:: Hosting and Domain Resource

Cheap Hosting

A famous quote goes like this: "There is hardly anything in the world that some men cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are these men's lawful prey." (Jon Ruskin, 1819-1900.) The old adage, "You get what you pay for," applies to the hosting and domain-registration business just as anywhere else. Rarely, in anything, should price be the sole determining factor.

Big -- no, huge -- hosting and domain-registration companies have to make money somehow. Without doubt they make much of their money through (surprise, surprise) monthly hosting fees. Take a million websites at $4.95 a month and you can afford to hire some marketing experts to help you spread a little FUD, all while making the sheep in the flock feel good with a sexy female racing-car driver.

Invariably, however, you'll find that these cheap hosts have a few questionable practices buried in their fine print. For example, take one well-known host -- possibly one of the biggest these days with a very popular and catchy image -- that will charge you about US$100 if you don't renew your domain before it expires. Now, we all want and intend to renew our domains before they expire, of course, but the fact is that so many people don't; in fact, so many, that ICANN (the governing body for domains) has, several times in the last few years, changed the whole process surrounding how and when domains expire and are then actually deleted (or "dropped", in industry parlance), and a huge industry has developed around re-registering expiring domains the split second they are dropped. So the fact is that this big domain-registration and hosting company knows that a certain percentage of their customers will, despite the reminder notices sent out, fail to renew their domains in time, only getting around to it when everything comes to a screeching halt on the expiry date. At that point, in addition to their rock bottom price of $4.99 per year to renew your domain, they'll tack on an extra $100. Reputable companies that charge something a little more reasonable for domain registration and renewal don't do that. Does your $4.99 look like such a good deal after you've paid the equivalent of twenty years' worth of domain renewals to renew for just one year?! Probably not.

There are other questionable practices generally perpetrated by companies whose only concern is a fast buck, especially in the domain-registration business, and for more information on those I suggest you have a look at the domain registration page.

"But," you ask, "why should I pay more than $4.95 per month when it seems that I can get everything I need (and then some) for that much?" Perhaps this is the pivotal question when it comes to price. If price is your only concern, you won't even ask this question, as you will decide to go with the cheapest host regardless of any other information. But if you are actually taking other factors into account, then you will ask yourself this question. After all, if there are successful hosting and domain-registration companies out there charging five, six, seven times as much for (apparently) the same (or even fewer) resources, then there must be an explanation for their success.

Let's be honest. I have, occasionally, not listened to my own advice and used cheap companies. Sometimes they're good for a time, but it's inevitable that something will go wrong, and then, when you need it the most, their support department will go silent or you'll realise that they are out of their depth and haven't a clue what to do. The result? Well, that depends on exactly what you're buying from them and what the situation is. If, as about 200 000 hosting and domain-registration customers (holding about a million domains between them) of self-professed "low cost registrar" found out, it's a domain, you could find that you're locked out of your account, your credit card has been charged three or four times, you can get into your account but can't do anything with your domain, your domain registrar won't give you the information you need to transfer your domain away, your domain has expired and there's nothing you can do to renew it and get your website and email back online, or your domain has been stolen or sold out from under you... or all of the above! The irony here is that I was once a customer, and with one of my key domains too. Fortunately it was only briefly, several years ago.

Experience is a great educator, and I can speak altruistically and from an academic point of view until I'm blue in the face. But here are the words of a couple of people who have seen the face of cheap, starting with Russell Thackston:
"For a third time, I picked up the phone and called GoDaddy support and they were able to delete the files for me. When I asked why I had trouble deleting the files, they informed me it was a 'glitch in the system' (Translation: 'We have no idea.'). ... I'm sure there are more GoDaddy Gotchas that I will learn about as I complete development. For instance, I foresee issues with browser session timeouts. The GoDaddy support pages do not specify what the default timeout is or how it might be changed. My guess is that it is global for all shared hosts and fixed. Despite all the twists and turns and potholes I've encountered, I'm happy with GoDaddy in an overall sense, especially considering the price. The most important lesson I've learned is to allocate more time than you may expect." (Emphasis added.)
There is no single answer to the question of why you shouldn't go cheap. Experience tells the experienced person that cheap isn't always good; that there must be a catch; that price isn't everything; that quality is not cheap; that cheap means price uncertainty as cheap pricing is buffeted by external forces with which the cheap host tries to keep up; that cheap means that the service provider has little to lose; that cheap means that, when the chips are down, you, the cheap customer, are expendable. Don't become another statistic by learning all of this the hard way, like Marius Ducea the system administrator:
"[] are a cheap domain registrar solution, and from my own findings at the time I have chosen to work with them (about 3 years ago), they had the best prices on the domain registration [market]. Being a cheap provider I would not expect some stellar technical support, but not even like this...".

Relevant links:
NinerNet Communications™: Web and email hosting, domain registration, SSL certificates.