Prompted by a few items I’ve decided to write an article on the cost of hosting a website. This article is in part a follow up to two articles we wrote about the cost of website development and I think hosting and the ongoing costs of web development also need to be addressed.
Well, this morning we received another comment on our very popular blog article “What Does a Website Cost?” additionally I was just visiting the blog of the commenter and noticed that in their portfolio they had this website called: “cheap web hosting” which features a list of hosting companies with their price per month as well as their disk space and monthly bandwidth.
What is Hosting?
First of all I thought I would briefly explain what hosting is. If you are thinking about getting a website you’ve probably heard this term. If not, I’m happy to introduce you. Hosting is like rent for your website. Every time you visit a website there is a computer out there (in the ether) that serves you the website, delivering it to your home or work computer. Very summarized, your computer makes a request for the html, design, images, everything… a server delivers it, and your computer assembles the website. The process of storing your website on that server, so that users can visit your site, download it, and see it is what is referred to by the term “hosting.” Hosting is typically a monthly fee.
Besides the hosting of your website you should know that, conventionally, there are no other fees for your website. This is something we get asked a lot. How much does my website cost per month? How much is ongoing maintenance for my website?
Your development company may be able to setup some kind of maintenance, marketing, or search engine optimization package, that will involve additional fees, but usually, for a smaller site (brochure site with 10 pages) this will not be done nand may not be necessary. So hosting is your only necessary recurring fee.
Just to be totally clear there may be yearly fees associated with the purchase of your domain name (website name, example: www.example.com) as well as other fees depending on your website type. Ecommerce sites for example typically need to purchase an IP address & SSL & usually have separate fees for payment processing.
Types of Hosting
Before we get to cost I wanted to mention the three conventional types of hosting:
Shared Hosting – Single account where you are given a certain amount of space on a server.
Pros: very cheap
Cons: Unreliable, share resources with up to thousands of other sites
VPS (Virtual Private Server) – Is a type of hosting where a physical server has been split into multiple servers (through fancy software) such that each has the appearance and capabilities of running on its own dedicated machine. Each virtual server can run its own full-fledged operating system, and each server can be independently rebooted.
Pros: full control over your part of the server, still pretty inexpensive
Cons: share resources with others on the same server, requires technical knowledge of running a webserver
Dedicated Server – When you have access and control over your own server.
Pros: lots of space, full control
Cons: more expensive, requires technical knowledge of running a webserver
So How Much Does Hosting Cost?
Again, this depends, both on what you need or what your website needs, what your are looking for in a service provider, and what service provider you choose. Numbers vary widely. For the very low end, for shared hosting, you can take a look at the cheap hosting resource I mentioned above with prices ranging from $5.00/month to $60.00/month for a shared hosting environment. For the middle range a VPS will usually run around $30 – $150/month. A dedicated server will run about $100 to many thousands/month.
At Atilus we’ve been through all of the above types of servers/hosting environments. In fact, my first company was a hosting company. I choose to become a reseller of shared hosting accounts and offer hosting to clients locally and on the web. Unfortunately many times there are many multiples of resellers, meaning thousands of websites are on one server, making reliability an issue and technical support is not available (a reseller, not having full access to their server cannot always diagnose and trouble shoot or fix problems).
Throughout the years we’ve been upgrading, and at every step providing a better experience for our clients (uh-huh sales pitch time). I don’t want to go down the sales pitch road, but I do want to explain some of what goes on in the back so that you can understand and make a good decision proceeding with hosting. We dealt with shared accounts through a reseller account, which led to both unreliable service, and technical support frustrations (for our clients as well as for us, as we could never get anyone on the phone). We upgraded to a VPS, which meant we had direct access to the system and weren’t dealing with a reseller, meaning better uptime, and more technical support. Unfortunately, spotty, fast-growing hosting companies still led to poor support experiences and general uptime and reliability was still unreliable because of the shared resources of a VPS. Next we went with a dedicated server, which meant some more work for us, in maintenance and technical skill, but solved many of our performance issues, but physical support was still an issue (if your dedicated server’s hard drive fails someone needs to replace it). Finally, we bit the bullet and have switched to leasing a dedicated server, at a datacenter, and by a company that promises and delivers 100% uptime and incredible support. The experience has been great for our clients as well as our team.
That was a big tangent, but the point is, that to have the best experience possible, you want the fewest hurdles between your website and the computer (and the team that manages that server) that actually serves it. If your website is small, I highly recommend going the shared hosting route, but not your conventional shared hosting route. Although Godaddy and others have their place, ponying up a little extra per month will greatly increase your ability to consistently deliver your website to your visitors, ability to send/receive email, reduce any costs associated with downtime. At this level prices will probably be around $20 – $60/month.
Go with a smaller hosting company, but be sure to ask questions such as, how many websites are on the server, do you own the server or manage it yourself? You can also ask for referrals to get a better idea of the experience others have had. These packages will be more expensive but, many times have additional incentives (greater support, better uptime, better security, website maintenance) to make them worth your while. For all but the most extreme cases, a VPS or dedicated server is simply not a viable option for a company website. But, there are exceptions.
If you’d like to talk more about hosting your website, please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.