Affordable web hosting: choosing thoughts

Unlimited hosting is like a fish in a can

Unlimited hosting in a badly oversold web host company

This article gives you tips and thoughts for choosing affordable web hosting services. It contains good practical advice and even can change your mindset if you don’t miss a thing. It is one of the posts from “Choosing a web hosting” series. If you don’t want stories, you may jump right to the article with recommended shared hosting companies (but I suggest you read this article before that).

First of all, there are some DON’Ts that will let you cut off some junky options when choosing a web host:

  • DO NOT fall for cheapest option without trusting web hosting company. There is a saying “Cheap. Reliable. Fast. Choose only two.” By the way, affordable web hosting doesn’t mean the cheapest. Choose Affordable, Reliable, Fast hosts!
  • DO NOT buy bargain hosting kind of $2 for unlimited or almost unlimited plan from resellers, unless you do not care about the speed of your website, support issues, downtime problems and other «advantages» of cheapskate deals. Although it is more than affordable web hosting, it is absolutely not reliable in most cases.
  • DO NOT trust review web sites from top web search results like “Best web hosting companies” whatever sweet ratings they present. Check whether they recommend only those web hosts that are owned by EIG or if these review sites are driven only by highest referral commissions. In other words, such review web sites are not interested in recommending you really best hosting. They are happy to offer you only subsidiaries of EIG corporation or the hosts that are most sponsored by affiliate programs.

The rest of this article is about general recommendations and information for choosing an affordable web hosting on shared plans. Here we go.

Before all, I’d like to say that choosing a shared hosting, if you choose from well-promoted web hosts like EIG, is a real hit or miss. You never know whether you are lucky with your choice. You can see it yourself by reading tons of reviews. For example, a lot of people are happy with servers uptime, and a lot of people are not. A lot of website owners enjoy loading speed (at least at first), and a lot of others hate it etc. But you have a good chance to incredibly increase you chances to be happy with your choice if you read this section carefully.

You may wonder why happiness of clients might be a matter of luck for many web hosting companies over there. This is so because you will never know if you are lucky with a particular server that you’ll get (anything may malfunction!). Also, a lots depend on neighboring websites that are hosted on the same server as you. These websites may cause general server loading (this is a shared hosting, baby, not a dedicated server.)

The same web hosting may be great for one of your websites and may appear to be disappointing when you add another website which will be placed on another server within the same web hosting company.

Moreover, if your site is fast at the beginning, it does not mean that it will be so cool forever. The reason why your site is fast in the beginning may be simply that the server where your site resides is still not populated with many other websites. But new websites will be added on and on to the same server and all of them, including your site, will be sharing the server’s not unlimited resources. And then all the «advantages» of badly oversold shared hosting appear when the server becomes overloaded.

Having the above pitfalls is characteristic of the most EIG web hosts. Whereas hosting is much better managed by the decent companies with affordable web hosting tariffs.

What is overselling and how it is connected with overloading?

In a nutshell, overselling is a server resources management. But when a web hosting company is too greedy, it adds too many websites on one server and the server becomes overloaded. So the company does not care about how fast your website will be after sharing the resources among all hosted websites. In this case overselling of resources turns into server overloading which means slowness, worse downtime, worse tech support. The latter is caused by too many issues that arise and it becomes hard to handle them properly by the tech staff.

Ideally, there should be a measure of how tightly a server should be populated with web sites. A lot of things to be considered: peak loads, resource reserves management, minimizing overloading strategy, risk management, tech support coverage etc. But it all costs money and therefore it lowers the short-term profit margin for a web hosting company. So greedy web hosts are tempted to grab money instead of caring of the clients.

The point is simple: it is much more profitable to make big bucks on shared hosting putting money in marketing and generous affiliate programs to attract crowds of new inexperienced customers. And it is less profitable (at least in short-run and mid-run periods) to invest into hardware and management. As long as the big companies have financial resources they are unlikely to change their behavior.

Smaller companies’ game on affordable web hosting playground

Smaller companies are almost doomed to be outsiders (from a number of client perspective, but not from a quality of service!) if they want to maintain high standards of service in this unfair game on shared hosting market. This is so because they simply do not have enough money to promote themselves as those fat cats do. So smaller web hosting companies have three choices in general.

  • The first choice, being focused on shared hosting segment, is to badly oversell the servers and skimp tech support like a lot of bigger companies do. In this case the company may grow very well offering good affiliate commissions to force its growth.
  • The second choice is to stay relatively small but more honest, highly reliable in shared hosting. Fast growth is undesirable because it is likely to lowers the servers uptime and worsen the customer support quality.
  • And the third choice is to focus on smaller number of bigger clients offering great service for VPS and dedicated servers.

The problem for the customer who wants a decent service is to find such reliable and at the same time affordable web hosting company. Some customers just prefer lower prices and better well-known brand. Other customers would prefer a high quality company which is dedicated to a personal approach. Everyone may choose what they want. The problem is that those small great companies are not widely known, so that most customers go to big brands simply not seeing a choice.

Even if small web hosting companies are occasionally recommended, a potential customer does not make a research but just thinks “I have never heard of them, I will better stick to the ones everyone knows”. And in many cases it might be an appropriate approach if tech support, speed of the web site and downtime issues are not a big pain. However I strongly believe that it is worth going with a smaller, but much more reliable and at times even more affordable web hosting.

Once a well-promoted web host company is chosen (often such company is owned by EIG), it may go well at first especially on a pre-sale or sale phase. But then sooner of later the issues will become unbearable and then the customer will either update his or her plan (more money spend by the customer, more profit for the company) or the customer will start looking for another web host. But after trying another well-promoted EIG subsidiary they are disappointed again. So it can repeat until some research is done. And after that people finally got to a more reliable web hosting with greater support and reputation. By the way, here is my list of such reputable web hosts.

Loving the idea of smaller companies with better service and more personal approach

Personal approach serving web hosting clients

Personal approach serving web hosting clients

One of my intentions in this post series is to recommend the reliable and highly reputable among specialists hosts. These reliable web hosting companies are perhaps not very well-known for a wider public. And even if they may look like dark horses in the beginning, they do run really well from both technical and customer service perspectives. They run much-much better indeed than many “famous” and promoted web hosting companies.

Those of you who feel like trusting to a smaller web hosting feel free to choose your favorite personal dark horse web host. As regards big famous web hosting I had been considering HostGator which had been a great option till the middle of 2013.

However, EIG seems to have been doing its dirty business with HostGator for a year since the take-over in the mid of 2012, and I would not give it a try now. However many people still like HostGator and they prayed so that it does not go downhill as long as possible. However closer to Autumn 2013 there were a lot of reports from HostGator’s users about the sharply decreased quality of the service.

There is a big overall problem that a bad product or a service shows off in sparks and with orchestra (i.e. the wow-impression made with expensive marketing campaigns), and it regards not only web hosting sphere. This problem is almost everywhere – especially it is easily seen in consumer goods and politics.

A couple of notes about deceitful EIG host corporation

So I do not recommend EIG web hosts, because EIG is known for its greedy server overselling practice (which leads to overloading servers sooner or later) and customer support outsourcing to less qualified stuff. Initially I considered HostGator and A Small Orange to be good hosts, which are also EIG subsidiaries, but in long-run they are not worth trusting like all other EIG companies.

And by the way, I forgot to ask you, have you heard of EIG – Endurance International Group before? No? Oh, I see. The same story was with me and with many other people who suffered from their services or wanted to understand what is behind the curtains of those active web host promotions.

Eig prefers playing hush-hush. Whereas it owns and controls such companies as Bluehost, HostGator, FatCow, HostMonster, JustHost and many others. It is funny how these companies pretend to be independent to imitate competition between themselves. Have you seen an EIG logo anywhere on these websites? Nope. Or is there at least a note somewhere on these web sites that they are owned by EIG? Also, no. Looks like they hide it on purpose, doing great in imitating competence.

They do everything so that you go ahead and visit many review websites and make up your decision on what piece of the the same big thing you prefer. But I will repeat, that some of the web hosting companies, which have been taken by EIG, still have quite a good reputation. The future of them is clear though. EIG “optimizes” its assets by overselling servers too much and outsourcing tech support. So some customers when they just got to know about the acquisition by EIG decided to change web hosting. Some others decided to stay until anything goes wrong.

HostGator and A Small Orange did not seem to suffer much from EIG acquisition than other bought web hosts in the middle of 2013 (but already in Autumn of 2013 HostGator fell off its track and its clients shout out loud about the increased problems with it). But talking about trust, everything that is under EIG is already rotten or will be rotten. Sometimes it takes a year or two, but then there goes unethical optimization of costs: original data centers are moved, servers are overloaded, staff is fired and replaced by cheaper and less qualified outsourcing.

A lot of well-promoted web hosting companies operate under their own brands. But in fact they have been taken over by EIG and now they are just parts of this EIG corporation which has a lot of money to spend on marketing (but not on a proper management and support.)

Notes about web host ratings, unlimited plans and sign-up bonuses

A note about objective ratings

There are no world rating agency that could set reliable ranking for web hosting companies.

In general, there is a big question of trust in rating agencies at all because unfortunately it is almost all about entrance or membership fees or business connections. But I will not discuss it in this article (however, you are welcome to read this post uncovering affiliated side of hosts ranking).

By the way, here’s my input into making hosts reviews more data-driven and fact-based. I run non-stop tests on some hosts to find the most reliable and the fastest hosting. I call it Hosting Performance Contest:
hosting performance contest

Notes about unlimited plans

I personally do not feel thrilled about unlimited plans as they are in many ways just marketing gimmicks.

Firstly, existing limited plans for web site beginners are more than enough. For example, e.g. WordPress site seldom exceeds 1 GB disk space. Here is a real statistics taken from WebHostingTalk.com discussions:
Stats for using WP:
Disk space usage – 195.76 MB
Bandwidth (cumulative data transferred per month) – 268.98 MB
Visitors weekly – under 1,000
As a rough estimation, 1 GB of bandwidth is about 100,000 hits.
I have met the estimation that average user of web hosting uses less than 2 GB of bandwidth per month.

The statistics for this blog as of the end of 2015 is the following:
Disk space – 360 MB
Monthly bandwidth transfer – 1.89 GB (although I use CloudProxy from Sucuri that cuts off bots and malicious traffic)
Visitors weekly – about 1,000 vistors

And also, I know anyway there are limits even with so-called unlimited hosting, although not explicit. In many cases these limits are quite high and not reachable for most websites, so it may be considered as unlimited indeed. What is more important for a decent web hosting company is that a customer does not abuse server CPU and RAM, so that server response time and uptime was good. As regards traffic and disk space, it may be quite generous and even not monitored specifically as long as everything else is doing fine.

The bonus factor

The companies play with marketing lures such as discounts for longer hosting, free hosting for the first couple of months, a free domain name etc. I would not recommend falling for the bonuses as the significant argument when choosing a web host. But if you already know where you want to host your web site, it is nice to get a sweet bonus.
And as regards free domain from a hosting company, I recommend to refuse from this lure, as it safer to keep your domain and web hosting in different places.

That’s it for this article. What’s next?

  • You are welcome to read the next one about recommended web hosts.
  • Also, you are welcome to check out Hosting Performance Contest page where I publish results of my continuous monitoring tests in order to find the most reliable and the fastest hosting.
  • Besides, here’s the page where I put together hosting performance live charts (live) and hosting performance historical data so that you could see how the best hosts perform currently and in the past.
  • Here’s my pricing-vs-affiliate analysis of hosting: the article and the comparison table (useful method that helps you to find a good host).
  • There is a table of contents for the whole article series about web hosting
  • Also, you may write a comment if you like.
Last updated on April 3, 2016
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