Lots of web sites advertise web hosting for 99¢ per month. And if that's what you want to pay then go ahead. We cannot compete with that, nor do we want to.

Like fast food, quick and easy server setup fulfills your need but don't count on it to sustain you for long.

Budget hosting platforms will make promises such as "quick and easy setup" or "a full suite of tools to manage your web site" or "get online in seconds." Caveat emptor: buyer beware.

There are several hidden costs to these budget hosting services. We have had long discussions with clients and bailed out clients who have suffered from budget hosting nightmares, enough that created this page to help expose the true cost of budget hosting.

Let's look at some of the promises budget hosts make:

Quick and easy setup

Like fast food, quick and easy server setup fulfills your need but don't count on it to sustain you for long. And if setup is so quick and easy how can you know that you are on a reputable host?

Often budget hosts are targets for never-do-wells who use the hosting to quickly set up phishing or scam sites. This can lead to major problems for legitimate sites by blacklisting IP address ranges and triggering malware alerts which can take weeks to fix.

Unlimited Everything

This is where it pays to read the fine print, which often reads something like this:

Customers who are using 25% or more of system resources for longer than 90 seconds would be in violation of our Terms of Service.

...or...

We regularly examine customer bandwidth and disk space utilization data in a series of statistical analyses and use the results to define "normal". These tests vary from month to month.

What is important to note here is that there are no solid definition of these metrics. And if you exceed such limitations, they say this:

We strive to provide at least 48 hours notice to allow customers to make adjustments before we take any corrective action.

So now the responsibility is on you to stop what you are doing and find the root of the problem. During this time it is possible that your account could be suspended leaving you without a web site or email.

Free domain names

Beware of the cost of free.

There is one concept many people fail to grasp: no one "owns" a domain name: you are simply leasing it from ICANN - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Domain registrars are simply the brokers for these domain names.

There are several things to watch out for with "free" domain names. First, if it's free it's not likely yours. A quick WHOIS search will show that the domain name actually belongs to the host or company who registered it. They can take control over it if they desire, a process known as "hostjacking". If you paid for the domain, it should be in your name.

Tools! Tools! Tools!

Budget hosting platforms will also provide and vast suite of tools to help manage your site such as web based file managers, easy server configuration, several log analysis tools, multiple database management options, DNS configuration, SSL management, email accounts, web disks, backups and many more features.

There are several problems with this:

  • You will rarely - if ever - use any of these things.
  • They add A LOT of overhead. All of these front-end controls add bloat to your server.
  • You should not be worry about this stuff. Once your site us up and running you should be focused on content, not anything under the hood.
  • These tools are often old, outdated or of poor quality.

Ask yourself this: if you accidentally deleted your entire web site how much confidence would you have that your 99¢ backups could reliably restore the whole thing?

Unlimited e-mail accounts

As we said above, when everything is free nothing has value.

"Unlimited" email accounts offer few truly useful services. The technologies behind them are often outdated. Horde, SquirrelMail and RoundCube are nice but they have not kept up with modern communications. Too often these email accounts limit you to old protocols such as POP3 and do not support IMAP nor push notifications. And they are just email - no calendars, contacts or sharing.

But for 99¢ each month you get what you pay for.

All your eggs in one basket

Often budget providers will house all of your services on a single server - web sites and email both. If there is ever a server compromise all of your data is made available.

Transparency (or lack of)

Another problem with front-heavy hosts is that they keep customers in the dark as to what is going on under the hood. Help desk technicians are insulated from the actual Network Operations Center and are trained to provide boilerplate answers and often located in a different country than where the actual servers are housed.

Also, if your data is stored on servers outside of the United States you could have no protections over it's security. Servers hosted in other countries do not need to alert you if a government agency requests access to your information.