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If Your Business Carries Insurance, You Should be Paying More Than $50/month for Hosting.

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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:

Web 2.0

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?

An Ecosystem

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.

The Problem

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.

Comments

I would go further to say that shared hosting is inadequate for 80% of the Drupal sites out there. Hosting companies have not caught up with Drupal's needs (some might argue that it might be the other way around). A handful of modules and your host can't keep up.

I disagree. There are plenty of well-built sites which do great on well-managed shared hosting. A dedicated server does not automatically guarantee any increase in performance or stability.

Whats wrong with you guys? Even when we are in 2013, there are still 98% of websites with 10-50 visitors a day (restaurants, small architects, ...) and where the website is no cornerstone and never will be. But anyway this has nothing to do with the type of hosting.

First, do not judge a service on how expensive it is, a 500$ hosting is not better than a 50$ hosting in any case.

Second, share hosting is not only fine, it's even better for a lot of sites. Because dedicated / management hosting has to be done the right way, you can mess up so much more than with a "good" shared hosting.
The bad thing is, shared hosting has not developed over the last 5 years, its still the same. I hope this will changes with things like app enginge for php and hopefully others soon.
But in any case dedicated hosting is a bad idea for 9?% of drupal sites out there and not because of the "higher costs"

I'm not sure this is about shared hosting vs dedicated hosting. It is "Hosting vs. Managed Services". Sure, cost alone cannot determine quality of either. Whether you get "shared" hosting or "dedicated" doesn't matter, what is more important is finding a Managed Services partner that does the things listed in this post.

I think you can get those Managed Services in a "shared" manner; ie: shared hardware running VMs. or on dedicated hardware.

My comment was meant as an addition to your post. I know this isn't about shared verses dedicated. Shared hosting, including the support you get along with it is just a bad idea for any Drupal website. e.g. there was someone asking for help in the Drupal forums the other day that had a problem with his Drupal website on a shared host. The host's support desk told him t... "Go get Drupal to reinstall your website for you." It shows their lack of understanding and limited support.

While cloud hosting might seem to make it less important these days, don't forget to also have a backup strategy (and don't forget to test the recovery procedures!)

I tell potential clients the truth about the costs of Drupal hosting and Drupal maintenance (to the best of my judgement) in such clear terms, that if they are not ready to hear that 'truth', they are very unlikely to give me the contract.

Daily, people who come to the d.o. support forums with problems which are clearly related to low-grade shared hosting. In this case often they have got involved with Drupal either by self-building or encouraged by a site builder with little Drupal experience. Therefore they do not appreciate the extent to which a Drupal site with a moderately large amount of non-core code would (or has) become enterprise grade software with hosting and maintenance requirements to match. Because Drupal is still being pushed for small sites (for example by Drupal Gardens), and because the drupal.org Services section still appears to recommend rudimentary shared hosting services, small users of this kind may be forgiven for underestimating what hosting and supporting Drupal 7 will cost.

Whether the shifts under the hood in D8 will turn out to be helpful to the small minority of devs working for big money sites, or whether they will prove more helpful to the vast majority of Drupal sites (whose owners really need affordable hosting and maintenance costs, and at whom Drupal's promotion, such as it is, is often targeted), is something which it will be interesting to watch.

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About the Author

Joaquin Lippincott, CEO

Joaquin is a 20+ year technology veteran helping to lead businesses in the move to the Cloud. He frequently speaks on panels about the future of tech ranging from IoT and Machine Learning to the latest innovation in the entertainment industry.  He has helped to modernize software for industry leaders like Sony, Daimler, Intel, the Golden Globes, Siemens Wind Power, ABC, NBC, DC Comics, Warner Brothers & the Linux Foundation.

As the CEO and Founder of Metal Toad, an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, his primary job is to "get the right people in the room".  This one responsibility is cross-functional and includes both external business development functions as well as internal delegation and leadership development.

A UCLA alumni, he also serves in the community as a Board Member for the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, and Stand for Children Oregon - a public education political advocacy group. As an outspoken advocate for entry-level job creation in tech he helped found the non-profit, P4TH, an organization dedicated to increasing the number of entry-level jobs in the tech industry, and is in the process of organizing an Advisory Board for the Bixel Exchange, a Los Angeles non-profit that provides almost 200 tech internships every year.

 

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