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Your websites roommates are the worst

By Matt Adams on September 13th, 2016

What Goldilocks and the three bears can teach us about hosting

You know how the story goes. A little girl lost in the woods, stumbles into a world she doesn’t belong in, and tries all the options for herself. She learns from her mistakes along the way, but really doesn’t enjoy the process. Cold soup, broken chairs, beds too soft. Eventually she pisses off some bears and depending which version of the story you subscribe to, they either run her off and tell her never to come back, or they eat her.

Your website is the little lost Goldilocks here, and the cabin in the woods is the internet. You need a place for your precious site to live. You venture out there on your own, trying a few things, finding that different hosts have different levels of soup, I mean support. And their pricing is just as all over the place as the beds. Sure you can try them all, or even just a few, but like Goldilocks, you won’t like the results, and neither will your site visitors.

Cold soup, is like bad server support. 

It’s safe for me to assume you likely know little, or probably nothing about server administration. Is the DNS zone file right? What about the max script execution time? You need support to lean on when you get in over your head. Factor1 hosts most the sites we build. To date thats about 250 sites. While we feel pretty well equipped to handle the day to day, we still have an amazing support team to call up when things get strange.

Good questions to ask for server support

  • How fast is the average ticket response?
  • Can I chat, call and email for support?
  • Does the support cover installed tools like WordPress, or other content management systems that may need trouble shooting?
  • What about backups and recovery, are they onsite or off?
  • What won’t support cover?

What about the environment? Are you sharing your bed with bears?

The cheaper the hosting, the more likely you are to be sharing a server with hundreds if not thousands of other accounts. Think about your computer, the more apps you have open and running at one time, the harder your computer starts to work. I know when I get multi-tasking like a crazy person, things get toasty and the fans kick on. What about when you are streaming a movie and surfing the web at the same time, maybe while others in your house or office are doing the same. Things get slow fast.

Well the more accounts per server, the more load, the more demand, and the more issues. Think of it like wifi hogging roommates at your house, except you have no idea who they are, and you have no say in them being there. We have seen time and time again, servers crashing, crawling at peak times, all because the site you are on is sharing resources with other big resource sites. It’s not all bad, just be aware that these resources come at a cost. So the less you pay for hosting, the more people there are to share the bill. Servers aren’t cheap, and “unlimited disk space” is a marketing bullet with an asterisk, not a reality.

What to look out for in shared hosting.

  • What are the policies in place for resource hogs?
  • What preventative measures are in place for malware?
  • What about sites that host explicit content–Do they allow that? You may not want to be there if it contradicts your brand.
  • How many accounts share an average server?
  • Bonus tip, you can check your site now with this tool: http://www.yougetsignal.com/tools/web-sites-on-web-server/
    I just ran that on a clients site that I know is slow but they won’t leave their GoDaddy $5 hosting because its “too good of a price”. The result, 997 other sites. 32 of which were pornography or other graphic content related. Not good for this family based non-profit site.

SEO and Malware concerns on shared hosts

Too often we find sites that are hurting with SEO or flagged for malware, but the reality is that it’s not even their site, but another account on the server. This can be a disaster to deal with since it’s not an account you have any control over. Google Malware tools will flag the entire server for malware. Meaning that every site on the server will display a big, ugly, red warning screen to all visitors that the site is not safe to visit. 99.9% of visitors will close and not continue. Lost visitors = lost opportunities every time.

Heavy shared hosts, like the site above that has 997 sites on their server, are often slow. The server has a slow response time and each page is a bit sluggish to respond. What If I told you that users will not return to slow sites, and google negatively ranks slow sites. Scary right. What If I told you that “slow” is anything longer than 6 seconds to load. Crazy that we live in such a high tech, high speed world that 6 seconds is slow, when at the turn of the century more than half the internet access was 56k dialup.

So when I say ‘sharing your bed with bears’, I’m really not that far off. Some of these hosts can be flooded with bad sites. Usually cost is a key factor. $5 hosting vs $20 hosting is a big difference in the quality of accounts.

How much should good hosting cost? 

So let’s say you found a host that has great answers to the above key questions, and has great support. What would that cost. I can tell you, it’s not $5. It’s not $10 either. on average, a good host with all the right levels of support, security and accounts per server is probably in the $20 – $50 a month range. I can hear your groans, yes that’s a lot of money when you used to pay $10. But think of this like your businesses location. There are shanty offices and shady strip malls, and there are newer, well balanced, well maintained buildings. They don’t cost the same thing.

What makes a good host.

  • 30 minute or less support response. They may not have it fixed, but they responded to the ticket and begin investigating.
  • Support you can call, email, or chat with. Thats critical.
  • Support that is willing to dive into other issues besides hardware only.
  • They have daily backups, onsite AND off
  • They have daily malware and security scans.
  • They have a firewall.
  • They offer VPS (Virtual Private Servers) with dedicated IP addresses (Protects against the bad bear roommates).
  • They limit the number of accounts per server (We run our dedicated servers under 150 accounts per server, compared to go daddy with the 997)
  • They have transparency with uptime. We have a portal to check at anytime with history of any outages.

Hosting recommendations

So we normally host many of our own sites on our dedicated servers. These servers are not in our closet at the Factor1 office, they are hosted and managed by LiquidWeb. They have been amazing for support, and we have been with them for 8 – 9 years at this point.

Other server companies we like, respect, and have a good track record with.

  • Cloudways
  • Flywheel (WordPress only)
  • WPengine (WordPress only)
  • Digital Ocean  (A little more tech oriented)
  • RackSpace