. Because the monthly fee is so low and because most customers tell themselves they’ll return soon to working on their websites, they may not cancel their accounts for months or years.
A remarkable number of customers at such low-end service providers don’t even bother to build a website. Overtime, a cheap hosting provider can easily rack up hundreds of zombie accounts that do nothing but pour money into its coffers. If a significant percentage of customers actually made the most of their hosting plans, then the cheap hosting provider’s ability to provide even minimal customer service would collapse. Even under ideal conditions, the best that such understaffed and underfunded operations can offer is “best-effort” support, which falls far short of the service-level guarantees offered by more conscientious, better-staffed hosting providers.
In truth, the relative success of many cheap hosting providers lies in part with the sneaky but effective tactic of leaping to provide quick, useful responses to perhaps the first two support requests from any individual customer. The minority of customers who bother to ask for technical support will walk away with the impression that the firm’s customer support will always be that responsive, and a great deal of time may pass by before they ask again. Customers who do return to their websites may be shocked by slow response times useless canned advice, or even complete silence. Cheap hosting providers across the industry cynically ignore those few customers who try to build significant websites as too costly to be worth retaining.
Sluggish Loading Speeds
Cheap hosting providers will invariably wring the last possible cent of profit out of their servers by cramming as many websites as possible onto its hard drives. Because precious few customers use more than a tiny fraction of their theoretical disk space limits this sort of massive overselling is the norm. A server laboring under the load of serving static pages from hundreds of websites often will crawl during peak request hours, and dynamic websites place an even greater burden on server resources.
Quite apart from the strain on the servers capacity to stream data to and from its hard drives, the network connection to the server can only handle so much data at once. Even a powerful server with a high-capacity bandwidth link may stagger under the load, and most cheap hosting providers quietly skimp on server resources. Because the majority of visitors tend to immediately bounce away from sluggish websites, relying on an overloaded server to push out website pages to valued visitors likely will result in persistently poor traffic and lost opportunities to build loyalty.
Multiple Security Vulnerabilities
A significant percentage of low-end hosting providers rent cheap unmanaged servers, which typically require the hosting provider to manage security updates in a global computing environment already rife with sophisticated criminal gangs and gleeful script kiddies who think it’s the height of cool to hack into other people’s websites. A small business might be greeted with a defaced website or the theft of a critical customer database, and planted malware might routinely steal customer information such as email addresses and passwords. Cheap hosting providers rarely possess the technical sophistication to maintain a secure system in an ever-changing environment of multiple operating-system vulnerabilities and rapidly evolving hacker toolkits.
Rare or Nonexistent Backups
Better hosting providers regularly create off-site backups of their customers’ websites. While the terms of service at the great majority of hosting providers justifiably tell webmasters to religiously back up their own data, it’s still distressing to discover that a hard-drive crash or hacker attack has just wiped out an entire website that must then be laboriously restored. A lost business website that takes days or weeks to completely restore will destroy hard-won goodwill, alienate formerly loyal customers, and spark a flurry of negative feedback on major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp.
Cheap hosting providers rarely bother to make any backups at all of the websites they host, let alone reliable off-site backups. The services of reputable off-site backup services do cost money, and only a minority of hosting providers exercise the option. Even hobbyist and personal websites can represent a considerable investment in time and effort, and most people would prefer to preserve that investment.
Unsupported Custom Installations
The enormous popularity of leading content management systems (CMSs) such as WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla leads many webmasters to think that their automatically installed CMS website will be fully supported by their hosting provider. This may be true at superior hosting providers with excellent customer-service policies but more often, CMS support is limited to FAQs, sparsely populated support forums and canned answers from untrained personnel. At cheap hosting providers, CMS support may be limited to plagiarized FAQs and links to outside resources.
In particular, support for custom CMS setups that diverge from stock installations is sorely lacking. Trained staffers who can cope with the innards of WordPress and other CMSs understandably want to be compensated in proportion to their specialized skills, and only better-quality hosting providers retain such personnel. At low-end hosting providers, requesting support for a custom installation almost certainly will draw no useful response.
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
As if the other problems weren’t enough, far too many low-end hosting providers flicker into existence only for a brief time before vanishing into the mist, leaving behind angry webmasters wondering what happened to their data and their money. In contrast, savvy webmasters know better than to entrust their websites to a new hosting provider without checking for positive customer feedback and a sustained history of maintaining services with few outages. Reputable hosting providers are much more likely to consistently support valued websites with strong customer support policies, powerful servers, speedy loading times, regular backups, and experienced technical personnel who understand how to maintain a secure hosting environment that protects both webmasters and visitors.
In summary, while cheap hosting providers may be adequate for the most casual personal websites and for webmasters who wish to experiment with no expectation of reliability or support, professional webmasters likely will turn their attention instead to reputable firms that respect their customers by paying serious attention to the business of web hosting. Commercial enterprises in particular require updated security, reliable backups trained support personnel, and beefy servers that can cope with the heaviest loads.