The No Non-Sense Guide To Saving Money On Web Hosting
When most people think about the work that goes into a website, they think about what they immediately see: the site design, the graphics and photographs, perhaps some multimedia aspects, and the written content. If you’ve ever had a hand in helping to create a web site, these parts of the site have undoubtedly been at the top of your to-do list. However, there are some less visible but still very important aspects of having a website, and one of these is web hosting: an absolutely crucial piece of the web site puzzle.
Simply put, if you’ve got a web site that you want people to see, then you need a web host. Web hosting is the service that stores all of your website’s data — the written parts, the visual parts, and the coding behind it all — and makes it available to all internet users. You could have the most beautifully designed site, the most well-composed images, the most compelling videos, and the most gorgeously written content, but if you don’t have a reliable web host, no one will ever know.
What’s so interesting about web hosting is that it’s not a one size fits all proposition. There are loads of different options! As a result, pricing for web hosting varies wildly, depending on what services you want and what company you choose to host your site. How can you get a good web host for your well-put-together website and get a good price for it? Read on for some helpful tips to save you money on web hosting.
Know Your Server Types, Know What You Need
All web host servers are not created equal. When you’re looking for hosting, you’ll have your choice from a few different types: dedicated servers, shared servers, VPS’s (or Virtual Private Servers), cloud servers, and more. A dedicated server will typically get you the most space and the most security, as your site will be the only data on it, but you’ll also pay the most for that level of hosting. Small businesses typically opt for shared servers or VPS’s, as they cost less, still offer a great deal of space and security, and are highly reliable. If you’re unsure as to which type of web hosting will be best for your site as well as for your budget, this About.Com Money page does a good job of explaining, in plain language, the seven types of web hosting.
Also, web host servers are either Linux based or Windows based. Linux almost always cost less, and they are more common as well, although opting for a Windows server does offer a few advantages, such as programming in ASP. However, if money is a factor, a Linux server is the way to go, as it’s much more economical while still allowing you to create a high quality website.
Finally, if you’re looking to pay less for a web host, you’ll definitely want to look at off-shore hosting options. These tend to cost a bit less than domestic hosts. A concern with off-shore hosts, however, is customer service, so before you commit to one, check to make sure that a customer service representative will be available when you need one and not just during business hours in the host country (which could be the middle of the night for you). You’ll also want to look at customer reviews to make sure that you’re not paying for an overseas dud.
If you’re confused or unsure which option is best for you, talk with a sales representative at the web hosting provider that you are considering and ask questions. Make sure he or she can explain the difference between all of the choices available and make an informed recommendation for you. And it should go without saying, but if your sales rep does nothing but push the most expensive web hosting plan, then you definitely want to keep shopping around.
Get it for Free!
Yes, it’s true: there are companies that will host your site for free. These include weebly.com, awardspace.com, webhostia.com, and several others. Even the popular blogging site wordpress.com offers free hosting services for non-blogging sites.
There is a catch, of course. The free plans offered by these sites are, on the whole, fairly limited. You can’t do much modification on the different templates’ designs, and you won’t be able to do more sophisticated web development. It’s like not being able to get under the hood of a really nice car: you can do the basics, but you can’t make it run differently. However, if you have a small business and just need a small, simple site, a free web host may do the trick for you. The price is certainly right.
You’ll also want to be aware that some free web hosts pay their bills by selling ads, and some of these ads are, shall we say, not exactly PG. The ads are also a bit invasive; they’re large banner ads that distract visitors from your content, or they’re pop-up windows selling stuff you’d rather not be associated with. Before you sign on with a free web host, remember to read the customer reviews and the fine print. Yes, you can always cancel your free account without penalty, but then you’ll have to start over with a new host. Remember, your time is worth something too.
Another option for free web hosting is with your ISP, or internet service provider. Some ISP’s offer their customers free web hosting space — and it’s included in what you already pay for internet service. You may have this option available to you and not even know it. To find out if your ISP has this quiet option, call and ask, send an inquisitive email, or just go for a visit
Pick Up The Discounts
If you’re paying for web hosting using an internet based company, there are a few ways to save big. The first is using coupon codes to save a percentage off of the cost of hosting. Just like purchasing anything else on the web, a quick Google search for coupon savings codes can often save you half or more on hosting services.
Web hosts typically often keep your money in your pocket if you refer a new customer. Know some friends who need web hosting? If they sign up with your current host and mention that you sent them, you’ll often be rewarded with a free month (or more!) of hosting services for yourself.
Go For The Long Haul
If you’ve got free web hosting that you’re happy with, then you’re tether-free in terms of a contract. But if you’re paying for web hosting, you want to think about how long you can commit to a particular provider. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, signing up for a longer contract usually means that you’ll pay less per month. For example, a shared hosting plan at dreamhost.com costs $10.95 per month if you’re paying on a month to month basis. However, if you’re willing to sign up for a year, the price drops to $9.95 per month, saving you 12 bucks. Furthermore, if you can commit to two years with DreamHost, the monthly price goes down to $8.95 per month, which is $24 less over the course of two years than a monthly plan.
The second reason why signing up for a longer contract can save you is that many of the coupon and discount codes you’ll find online are not good for monthly billing plans; they’ll apply a discount only if you sign up for a year or two at a time. Of course, promotions vary, so you’ll want to read the fine print carefully, but in some instances, signing up for two years plus applying a significant discount can mean that you actually pay less for two years than you would have paid for one without the discount.
This isn’t to say that a month-by-month plan doesn’t have a place in the world of web hosting. If you want to give a particular host a test drive, for example, to see if you’re truly happy with what they have to offer, then a monthly plan is fine for a few months. It saves you the frustration of being locked into a contract, and you can always jump ship and try another host if you’re not pleased. However, once you know that you’re happy with a particular host, it’s probably time to lock in a lower price by going with a longer-term contract. If you don’t see that your web host has any long term plans in place, don’t hesitate to ask — sometimes better deals just aren’t very well advertised.
After Six Months, Reassess
Even if you have experience in running a website and working with hosting companies, it’s still a good idea to review things every six months or so. Take a look at what your paying for in terms of type of server, amount of space, number of email addresses, included web apps, customer support, and more, and then compare that to what you’re actually using. You’ll often find that there are parts of your plan that you’re just not taking advantage of.
If that’s the case, you’ve got two options. First, you can start to take advantage of them, which can possibly save you money if you’re paying for a redundant service from another provider. Or, you can talk to your provider about a less expensive plan that will still get you what you need without the costly excess.
Be Ready to Move When Your Contract Is Up
The reality is that there are dozens of good web hosting companies, and they’re all competing with one another for your business. When your contract with a particular host is about to expire, it’s time to look around at what’s out there. You can expect your current web host to aggressively offer you renewal options that are appealing, so don’t immediately ignore those. Sometimes, you’ll save the most money by staying right where you are. Companies know that they’re better off retaining a current customer than finding a new one, so they will do everything they can to keep your business.
However, if you’re not finding any tempting renewal offers, there are plenty of other web hosts who will be happy to have your site hosted with their servers. You can often find new customer discounts, as well as discounts for moving your site from another host. However, if you do choose to move your site to a new host, you’ll want to ensure that there are no data migration fees. The majority of web hosts don’t charge for migration, but some do; if you choose one that has these fees, you run the risk of negating your hosting savings.
If you’re happy with your current host and don’t want to go through the hassle of moving your site, but you aren’t offered any discounts or deals for staying with them, try talking to customer service. Ask if they will match the better price you’ve found elsewhere, and see if they are willing to do anything to keep you as a customer. Lots of web hosting companies like networksolutions.com, certifiedhosting.com, and superb.net all offer a price match guarantee, so chances are good that your current host will be able to work with you on costs.
Know What You’re Doing? Host Your Own!
Most website owners aren’t tech savvy enough or, frankly, comfortable enough to provide their own web hosting and IT services. However, if you’ve got the tech know-how, the motivation, a reliable computer or server, and a fast, reliable internet connection, you can be your own web host and pay nothing more over the cost of what you’re already using.
The thought of not incurring any hosting costs can be enough to tempt a lot of people into going it alone for their web hosting. If you plan to give this a try, you would be incredibly wise to invest in a back-up method: an extra hard drive, cloud storage, or another way to save a back-up of your site’s data. If you don’t, and your hard drive crashes or your computer is stolen, then your site is gone. A data back-up method is an additional cost, so you will want to compare it with the cost of web hosting services (in addition to the amount of time and potential hassle it will take on your part) to see if being your own host is truly cost effective.