What NOT to Look For in Web Hosting in 2023

With any important purchase, time and effort is put into researching the best options. Unfortunately this often isn’t the case when choosing web hosting service providers. There are plenty of dodgy dealers out there, and websites are at their mercy. So, we’re showing you the red flags to look out for.

Search or Google ‘web hosting,’ and you might find yourself scrolling for some time before finding any organic (non-sponsored) search results.

Why? Because the web hosting ecosystem is host to less than scrupulous players who pay their way onto listicles such as ‘Top Web Hosting Platforms’ that occupy the top of your search results page’s real estate. 

The problem with these featured companies is that their infrastructure doesn’t necessarily support their claims. Too many unsuspecting customers have fallen prey to unreliable web hosting providers, and the results can be costly and catastrophic. In short, beware of those who make big promises, as they frequently provide small yields. 

SiteCare is more than familiar with the common pitfalls across the web hosting landscape. After operating in WordPress maintenance for almost two decades, there is very little we haven’t seen. So, we recently picked the brain of SiteCare COO, Ryan Sullivan, to learn how to spot the red flags of unreliable web hosting providers. 

This blog is the first in a series unearthing the dirty secrets of the web hosting world, so stay tuned as we spill more tea on the murky underworld of web hosting.  

What is Web Hosting and Why Should I Care?

In a nutshell, a web hosting service stores your business website’s or web application’s files, databases, code, and images on a server space, allowing users to access your website via the internet from anywhere in the world. A web host is also responsible for maintaining your site’s performance, security, and reliability. In essence, when choosing a hosting provider, you’re putting your website’s performance (its uptime and speed), security, and user experience (UX) in their hands. You wouldn’t ask (or pay!) a random stranger to look after your tangible valuables without thoroughly researching them first. So, it’s just as crucial that your online assets receive the same degree of due diligence.

And, if that doesn’t convince you of the value of a reliable web hosting service, then the numbers should. 88% of online visitors won’t return to a website if they have a bad experience with it, and poor web hosting can definitely impact UX. So, if ever there’s a time to choose the right hosting provider to meet your website’s performance optimization needs, it’s now.

What Red Flags Should We Look Out For?

SiteCare’s team members know the ins and outs of web hosting after decades in the industry. Here are examples of some first-hand experiences we’ve had with poor hosting providers to help you spot those red flags.

Red flag 1: inadequate server storage and backups

Have you ever considered how your website could be affected by the weather? No? SiteCare’s Digital Marketing Director, Courtney, has. 

“I once had a client who hosted locally in Tennessee, a state not known for extreme weather and freezing temperatures,” she recounted, “But when a rare but entirely possible ice storm hit, the hosting provider’s server lost power. The result? All of my client’s websites shut down for four days – imagine the loss of web traffic and business!”    

What went wrong on this occasion was that the server was incorrectly stored without adequate backup. The web host had no provision for alternative power sources, and his system remained completely shut down. 

Switching to a cloud-based hosting service would help you avoid this situation and allow for greater flexibility and reliability. In addition, your website would no longer be hosted by a single server, which will also prevent any performance issues. When choosing a web hosting provider, research where they are and where their servers are located and investigate their backup strategies. 

Red flag 2: better-for-less deals

Ryan has some equally painful stories (although he’s holding some back for our next episode!). One occasion that particularly stands out is a glaring example of the adage, “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is.” 

Here’s his story:

“In 2016, we had a client with over 3 million monthly pageviews looking to reduce costs on their hosting bill. They reached out to a web hosting company that promised them better performance for less than 25% of what they were paying each month.

“We warned them that it didn’t only sound too good to be true, but that it was absolutely too good to be true. We pressed the host to explain the resources they were providing and how they could possibly deliver the same performance for such a large amount of traffic for such a low price. We even went as far as to purchase the plan they recommended with our own money to try and show our client why the limited resources would be a problem.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t show how the site would perform at the scale of our client’s traffic, and the client ultimately chose to go with the web host’s recommendation over ours because the website ‘seemed pretty fast.’

“Within 10 minutes of the site being live on the new host, under the load of live traffic, the server crashed. We fully anticipated that happening, so we immediately switched back to the previous infrastructure.

“When we asked the new host to explain themselves, we were told the problem was “inefficient coding” and that “most sites with 3 million pageviews ran just fine on the same plan.”

“They could never point to a specific code bottleneck or share examples of other sites with the same traffic on the same plan. I was blown away by the casual bravado and lack of ownership from the hosting company.” 

The lesson here? Look out for those companies that promise the world for a suspiciously low fee; it’s often a case of ‘you get what you pay for.’ Plus, if the web hosting company doesn’t choose to be transparent with you regarding their backend set-up, there’s probably a reason for it, and it’s unlikely to benefit you. 

At the end of the day, research and investigation pay off

A bit of online sleuthing could reveal that a hosting provider doesn’t have the capacity to support your website’s visitors that it claims it has. Or, they don’t have a reliable backup strategy in place in case of an emergency. Have you checked how much downtime is reported by websites using the provider? These are all crucial factors to consider when choosing a web hosting service. 

So, we say leave it to the experts. SiteCare supports its clients in choosing the best hosting providers for their needs. Over the years, we’ve gathered a wealth of data on hundreds of web hosts, so we’re fully equipped to guide clients through the good, the bad, and the downright ugly web hosting providers. So, if you’d like to speak to Ryan about your web hosting options, contact him here.  

Have you had any terrible experiences with a web hosting provider? Leave your story in the comments below.

Olivia Maurel Avatar
SEO Copywriter

6 min read

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