July 18, 2023
Key Differences Between Cheap and Good Hosting

All websites on the internet, all 201,045,211 of them as of April 2023, need hosting solutions in order to stay online.

But as a business owner or IT professional looking for hosting services for your organization, you need to find the perfect hosting provider for your company’s unique needs, goals, and overall priorities.

But there are so many hosting providers competing for your attention that this process can be overwhelming. Hosting for a website can cost anywhere from a couple of dollars per month to thousands of dollars per month.

There are so many options, like dedicated hosting, a shared hosting plan, or cloud hosting, and you need to know what is good and what is just cheap junk. And is there really a difference between cheap and good hosting? Yes, there absolutely are a lot of differences.

We readily admit we aren’t the cheapest web hosting providers. And there are good reasons for it. Let’s check out the differences between good and cheap web hosting.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

What makes cheap web hosting cheap?

Cheap web hosting usually means low monthly fees, but it means a lot more than just your upfront cost. Cheap hosting isn’t always bad — as long as you know the trade-offs. And no two web hosts are exactly alike, but there are common traits of most cheap hosting plans.

Cheap or free hosting:

  • Has low introductory pricing, often under $10 per month, with inflated renewal costs.
  • Usually charges extra features that good web hosting considers standard.
  • Offers the bare basic functionalities for hosting solutions.
  • Is almost always unmanaged hosting.
  • Rarely offers quality customer or technical support.
  • Doesn’t usually provide enterprise solutions.
  • Tends to have low reliability and more common downtime.

Cheap hosting usually targets small businesses and individuals whose websites have little traffic, are mostly static information sites, and don’t have a lot of pages to increase memory needs. They often claim to specialize in WordPress hosting for WordPress websites. The cheapest web hosts often count on customers not understanding the fine print until they’ve already paid the fee. Most customers of cheap web hosting wind up host hopping every year or two to find a new low introductory offer.

What makes good web hosting good?

Good web hosting is all about features and support. Prices vary and can sometimes almost match cheap hosting, but pricing structures are always more clear than the terms from cheap hosting providers.

Common features of good web hosting usually include:

  • Slightly higher monthly rates.
  • More features and options such as SSL, automated backups, 24/7 tech support, automatic plugin updates, and more.
  • Better dependability and uptime guarantees, such as 99.99 percent or even 100 percent for enterprise-level plans.
  • Scalable hosting options up to enterprise-level plans such as dedicated servers and cloud-based virtual private servers (VPS).

Good web hosts are much more likely to offer fully-managed hosting solutions rather than just unmanaged hosting plans.

Does good cheap hosting exist?

The reality is that good cheap hosting is a rarity.

There are some providers that offer robust suites of features and reliable performance at affordable web hosting rates, but they certainly won’t charge as little as the bottom-of-the-barrel web hosting services do.

The key is differentiating between good quality hosting and cheap quality hosting. Looking for managed web hosting is one fast way to spot a good web host that will offer the features you need.

Managed vs. unmanaged web hosting

Managed hosting means that your web host handles a lot of the day-to-day behind-the-scenes work for you, while unmanaged hosting means you are left to sink or swim on your own.
Managed vs unmanaged web hosting.

If you select a managed web host like Nexcess, your provider maintains physical web servers, administers updates, performs regular backups, and does everything else associated with managing hosting for your website. Managed hosting can include shared plans, dedicated servers, and cloud servers.

Managed plans can also come with tons of other convenient services related to websites, from website builders to marketing services. They’re usually more expensive but are better for everyone who doesn’t have an in-house dedicated IT team. Beginners, startups, entry-level business owners, and even enterprise-level businesses benefit from managed hosting.

If you select an unmanaged hosting option, you’re just renting server space. That means you’re responsible for all necessary website management and maintenance activities.

These activities range from patching security problems on your website to providing technical support to your customers. Unmanaged plans are usually cheaper, but you’ll need to pay extra whenever you need technical help beyond searching an often out-of-date knowledge base.

But there are more differences between cheap and good web hosting than just managed hosting.

9 key differences between cheap hosting and good hosting

9 key differences between cheap hosting and good hosting.

1. Range of features

Cheap web hosting

Cheap hosting usually comes with just the basic hosting services, such as bandwidth, server space, and domain name registration.

With cheap hosting solutions, you basically just rent space for hosting your website. This means you probably won’t get any extras without paying an additional cost.

Good web hosting

Good hosting, on the other hand, usually offers well-developed hosting packages that have a wide variety of useful features such as:

  • White-glove website migrations via one-click processes.
  • Ecommerce store builders.
  • Unlimited email accounts, free emails, free domain names, unlimited websites, and unlimited storage space for the first year.
  • PCI compliance guarantees.
  • FTP (file transfer protocol) uploads.
  • Free CDNs.
  • Performance-monitoring software systems.

2. Managed solutions

Managed solutions are a set of services that your hosting company handles for you, including troubleshooting, maintaining server resources and data centers, and monitoring resources.

Cheap web hosting

Cheap web hosts don’t usually offer managed services at all. While not always a dealbreaker, keep in mind that you have to invest much more time, energy, and money into managing your website when it is unmanaged.

Good web hosting

High-quality hosts support you with managed services instead of leaving you on your own to struggle. They’re also more likely to provide enterprise-oriented managed solutions like custom-built site architecture, regular website audits, proactive monitoring software, and server-level caching designed for your organization.

3. Technical support

Technical support is a lifeline when something goes wrong or is just outside your area of expertise.

Cheap web hosting

Most cheap web hosting providers don’t provide 24/7, 365 customer support. Or, they charge extra for just the basic chat support.

That’s a huge downside to cheap hosting and can leave you struggling if your website goes down or experiences slow load times. Verint’s 2022 study highlights the impacts of bad customer service and found that 64 percent of consumers cut ties with a business due to poor customer experience.

Good web hosting

Great web hosting companies, conversely, usually offer complementary customer service around the clock at no extra charge. This helps you reliably provide the services your customers need without fail, which is crucial for cultivating a top-notch brand reputation and boosting customer retention.

4. Security

Cheap vs. good web hosting security issues.

Protecting your organization’s data is vital, especially as global cybercrime continues to threaten enterprises. And over half of industry professionals Statistica talked to agreed that the most critical cybersecurity area in 2023 is data security.

Cheap web hosting

Cheap hosting plans rarely provide strong security, leaving you vulnerable to damaging data breaches. Not only do they make it hard for people to trust your business, but they also have high price tags. IBM found that the cost of a data breach averaged $4.35 million in 2022.

Good web hosting

Good hosts are far more likely to have highly secure physical servers to reduce the risk of data breaches at a server level. In addition, high-quality hosting providers usually offer a range of included security features to help you secure your site, such as:

  • Network monitoring.
  • Online store fraud prevention.
  • Malware detection.
  • DDoS (distributed denial of service) protection.
  • Secure information transfer with free SSL certificates or TLS protocols.

5. Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the capacity a network has to transfer information/data within a certain amount of time. High bandwidth means a website can transfer more data quickly, while low bandwidth means a website won’t be able to move a high volume of information at fast speeds.

Cheap web hosting

Although many cheap hosts claim to offer unmetered bandwidth or unlimited bandwidth, the reality is that there’s no such thing. All servers have limitations, even those managed by high-end hosts.

Companies offering cheap hosting usually have much lower caps on “normal bandwidth” amounts in the fine print. Sometimes these are as low as 5GB. So even with claims of unlimited traffic or bandwidth, they’ll charge you for going over that “normal” threshold.

The lower bandwidth also means that your servers are far more likely to falter and produce 502 errors during traffic spikes.

Good web hosting

Good hosting has more flexible bandwidth options, such as offering autoscaling during traffic surges. Autoscaling prevents 502 errors and helps ensure that your website maintains its speed and security — optimizing the customer experience and your brand reputation.

Great web hosts also have higher bandwidth caps, reducing instances of overage charges.

Whether you choose good or cheap web hosting, review the contract to figure out your actual bandwidth capacity and make sure a potential web host will be able to handle surges while helping ensure your website is prepared for traffic spikes.

6. Uptime/downtime

Good vs. cheap hosting uptime and downtime issues.

Perfect uptime is the goal for every website so that your website is always accessible. But while occasional downtime is inevitable, limiting it is vital.

Cheap web hosting

Downtime is a hallmark of cheap web hosting services. Low uptime guarantees, or no guarantee at all, usually signals that a host will have trouble keeping your website live. And the more downtime you have, the more likely you are to endure costs associated with getting your website back online.

Uptime Institute found 45 percent of companies say a single recent outage cost them between $100,000 and $1 million. Downtime costs add up quickly due to lost revenue, increased bounce rates, and damage to your brand reputation — which can represent the biggest cost in the long run.

Good web hosting

Good website hosting usually commits to higher uptime rates and less downtime. Quality hosts sometimes even reimburse your hosting costs during an outage.

High uptime guarantees increase the likelihood that your business website can fulfill customer needs without any issues and help decrease your bounce rates.

They also help you maintain your reputation and retain brand authority.

7. SEO performance

While uptime and bandwidth are both extremely important when it comes to hosting solutions, there are additional elements that can affect your website’s SEO quality.

For example, things like your host’s server response time and disk space availability can influence your website’s SEO performance.

Cheap web hosting

Unfortunately, a cheap web host usually doesn’t provide top-notch performance specs. That’s because budget providers focus primarily on presenting bare-bones services at the lowest costs possible rather than high-performance hosting solutions that enhance SEO.

Instead, they tend to overload low-quality servers, and that results in low-quality performance specs such as slow loading speeds and restricted disk space.

These subpar performance specs can hurt your business because slow page speeds can also greatly impact your search engine results page rankings (SERP), your brand’s credibility, and your conversion/bounce rates.

Good web hosting

When it comes to SEO, website performance matters. And Hubspot found that SEO was ranked the second most effective channel for acquiring new customers in 2022.

Good web hosts are much more likely to have super-fast loading speeds and more robust suites of features, which usually include better security specs, higher uptime/bandwidth guarantees,  better technical support, and performance-friendly extras like plugin monitoring software that help make your website more SEO-friendly.

8. Hidden costs

Good vs. cheap hosting hidden cost issues.

No one likes being billed for hidden costs, and good and cheap web hosting differ greatly in how costs are presented.

Cheap web hosting

There are tons of hidden costs with cheap hosting. Part of that is because cheap hosts often provide limited features upfront and then charge extra for things that might seem like they should be standard.

These features and vital services — such as migrations, free website builders, SSL certificates, domain registration, daily backups, user-friendly control panels (cPanels), domain names, security monitoring, and technical support costs — can add up if you choose cheap hosting.

Plus, costs for exceeding storage space and bandwidth that are only listed in the fine print are often unwelcome shocks month-to-month.

Good web hosting

High-quality hosts are more likely to present all costs upfront and offer full-service comprehensive packages rather than a la carte pricing or hidden add-on fees in the fine print.

This means that what you see on the price list is what you get when the bill comes and that the listed price covers all the hosting solutions you need.

They’re also more likely to offer flexibility and scaling options, mitigating future expansion costs that cheap hosting may require.

9. Required commitment

Good vs. cheap hosting commitment lengths.

A hosting commitment comes in the form of a contract or element of your hosting agreement that stipulates a time requirement.

Cheap web hosting

In order to offset their own costs, cheap web hosts often require a long-term commitment or that you pay for at least a year upfront. This is because cheap hosts know that customers are likely to be unhappy once they start experiencing problems and receive bills full of extra charges. Requiring a longer contract means you are stuck with them for longer unless you pay a hefty termination fee.

This is far from ideal because getting trapped with a low-quality hosting provider that can’t fulfill your needs can be an expensive nightmare wrapped in seemingly “cheap” packaging.

Cheap web hosts also might pull a bait and switch by drastically increasing your renewal rates and hiding sale terms.

Good web hosting

The best web hosts don’t require exorbitant commitments, as they’re more confident that you’ll be satisfied and choose to continue with their services each month as a result. They’re also more likely to offer a satisfaction guarantee.

Final thoughts: 9 key differences between cheap and good hosting

Finding the best hosting for your organization may seem complicated, with thousands of hosting providers vying for your business. But your web host impacts your website’s performance, quality, and ability to help your business succeed.

Before choosing a web host, weigh the benefits and risks of good and cheap hosting carefully.

If you opt for cheap web hosting, you’ll enjoy low costs, but you and your customers could suffer the consequences of low-quality services. If you opt for good web hosting, you might miss out on the initial rock-bottom entry price offers, but you’ll get top-notch support and high-performance specs for your website.

While cheap hosting options usually come with low usability, good hosting options strike a balance and present quality hosting at affordable prices.

Get a quote for a fully-managed enterprise hosting solution from Nexcess and see how good hosting can make a difference for you.

We don’t provide the cheapest plans, or the most expensive. We pride ourselves in being a great hosting provider, and we offer an array of included services — such as free migrations, a 100 percent uptime guarantee, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Our team of experts is dedicated to helping your business and provides 24/7 technical support every day of the year.

Check out our plans to get started today.

This blog was originally published in September 2020. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Maddy Osman
Maddy Osman

Maddy Osman is a WordPress expert, WordCamp US speaker, bestselling author, and the Founder and SEO Content Strategist at The Blogsmith. She has a B.A. in Marketing from the University of Iowa and is a WordCamp Denver organizer while also operating The Blogsmith, an SEO content agency for B2B tech companies that works with clients like HubSpot, Automattic, and Sprout Social. Learn more about The Blogsmith's process and get in touch to talk content strategy: www.TheBlogsmith.com

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