Like any bustling marketplace, web hosting shoppers are always trying to pick out the best plans, at the most affordable prices.
So with the term ‘affordable web hosting’ thrown around so much these days, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and consumed by cheap price tags, and crazy disk space and bandwidth deals.
TopHosts asked a couple of leading service providers what affordable web hosting truly means these days, and how shoppers should navigate a market so full of numbers and promises.
Lou Honick, CEO of HostMySite, a provider of wide-ranging website services, thinks web hosting turned affordable a long time ago, and that price tags have basically bottomed out recently. This reality makes finding the right plan at an appropriate price more difficult than ever.
Price, Space, Bandwidth Trap
“Web hosting is such a big market, and when you’re exposed to so many companies everybody starts to look the same,” Honick said. “That’s why hosting companies, consciously or unconsciously, fall into the pricing, bandwidth and disk space trap – it’s the easiest way to look different, with numbers.”
Honick admits HostMySite takes part in low-priced, affordable strategies as well, with their $2.95/month shared hosting plan. But that’s just the nature of the market he explained, and says his company goes way beyond just low prices. Affordability, to Honick, is not simply about a price tag. It’s about the value behind that price tag, which isn’t expressed in numbers – like customer service, support and uptime.
Brent Oxley, Founder and President of Host Gator, agrees that the idea of affordable web hosting has taken on an extreme state as of late. He also thinks cheap monthly rates, big disk space and bandwidth are not the only things that make a hosting plan affordable. Customers need to keep in mind what they’ll need to make their website successful, and what services are most important down the road. If you can get solid customer support, great uptime, at a good price then that’s affordable web hosting, Oxley says.
Disk Space Overrated
“The prices for web hosting in my opinion have bottomed out a while ago. What hasn’t bottomed out is the advertised size of the plans,” Oxley said. “The amount of users who actually use all the disk space and bandwidth on a large plan is close to nil… It’s not that hosting companies are able to physically offer that much more, it just means they keep overselling more and more to keep up with their competitors.”
Oxley says customers virtually never use those large amounts of disk space promised by companies, so customers need to look beyond big, flashy numbers and consider what’s important – a whopping 100 GB of space for cheap, or good service and uptime at an affordable price?
Degrees of Affordable Web Hosting
Of course, affordability will mean something different to everyone. Honick explained that those that plan to have a website where uptime is critical to their customers, and who want to ensure availability at all times, need to raise their view on affordability a level or two. Virtual Private Servers or a managed dedicated plan with solid, accessible 24/7 customer support may be the kind of solution your website requires. In this case, affordability takes on a whole new level, with the most affordable web hosting plan being the one that best combines price, uptime, support and the offering itself.
Then again, if you’re just starting out and all you want is a basic shared hosting plan at a low price, perhaps the most affordable monthly rate, along with just the essentials – hard disk space, monthly transfer, email accounts, design and marketing tools, etc. – is all you require.
But if you’re going to go cheap, make sure it’s with a company you can grow with, Honick says. Seek out a Web host that offers a “life cycle of services”, which provides a progression of plans from shared to VPS to dedicated hosting. If you go with such a company you can always upgrade when your website outgrows the cheaper, basic plan you started with.
And always consider the customer support behind the price. “Look for a partner,” Honick says, “someone that can be there to answer questions and guide you through all the steps.” That’s the most valuable element behind a price: Web hosting support and reliability.
Future of Affordable Web Hosting
In fact, as more and more realize the importance of customer support, Honick predicts a slight increase in prices. Web hosting has become as cheap as it’s going to get, and eventually customers will stop focusing on disk space and price. The focus will shift towards website support and customer service, Honick explained, which hold real value. That kind of service actually costs companies money and, if more people demand it, Web hosting may become less affordable in the future.
“It’s going to get to a point where people are going to stop caring about how much disk space you get. It’s already not much of a differentiator,” Honick said. “It’s easy to offer lots of disk space knowing people aren’t going to use it. It’s harder to offer great service, and that’s what it will boil down to. As people lean on that more, you’ll see at least a small uptake in prices because that’s a real cost.”