If Your Business Carries Insurance, You Should be Paying More Than $50/month for Hosting.
In the year 1999, if you ran a business and you had a website, you were ahead of the game. It meant that in addition to finding you in the Yellow Pages (where most people still looked) you could also be found on the "World Wide Web". In most cases, there wasn't a whole lot of business to be had, but it was still good to get yourself out there. At the time the costs were similar for listing yourself in the Yellow Pages and over the next 10 years commodity competition in the hosting space, meant that hosting could be found for as little as $5 dollars per month.
Here's why in the year 2013, that's a bad idea:
As the web continued to evolve the concept of doing more with your website started to take off. Ecommerce was the first obvious way to make money online, but eventually communication with an audience (your customers) began to become more important and the age of the CMS (Content Management System) and Blog began. In the beginning they were custom coded, and later open source platforms (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.) came to the forefront.
In this new age of interaction, it's not enough just to list your phone number - customers expect the ability to interact with the brands that they are happy or angry with. And what about integrating your website with your other tools? Point Of Sale systems? Shipping accounts? It all sounds like a good idea, right?
The trouble with all of this interaction and integration is that your business website is no longer a simple isolated system. It is now a cornerstone of your business, not an ad listed in the Yellow Pages. Have you thought about mobile? Do you have a staging environment to test out new changes and features? For larger businesses, websites have become hubs of their business worthy of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of investment per year.
With the revolution in freely available technology that can take websites to new levels of functionality, relatively little thought has been given to to their underpinning infrastructure and needs ongoing maintenance. Case in point, I have had customers who will pay $70K to build a website and then turn around and host on a $50/month commodity hosting service with no ongoing support agreement. In the short term, this means significantly degraded performance and over time it means missed software security updates and no ongoing editing, which will eventually lead to a compromised website. This is akin to buying a car and never doing any maintenance on it; eventually you will drive it into the ground.
Hosting vs. Managed Services
Rather than looking for a web hosting provider who delivers at the lowest cost, any business that believes their business is worthy of things like business insurance, should be looking for a Managed Services provider. This provider should provide the following:
- Pro-active security updates for the operating system (Linux, Windows, etc), services (MySQL, Apache, etc.) and web software (Drupal, WordPress, etc.)
- Recommendations on how to deploy new features to the website (Change Control, etc).
- Pro-active monitoring of traffic and website performance.
- Assistance in cases of your website going down or getting compromised.
With this kind of support your website will not only perform better and be more secure, but can also play a role in informing your business about trends that are coming so that you are better prepared for the future.